Have A Safe Workout!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Posted by Helene

I love May at the gym. Spring is in the air, people come in with renewed enthusiasm as soon as the first rays of sun appear after the winter blahs. With this new lively attitude I, as the trainer, notice increased injuries and accidents. There are however steps you can take to prepare yourself before, during and after exercise to ensure that you will have a pleasant and safe time improving your health and quality of life.

All the steps and guidelines outlined below may seem common sense for the avid exerciser but you would be surprised of what I see at the gym everyday. I often have to go through these points with my clients in order to prevent performing workouts or moves that might injure them in the long run.

Before even stepping foot into a gym:
- check with your doctor that he approves your starting an exercise program, especially if you have diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, recent surgeries or injuries. If you are pregnant, check out this article "The 13 rules of safe pregnancy exercise". If you have recently had a baby and if you exercised throughout your pregnancy and had a normal vaginal delivery, you can safely perform your pregnancy workout within 1 or 2 weeks. If you had a c-section,check with your doctor as most recommends waiting six to eight weeks to exercise. However, walking at an easy pace is encouraged because it promotes healing and helps prevent complications such as blood clots.

- wear comfortable and fitting athletic shoes, don’t forget socks (who likes blisters?), clothes that let you move without cutting circulation (you are at the gym…not a fashion show!)

- don’t forget to bring a water bottle and a towel (less risk of germs from water fountain or club handled linens)

- if you have diabetes, make sure that you have a juice pack close by as well as a few sugar cubes or packets of sugar in case of a severe blood sugar drop. Do not rely on the club’s first aid kit…you would be surprised what you don’t find in them. Same goes if you have asthma, remember to have your inhaler with you. Your body does not react “normally” under workout pressure and may even react differently from one session to the next even if you are doing the same activity.

- never exercise on a empty stomach. Yes, 4 times out of 5, you will be fine and nothing wrong will happen, until that one day when you almost pass out doing basic tricep kickbacks. Forget the myth that you will burn more fat if you workout on an empty tank…you will do just what you car does…break/crash/caput/kaplunk… It is not fun for a trainer and a trainee to stop a session because you are turning pale as aspirin and feel nauseated like it’s New Year’s Day again! If it has been more than 4 hours since your last meal, grab a fruit (apple-banana), a yogurt, a piece of cheese, a couple of crackers with peanut butter: essentially some combination of protein, carbs, and fats. If you are a person on the go, play it safe at the vending machine by choosing the granola bar.

Once you are in the gym:
- if you are new to exercise or have not been going in a while or not regularly, take the time to meet with a personal trainer for a fitness assessment. Two crucial points here: make sure that the person has proper qualifications (you don’t take your dog to a mechanic but a vet). Do not be afraid to meet with a young trainer, experience is always a plus but knowledge and proper practice of body mechanics and exercise programs has nothing to do with age. Talk about your goals, issues, lifestyle, prior surgeries or health issues. Stop her/him in their tracks if they start talking about things you don’t understand, but bear in mind that a lot can be explained through practice.

- if you have an intermediate level, stay safe while working out by asking for assistance on machines you have not used often or never before. Ask gym personnel and trainers if you use correct form, proper weights and proper number of sets and repetitions for the results you want to achieve.

All levels of exercisers should consider these safety tips, before they even step on that treadmill or pick up that dumbbell:
- warm up and stretch: one common mistake is to stretch before muscles are warmed-up. Warm up first and let the blood circulate through your muscles. A warm-up should be done for at least 5-10 minutes at a low intensity. Usually, the warm-up is done by doing the same activity as the cardiovascular workout but at a lower intensity.

- cool down: similar to the warm-up in that it should last 5-10 minutes and be done at a low intensity also. After you have completed your cardiovascular exercise and cooled-down properly, it is important that you stretch the primary muscles used. This helps your performance levels and produce better results, they also drastically decrease your risk of injury.

- exercise frequency: to improve both cardiovascular fitness and to decrease body fat or maintain body fat at optimum levels, you should do cardiovascular exercise at least three days a week. Those of you who are very out of shape and/or who are overweight might need 36 to 48 hours of rest between workouts to prevent an injury and to promote adequate bone and joint stress recovery.

- exercise duration: each time you exercise, try to do at least 20 minutes or more, not including warm up and cool down. Of course, the longer you go, the better you'll condition your cardiovascular system. All beginners, especially those who are out of shape, should take a conservative approach and train at relatively low intensities at first. As you get in better shape, you can gradually increase the duration of time you exercise.

- lifting too much weight: this will contribute to poor form and create injury to other areas of the body in addition to the muscle you're targeting. The safest workout is gradual progressive resistance training.

- too much intensity: forget the old adage of "no pain, no gain" If you're looking for effective weight loss, longer periods of moderately intense workouts are most effective. Short periods of high intensity training are best integrated into a circuit training workout or when used for athletic training. But for the average fitness enthusiast, too much intensity will lead to soreness and keep you away from your workouts while your muscles recover.

Final words? A safe thing to do when you start a health program is to include a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training and proper nutrition. Start practicing “push aways”: push yourself away from the dinner table, push away excuses and negativity. Health is a journey not a destination, it must be continued for the rest of your life.

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This Post was written by Helen from Tartelette


Very informative, Helene! I really learned a lot - and you took a lot of the scariness out of the notion of excercising.

And yes you are right, I was thinking of a mountain..

Excellent post - I hope you write more of these!


Lis said...
May 18, 2007 at 9:20:00 PM GMT+2  

There is an incredible amount of info here. In your wonderful way you take away so many initial fears beginners might have. Helene, just brilliant. Thanks for this!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
May 18, 2007 at 11:23:00 PM GMT+2  

Lovely summary!
I personally stay away from apples and "sour" food before a workout because they can give me heartburn on an empty stomach combined with physical exercise. Bananas and granola bars are always a good idea, though. Small enough not to fill, but energy rich.


May 19, 2007 at 11:03:00 AM GMT+2  

Excellent post. And the perfect timing for me, who just got thru with postpartum and heading out to the gym for the first time today. I am glad to say I had the fitness assessment done....and it was good to go thru the rest of the pointers.

Hope you'll keep posting more along these lines.

Thanks much!

Tharini said...
May 19, 2007 at 3:27:00 PM GMT+2  

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