It’s all about the right pace and paying attention to your own body.
With a new year always comes a new commitment to better your body, and exercise is certainly a successful component of that. For some, though, overdoing it stops that progress in its tracks.
Dina Barry, an Outpatient Physical Therapist with Renown Physical Therapy & Rehab for more than 14 years, offers some tips on how to avoid injuries when starting back on the exercise trail, as well as the difference between a major and minor injury and how to keep success going if your exercise routine is more ingrained.
Here are the top 5 tips to prevent injuries:
- Work at a steady speed. Dina says that you shouldn’t increase your difficulty level too fast, but instead take it as a steady, gradual pace.
- Pay attention to your body. “Your body is smart,” Dina explains. “If it feels like you are developing signs of overtraining, lessen your activity, take a break, or rest.
- Don’t do too much, too soon. Change takes time, and easing into the routine and aiming for long-term consistency is a key to avoiding injuries. “People who do too much, too soon generally get injured or give up on their new fitness routine,” Dina believes.
- Alternate your exercise. Cross training will help you avoid overtraining specific muscles or neglecting others, both of which can lead to injury. A combination of strength training, aerobic activities and flexibility exercises are recommended.
- Be sure to take a break. Schedule a rest day and use it, since joints and muscles need recovery to stay healthy
When do you know that the injury you may have is serious enough to seek medical attention?
The key is movement.
“A minor injury may be painful, but usually you can still move the body part that is
injured with some level of discomfort,” Dina says. “Swelling and discoloration may be present around the joint or muscle you have injured.”
To treat it yourself, remember RICE: Rest. Ice. Compress. Elevate.
You can also use over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as Aleve or Advil, if your doctor recommends those.
“The signs and symptoms may last for a few days, but each day you should feel better,” Dina says.
Major injuries include something that would not be treated with RICE, such as broken bones. Telltale signs include worsening pain and persistent swelling, or you may not be able to use the injured body part to its fullest extent. If so, it’s time to see a physician, therapist or other healthcare provider.
“A physical therapist is trained to assess the problem and determine what is needed to optimize healing,” Dina explains. “This may include various treatments from a physical therapist or a referral to a doctor for additional testing and intervention.”
Staying On Track
Dina has some simple advice for those who want to stay on an exercise program and avoid injury: set reasonable goals. “Whether your goal is to lose weight, run a 5K or ride a bike with your child, set a specific time frame to meet that goal,” she adds. “This will give you something concrete to aim for and you will know when you achieved it. Also, don’t forget to really listen to your body. If your body is telling you not to increase the level of difficulty yet, be patient and wait.”
Finally, make exercise enjoyable for yourself. As Dina says, “you won’t stick to any plan if it doesn’t incorporate the things you like.”