When people begin a new exercise programme, they often push their bodies too far and put themselves at risk of injury. You don’t need to exercise really hard, and it doesn’t need to be painful for it to be beneficial. Moderation is the key to safe exercise. You should start slowly and gradually build up intensity, frequency, and duration, especially if you’re new to cross training or have existing health problems.
It’s important to cross train as varying your workouts allows you to use different muscle groups to reach a higher level of fitness. Cross training is particularly useful for runners, to improve fitness, strength, and endurance. Even if you have an injury, you can still do some light, low-impact exercise to give some parts of your body a rest, while you’re working on others. Here are some tips to staying safe while cross training:
- Dress appropriately: Replace your trainers if they start to wear out. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that lets you move freely, which is light enough to release body heat. When exercising in cold weather, dress in removable layers.
- Warm-up: Start with slow stretches, always maintain control, and never bounce on a muscle that’s fully stretched. It's important to gradually increase the heart rate and circulation before doing physical activity, as this will help to loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles to prevent injury.
- Balanced workout: Incorporate cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility into your workout. In addition to providing a total body workout, a balanced programme will prevent you from getting bored and reduce your chances of injury.
- Stay hydrated: You need to drink enough water to prevent dehydration and heat exhaustion. Drink a pint of water 15 minutes before you start exercising, and another pint after you cool down. And have a drink of water every 20 minutes or so while you exercise.
- Cool down: Don’t forget to cool down after your workout. It should take twice as long as your warm up. Slow your motions and lessen the intensity of your movements for at least 10 minutes before you stop completely.
Rest: Scheduling regular days off from exercise are just as important as the workouts themselves. It’s essential to give your body time to recover between exercising. And listen to your body, if something doesn’t feel right, stop.
How can I stay safe while lifting weights?
To build muscle, it’s necessary to lift weights. But Injuries can happen all too easily if you don’t warm up properly, stretch, and cool down after your workout. Here are some important things to remember to ensure you’re lifting safely:
- Don’t forget to breathe: It sounds like an obvious thing, but honestly, people sometimes do forget to breathe while exercising. If you’re new to lifting weights, it’s easy to focus on executing the lift, but then become light headed due to an improper breathing technique.
- Ask for help: If you don't know how to perform an exercise or use a particular piece of equipment, please do not attempt to figure it out on your own if you’re a beginner. Either ask a trainer or knowledgeable gym member to help you. It’s also a good idea to watch online videos to teach you correct exercise form.
- Check your equipment: Make sure any equipment you use is in good order, and ensure weight plates are properly secured with collars before you execute a lift. Not only can you injure yourself if weights fall off the bar, but you can hurt other people too.
- Start with lighter weights: Aside from a usual warm-up, you should also build up to doing a heavy lift. And most importantly, don’t try and lift more than your body allows. Stick to a weight that you can control to avoid injury.
- Practice good form: Bad form combined with heavy weights is an injury waiting to happen, so ensure your muscles take the stress and not your joints. And don’t obsess over how much weight you’re lifting.
- Don’t jerk the weights: It’s crucial that you perform exercises in a controlled manner, with no momentum. Jerking and bouncing of weights will only take away stress from the muscle and create sheer pushing and pulling forces in the joints that can lead to injury.
And very importantly, if you’re lifting heavy weights alone (at home for example), you should know what your capabilities are. Don’t try and lift too heavy a weight if you don’t have someone there to spot you as you don’t want to risk dropping weights onto yourself.
Accidents can happen despite safe exercise precautions. If you pull a muscle (or worse) while working out, apply a sling, splint, or brace if you can to protect the area. Then remember: rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE).
- Rest the injury
- Ice it to lessen swelling, bleeding, and inflammation
- Apply a compression bandage to limit swelling
- Elevate the injury above heart level to reduce swelling
You can take anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen for pain, but you should see your doctor if you have severe pain, cannot move the injured body part, or if symptoms persist.