5 Easy Ways to Avoid Exercise Injury (and Doctor's Bills)
Along with eating a solid diet, exercise is one of the surest ways to stay healthy for life. With increased activity, though, comes the unfortunate opportunity for injury and, in turn, hefty doctor bills. Before you find yourself in an unpleasant bind, you may want to revisit your routine to see where it needs some tweaking. (No, seriously — read these tips before your leg ends up in a cast!) (See also: 20 Harmful "Healthy" Habits)
1. Get Professional Help
Before you step foot on that stairclimber or load up that weight machine, check with a personal trainer or coach at your gym. Many clubs offer free "tours" of equipment or even training sessions to newbies free of charge. That way, you can learn the appropriate uses and correct postures to protect your body from harm. If you're a total novice, you might consider taking advantage of any specials your gym is running with personal training sessions. In the long run, you may very well save more money (and pain!) learning to do exercises the right way. (See also: Legit Ways to Use the Gym for Free)
2. Start Slow and Build
If you're not a member of a gym, you may be running or biking for activity. It's important to resist getting too caught up in the honeymoon period. I know it's hard. It can feel absolutely amazing to build on your running distance or bike time. If you do too much too soon, though, you're leaving yourself vulnerable to a host of overuse injuries. I love this (free) beginning 5K training plan, which was developed by coach Hal Higdon to get runners across the finish line injury-free.
3. Mix It Up
Maybe you've been active all along, but you're now finding yourself with more soreness and other physical complaints. In your case, I'd consider some serious cross-training. Too much of the same exercise will stress certain muscles. Balance yourself out by, for example, trying upper-body exercises if you're a runner. If you do lots of weight training, give some walking or stretches a try. Cycling fanatic? Yoga might give you additional strength without further cramping your hamstrings. If you don't have a gym membership, you can also try these free cross-training exercises at home! (See also: Natural Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles)
4. Slip Off Your Shoes
A lot of movement for different exercises starts with the feet. If you haven't looked at the tread on your favorite sneakers in a while, it's a good idea to see how worn they look these days. Though I've heard most shoes last somewhere between 300-500 miles or more, that's a rather broad range. It's more important to go by feel when choosing to buy a new pair. Keep track of your mileage in a training log and pay attention to aches and pains to help gauge when a new pair is really needed. (See also: Splurge on These Workout Clothes)
5. Take a Load Off
Along with cross-training, it's important to keep track of how much exercise you're getting in a week. If you're going hard every single day and noticing twinges — rest may be the best (free) medicine. Listening to your body today may save you quite a headache (and trips to the physical therapist) tomorrow. If you just can't sit still, try to enjoy some gentle yoga, which can work as some wise preventative maintenance by stretching tired muscles. Water aerobics is another low-impact way to take a load off while resting muscles.
How do you stay injury-free? Take a break for your workout and let us know in comments!