Busy schedules can make it difficult to find time for exercise during the week. So, when you do find time for a quick run or a visit to the gym, you’re focused on getting a good workout…and quick. But if you’re putting a speedy workout ahead of safety, you could be doing more harm than good.
“Many people think that a more intense workout equates to a more effective workout. But, if you’re rushing through it, you could be putting your body at risk for pain and injury by making simple mistakes,” says Christopher Dodson, MD, orthopaedic surgeon with Rothman Institute at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Even the most seasoned athletes aren’t exempt from making a rookie mistake now and then. Below, Dr. Dodson explores some of the most common workout mistakes that can contribute to injury and how to avoid them.
Fitness mistake: Cardio is king (or queen)
A few laps around the pool or the track might be enough to fulfill your weekend workout quota but if you’re only focusing on cardio routines like these, you could be missing out on the health benefits of a varied workout routine.
In addition to putting your body to work in the pool, on the bike, or on the treadmill or elliptical, you should also be putting it to work at the weight bench. Strength training helps build muscle and boost metabolism, which can benefit your weight and your workouts.
Fitness mistake: Being a weekend warrior
Your workouts can only occur as often as your schedule permits but, whenever possible, try not to be a ‘weekend warrior.’ Focus on creating a regular workout routine during the week so all of your activity isn’t concentrated within a 48-hour period.
“Your body is more susceptible to injury when you’re putting it to work so many times, and to such an extreme level, during a shorter window of time,” explains Dr. Dodson. “By spreading your workouts out throughout the week, you’ll reduce your risk of injury and reap the benefits of a regular active lifestyle.”
If you’re having difficulty carving out time each day to exercise, find time for ‘mini-workouts’ each day. Spend 10 minutes walking after dinner, or lift weights during an evening TV show.
Fitness mistake: Stretching before your workout
Stretching at the beginning of your workout seems to make sense; it helps loosen your muscles before you get started and mentally prepare you for a workout. Although it may feel natural to stretch before your workout, it turns out that it’s best to save your stretches until after your workout is complete.
Saving stretching until the end of your workout ensures that your muscles are ‘warm’ and flexible, meaning they’re at less risk for injury or tearing. It can also help reduce any additional pain or cramping after a workout.
If you swear by the benefits of a pre-workout stretch, you can still find time to fit in some stretches—but make sure you warm up first. Go for a quick pre-workout jog or walk to get your muscles and joints warmed up, and then begin a light stretching routine.
Fitness mistake: Using the wrong form
You’ve started a workout routine...excellent! Although getting started on a routine is important, it’s also important to make sure you’re executing it correctly. If you’re interested in getting started for a workout routine, invest time and money in a personal training session or appointment with a physical therapist who can educate you in the proper form and execution for your workout routine of choice.
Fitness mistake: Ignoring pain and rest days
Every healthy workout routine has another important component: rest days.
“Giving your body the time it needs to rest and recover from a workout and short-term injury is essential to preventing long-term injury,” says Dr. Dodson. “Pay attention to your body, and don’t work out if you’re in pain, sore, or have an injury. You are ultimately doing more harm than good to your body if you work out in situations like these.”
Although mild pain and soreness and pain may be normal in the days following a new or particularly challenging workout routine, talk to your doctor if you’re dealing with persistent pain or injury.
From evaluation and treatment through recovery and rehabilitation, Main Line Health’s orthopaedic professionals are committed to providing the best possible care. Visit our website to learn more about Main Line Health’s orthopaedic services.