Exercise Tips for a Safe and Healthy Workout
The Winter Olympics are over and the snow is melting (or at least it is in our minds). There is no time like the present to get moving with an early start to your spring training! Regular exercise is good for you and has wide-ranging physical, emotional, and social health benefits. Before you start sweating though, it’s important to be aware of the following tips in order to remain injury-free. If your workout is safe and painless, you’re more likely to stick to it! A healthy and safe workout combines common sense, the proper gear, and always listening to what your body is telling you.
1. Happy Feet
Wear comfortable, properly fitted sneakers or sport-specific shoes with laces while exercising. Poorly fitting shoes can cause bunions, corns, calluses, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, and more. We all have different foot shapes and different needs. Once you find the right shoes, remember that they will wear down over time and will need to be replaced, as early as six months to one year with regular exercise.
2. Dress for Success
Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing appropriate for the weather and activity. The clothing you wear to exercise is just as important as staying hydrated. With a little planning, you can choose the perfect clothing for your workout. Loose clothing allows air to cool your body and evaporate sweat. Pick light colors instead of dark to reflect the sun’s rays away from your body. In colder weather, layering allows you to remove clothes as you heat up and add layers as you get cold. Lastly, don’t forget to choose clothes that make you feel self-confident. The better you feel in your clothes, the more positive your attitude is towards exercising which increases you’re your commitment to stick with it!
3. Stay Hydrated
Good hydration means getting the right amount of water before, during, and after exercise. Water is necessary to regulate your body temperature and to keep your muscles and joints moving. It helps transport nutrients to give you energy and keep you healthy. If you’re not properly hydrated, your body can’t perform safely. Signs of dehydration include fatigue, nausea, muscle cramping, and dizziness. For most people, drinking plenty of water is sufficient. But if you’re working out especially hard, or doing a marathon or triathlon, choose drinks that replace fluids as well as essential electrolytes.
4) Warm Up and Cool Down
A good warm-up before a workout dilates your blood vessels, ensuring that your muscles are well supplied with oxygen. Warming up raises your muscles temperature for optimal flexibility and efficiency. By slowly raising your heart rate, a warm-up minimizes stress on your heart. The cool-down is just as important. It keeps the blood flowing throughout the body. Stopping suddenly after exercise can cause light-headedness as your heart rate and blood pressure can drop rapidly.
- Warm up for 5-10 minutes. The more intense the activity, the longer the warm-up.
- Do whatever activity you plan on doing (running, walking, cycling, etc.) at a slower pace (jog, walk slowly).
- Use your entire body to get your heart pumping (walking on a treadmill and doing modified bent-knee push-ups).
- Cool down by walking for 5 minutes, or until your heart rate drops below 120 beats per minute.
- Stretch during your cool down and hold each stretch 15-30 seconds. If you feel you need more, stretch the other side and return for another set
- The stretch should be strong, but not painful.
- Don’t bounce.
- Don’t forget to breathe while you stretch.
5. Be Body Aware
It is common to experience some muscle soreness after working out. Pain, however, can be a sign of exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). This damage directly reduces a muscle’s ability to work and creates inflammation and muscle swelling. It also causes delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which usually peaks one to three days post workout. One way to avoid exercise injury is becoming more aware of your body. Being mindful along with good body awareness can teach us how to recognize a strenuous workout that improves performance, muscle balance and everyday function, instead of leading to pain and injury. For most of us, this requires an attitude adjustment from the “no pain, no gain” mindset. Body awareness requires that we actually think about what we are doing during exercise. This might include taking off headphones or turning off the TV to focus on body sensations instead. Acquiring body awareness is a learning process that takes practice and patience.
- Perform exercises at a slower pace and observe each part of the exercise. This strategy helps to employ both the concentric phase (muscle contracts while working) and eccentric phase (muscle lengthens while working) of each exercise.
- Performing each exercise with less intensity helps avoid damage to muscle tissue.
- Performing multi-joint exercises that use both arms and legs helps to avoid overloading one muscle and trains body awareness.
- Take account of where you feel the exercise to further train body awareness and avoid muscle tissue damage.
Rest days prevent overuse, so set aside at least one recovery day each week to rest. Pushing too hard without a break can cause your muscles and joints to suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen. Pace yourself. If you are experiencing pain, rest until the pain is gone. Be sure to visit your chiropractor if something doesn’t feel right or pain persists beyond your rest period. Persistent or intense pain that starts during exercise or right afterward, or pain that intensifies also merits a visit to your chiropractor. Rest from exercise is not only good for the body, but it is also good for the psyche. Rest periods can restore your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be just as damaging as physical fatigue. Taking a break helps to recharge the mind and the body!
Spring is in the air and the calling to get back outside after a long winter is strong. You’ll be more likely to succeed in achieving your spring training goals and stay pain-free with the proper gear, some helpful exercise tips, and a little mindfulness.