5 ways to avoid pain and injury when starting a new exercise regimen

Clarification

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  • Fear of aches, pain, and injuries may be one of the reasons people delay starting a new exercise regimen.
  • But exercise does not necessarily lead to pain or injury.
  • Here are some simple things you can do to avoid this when starting out.

Getting used to playing sports is not easy. Not only is finding time to exercise a major deterrent for people, but fear of aches, pain, and injuries is also a reason people put off starting a new exercise regimen.

But exercise does not necessarily lead to pain or injury. Here are some simple things you can do to avoid this when starting out.

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1. Warm up

It is important to warm up before exercising. A warm-up raises the temperature of the working muscles and the whole body. It also prepares your body for the increased stress of exercise. Warmed up muscles are able to exercise longer, experience less soreness and reduce the risk of injury.

Exactly what constitutes an effective warm-up varies from exercise to exercise. But in general, you should set aside at least five to ten minutes of your workout to warm up. Start with large, full-body movements like bodyweight squats and lunges before progressing to more task-specific routines—like walking or jogging before running, or lifting light weights before weight training. The warm-up shouldn’t be too strenuous. Aim to use only 40-60% of your maximum effort.

A warm-up may also include a dose of dynamic stretching (moving a limb through its entire range of motion rather than holding the stretch), but stretching alone is not an effective strategy. You may consider using self-massage tools such as foam rollers instead, as they can help improve your warm-up. Using a foam roller for two minutes has been shown to reduce muscle soreness in the days following a workout.

2. Don’t overestimate what you can do

A common mistake when starting a new exercise regimen is to do too much. This can lead to soreness after exercise, and may also increase the possibility of injury.

When you first start a new exercise plan, it’s important to start gradually and at your own pace. Since everyone is different, avoid following an exercise program that uses absolute distances or repetitions. Instead, focus on how you feel during your workout and listen to what your body is telling you.

It can take weeks or even months to notice the benefits of exercise, so don’t expect to see your health and fitness improve overnight. It’s also worth noting that progress isn’t always linear – on some days you may find it difficult to exercise for as long or as hard as you did in the previous session. Listen to your body and stop when you feel tired to avoid injury.

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3. Take your time to recover

Taking a day or two off each week is vital to recovery. But you don’t have to just sit back and do nothing for recovery days to be effective. Active recovery is equally effective at helping your muscles recover and helping you avoid pain and injury. Active recovery may include low-impact exercises such as walking or yoga.

While you should take at least one day of rest between strength training exercises, another strategy to promote recovery is to train different muscle groups on different days. This will prevent your muscles from using the same movements over and over, which can lead to overuse injuries.

A man presses his chest with a machine while his friend stands and watches.
Train different muscle groups on different days. Studio Africa/Shutterstock

While aerobic exercise (such as running or cycling) does not usually require as long a recovery period as strength training, mixing exercises is still beneficial for avoiding injury. It will provide a more balanced workout and avoid bad movement or form. Alternating between running, swimming, cycling or whatever you fancy will allow your body to recover and help you achieve your fitness goals.

4. Learn proper form

Developing correct form early is important when starting a new exercise regimen to avoid developing bad habits. At first, go slow, try a combination of different exercises and don’t add too much weight before you nail style. Executing the movements correctly will help you avoid injury.

If you choose to exercise at a gym or fitness center, ask a trainer for directions if you are unsure of your form. If you prefer to work out on your own, there are plenty of resources available online to guide your training. You might also consider photographing yourself so you can see what your model looks like.

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5. Invest in the right footwear

The right pair of shoes can make all the difference in your workouts. It is especially important for running, as the comfort and support will help reduce pain and make running more enjoyable. You also don’t need an expensive shoe—just one that provides the right support for your unique gait, which will help protect vulnerable areas of your feet from overuse injuries.

If you’re looking to start lifting weights, look for flat, rigid shoes to provide more stability while lifting. Specialized weight training shoes are also an option, as their high heel will allow you to achieve the proper ankle, knee, and hip angles required for effective lifting. This will allow you to maintain correct form and reduce the risk of injury.

Don’t let fear of pain or injury stop you from starting a new exercise regimen. The benefits of exercise far outweigh the temporary muscle soreness that can accompany a new exercise regimen. Not to mention, when you make exercise a regular habit, you are less likely to feel sore after every workout.

Louis McGregorLecturer in sports, health and exercise sciences. University of Stirling

This article has been republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.

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