After spending some time away from regular exercise (due to COVID, extended vacation, illness or any other reason), your muscles begin to weaken and your body will fatigue faster from cardio exercises. Because of this breakdown, your body (typically) cannot tolerate the same level of exercise you were previously performing at. Many people are so eager to head back to the gym after an extended absence that they go full force and attempt weights that are too heavy for their current strength level, or aim for cardio exercises that they cannot keep up with. This is when injuries occur. Not to worry! Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Physician, Dr. Matthew Yousif, has put together some quick tips and tricks for getting back to the gym safely to avoid those exercise related injuries.
Common Injuries From Exercise:
Injuries in the shoulder, tendons, elbows, bicep and pectoral muscles generally take place during workouts because the weights are too heavy, or the movements are being performed incorrectly. When straining to lift weights that are heavier than your body can tolerate, the stress can cause your muscles to tear, taking you back out of the gym for some time. Improper movements, like lifting too quickly, unevenly or with jerking motions, can also lead to tendon ruptures and torn muscles. Cardio exercises also have their spot on the exercise injury list. High impact cardio, like running and jumping, can cause tendinitis flare ups in the lower extremity, knee pain and shin splints.
Getting back to the gym does not have to be painful! Here are some of the guidelines Dr. Yousif suggests to return to the gym safely.
- Routine Stretching– Stretching is one of those things that we know we should do, but rarely follow through with. However, it’s very important to stretch before any workout. Stretching helps to warm up and loosen your muscles, putting less strain on the body when you lift or run. Spending about 10-15 minutes stretching the main joints of the body prior to exercise can greatly reduce the risk of injury.
- Low and Slow- As we discussed earlier, your body may not be able to tolerate the same amount of weight lifting after a long hiatus. The low and slow method is recommended to ease back into weightlifting and build back up to your max weight set. This method consists of using lighter weights at first and slowly building over time to heaver ones. Completing the movements slowly until you are used to them again will also help reduce the risk of injury. With lighter weights, you can perform more repetitions of each exercise to achieve a better workout.
- Cardio Conditioning- Much like “Low and Slow”, cardio exercises should be eased into as well. Set your speed lower and go for a longer distance or time. As your body becomes used to the workout, your lung capacity will increase and you’ll be less fatigued, allowing you to increase the intensity of your workout over time.
- Post Workout Cool Down- After your workout has concluded, performing a cool down can be beneficial to your gains. Mixing stretches and breathing exercises post workout can help to regulate your breathing, relax the body and reduce stresses on your heart and joints.
- Lift with a Spotter- it’s always nice to have a workout partner. Working out with a buddy holds us more accountable when we feel like slacking off; it can provide competition, motivating us to do better; but also can be a safety net when we need one. When lifting heavy weights, it is smart to have a spotter with you for assistance in case the weight becomes too heavy. Without help, more serious injuries can occur if you cannot support the weight and do not have a relief system in place.
- Knowing When to Stop- probably the most important thing to remember is if you start to feel pain during an exercise, STOP! Some soreness while working out is expected, but sharp, sudden pains, numbness, tingling and pinching feelings can be signs of something more serious. If something doesn’t feel right to you, stop and give your body a break for a few minutes. If the pain persists or worsens, end your workout and consult your doctor.
About Dr. Yousif:
Dr. Matthew Yousif an Orthopedic Surgeon with additional fellowship training in Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery. A former college athlete himself, Dr. Yousif is passionate about treating sports related injuries and educating his patients on injury prevention. Learn more about Dr. Yousif by visting his bio page or request an appointment online to schedule a consultation with Dr. Yousif or any of our other hand and orthopedic specialists.