How To Avoid Getting Injured When You Start Working Out
Because nobody wants to bail on their fitness routine two weeks in with a gammy leg.
You’ve done it – you’ve signed up to a gym, overhauled your activewear collection and finally found a way to work out that you actually enjoy. AMAZING. Congrats, we’re super happy for you.
So let’s be honest, the last thing you need is to pick up a routine-ruining injury. Luckily, we caught up with Rob Foyster, a physiotherapist for Ten Health & Fitness, to find out how you can keep on nailing it injury-free.
Need a little more inspiration? Meet marathon runner and coach Cory:
Find out your weaknesses
All of us have certain muscles that aren’t strong enough, or that are too strong and take on the workload of other ones. Thing is, it’s not usually exaggerated enough for us pick up on this while we do day-to-day activities, so we overlook them. It’s only when we’re smashing out heavy squats in the gym or ramping up our running distances that these muscle imbalances start to take their toll on the body.
While everyone’s different, there are a few muscles that commonly don’t pull their weight. “Generally it’s the muscles between the shoulder blades,” says Rob. “We’re often very tight in our chest muscles and weak in the upper back muscles. Also, the inner thighs and glutes are often muscles as we find need a bit more work to stabilise.”
To avoid ending up with overuse injuries, visit a physio for a prehab session – they can assess your form from head to toe and give you exercises to help fix any muscles that aren’t doing what they should.
Take things at your own pace
You’re in a HIIT class with a bunch of fitness superheroes and everyone’s moving at a million miles an hour – it’s only natural that you want to keep up. But moving too fast and not paying attention to your form is a fast-track way to acquire an injury, especially when you’re starting to get fatigued.
Ignore the crowd around you, focus on yourself and check with the instructor that you’re doing everything right. No good fitness instructor or personal trainer should force you to choose speed over form.
Choose your instructors carefully
On that note, it’s best to be selective about where you work out. “You’ll get some amazing trainers and you’ll get some that aren’t doing their job as well as they should and checking up on their clients to make sure they have the correct technique,” says Rob.
“It’s such a difficult thing to know, where’s good and where’s not. My advice on that would definitely be to try a trial period somewhere before you sign up to avoid the problem of locking yourself in, and also look into your trainers, see what qualifications they have, and chat to other people at that gym to see if people are getting injured. It’s just about getting as much information as you can.”
Learn the difference between DOMS and an injury
Sometimes you’ll be super sore and walking like a robot after a workout, but it isn’t all ‘no pain, no gain’. Having delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in the day or two after a big session is totally normal, but pain in a specific location for longer is not.
“DOMs feels like your muscles are tired and have had a good workout, and it shouldn’t last more than 48 hours post-exercise. An injury will generally go on longer than that, it will be quite debilitating,” says Rob.
See a doctor or physio if you’re concerned. “A lot of injuries are best seen within the first 48 hours, so if you are not sure whether it’s DOMS or an injury, you’re best to go and get it assessed.”
Rehab past injuries
If you’ve had a significant injury in the past, such as a broken bone or sprained ankle, it’s likely the muscles or ligaments in that area will be weakened or other ones may have become stronger to make up for it (yep, it’s those muscle imbalances again!). Check in with a physio so they can help you fix any problems and recommend the best kind of training for you.
Words by Georgia Scarr