Although I’ve been a fitness coach for years, I will admit that I don’t always practice what I preach. I don’t stretch quite as much as I should, and as a result, I’ve sustained frustrating injuries that could easily have been avoided.
Whether you’re new to exercise or a workout veteran, we all make workout mistakes from time to time. While some can be harmless—where the only consequence is burning fewer calories—others can lead to serious problems. Here are four common fitness mistakes that can lead to serious injury if you don't catch them early.
1. You Think a Little Pain is Normal
You start to notice pain in your leg while walking on the treadmill one day. You have a race coming up and can't be sidelined by an injury! And you figure that aches and discomforts are a normal part of exercising, so you push through it. During your next workout, the pain is a little worse, but you continue on. Eventually, the pain becomes significant enough that it’s affecting your workouts and everyday activities, so you schedule a doctor’s appointment to get it checked out.
How did it happen?
Although exercise is sometimes uncomfortable, it should never be painful. Pain is a signal from your body that something is wrong. Don’t assume that pain is normal because you’re out of shape or because you push yourself during a workout. The idea of “no pain, no gain” simply isn’t true when it comes to exercise. Pain can be a sign of an injury that needs to be addressed, and if you pay attention to it early on, you can make adjustments to your workouts and avoid a serious injury that may sideline you for weeks or months at a time. Going easy when you feel like you need a break or resting when you have prolonged soreness or sharp pain doesn’t mean you’re weak; it means you’re smart and paying attention to your body.
2. You Work Out Too Much
You decide to make healthy changes in your life. You commit to an exercise routine, full of energy and motivation. Although experts advise newbie exercisers to start out with just 10 or 20 minutes at a time, you decide that in order to see results, it’s important to push yourself from day one. To get "better results," you start out with 45 minutes. After a couple weeks, you figure, "90 minutes is better, right?" So you do even more. That much exercise might be okay for a while, but eventually the daily grind starts to wear on you—both physically and mentally. You start to have aches and pains in places that never hurt before. All of a sudden, you’re sidelined with an injury and it seems like your exercise streak is over before it even started.
What went wrong?
Although you might have the motivation to push yourself through long and intense workouts, everyone should give his or her body time to adapt to a new workout regime and allow for rest and recovery. That’s how you improve your fitness level in a safe way. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to do hours of cardio each day in order to see results. The quality of your workouts is just as (if not more) important than the quantity. Try not to compare yourself to others. There is always going to be someone else who can lift more weight or walk further or faster. What matters most is that you’re challenging yourself based on what your body can handle, in a safe way that keeps you exercising long-term.
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