As it turns out, the athletes, fitness trainers, instructors and gurus we idolize and attempt to emulate in the gym don’t just work incredibly hard on perfecting their physique, they also put serious effort towards not getting injured. They know that building muscle and endurance takes time, and that, if you get injured, you’re out for the count until you’re fully healed, which sets you back in training. To help you get the most out of your fitness regimen, we asked these top trainers and athletes to share their best-kept secrets for preventing injury.
They never jump into a new regimen headfirst.
Too often, people jump into a fitness program going 100 mph right off the bat—either because they want to fit in with other folks in the class who are moving at a higher pace or so they can achieve more immediate results. Not a smart idea, experts say. “When we work out, our heart, lungs, muscles, brain, kidneys, skin, face, joints and entire body have to go into a different state of energy use,” explains Ben Boudro, C.S.C.S., owner of Xceleration Fitness in Auburn Hills, Mich. “Muscle that isn’t use to moving a certain way is breaking down and your body can’t keep up, which leads to injury.”
The best approach is easing into it at your own pace and taking your time. It can’t all happen at once, so go slow the first few times until you find your groove. Your chances of injury will go way down.
They warm-up before every workout.
For any activity that stresses the muscles, a proper warm-up is essential to prepare your body for what it’s about to undergo. “Warming up increases blood flow to the extremities you will be using during your exercise,” says Gary Guerriero, physical therapist and co-owner of U.S. Athletic Training. “This blood flow increases soft tissue mobility and the firing pattern of the musculature, or the arrangement of muscles in your body.” One of the most important, and often overlooked, parts of your warm up is stretching, an essential ingredient when people are building mass and strength that allows for normal range of motion, proper alignment and body mechanics.