I’m overweight and want to get in shape. Where do I start?
Whether you’re just starting out or starting over with exercise, you need it to be safe, first and foremost. There’s always the potential for sore muscles, tight hamstrings and a disdain for that dreaded spin bike, but overuse injuries, falls and poor technique are sure-fire ways to leave you resolved to never break a sweat again. The good news? The solutions are simple. To get the most out of your new routine, follow these four injury prevention steps to ensure that you train safely and effectively.
Injury prevention step #1: Establish your goal
Is it getting back to a healthy body mass index or ditching long recovery times? Maybe it’s simply improving your cardiovascular health so that you can be around for your grandkids. The better defined your goals are, the more likely your training routine will help you get there.
Injury prevention step #2: Define your limitations
Get screened by a personal trainer or facility with a reputation for being results-oriented to create a program that will be tailored to your needs and help prevent injury. (Find out more on what a personal trainer can do for you.) If you are overweight, inactive or have a medical condition, it’s important to start with a visit to your doctor. Your GP can help determine an ideal heart rate for your workout and may temporarily limit fast increases in heart rate so that there is less strain on your system. Everybody is different, and some medical conditions call for closer monitoring and communication between your doctor and training facility.
Injury prevention step #3: Basic is best
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Your exercise routine should not be overcomplicated. Our bodies were designed to move, and if we don’t use them, we lose them. Start out by walking an extra 30 minutes a day with a podcast or friend. It may not sound like much, but it will go a long way toward improving your cardiovascular capacity, leg stamina and enjoyment of exercise. If you’re overweight and/or concerned about your joints, try biking or swimming. Move on to more intense exercises when your body feels ready. In the gym or at home, remember the six basic movement patterns: push, pull, twist, squat, bend and lunge. All of these are compound movements that use many joints and muscle groups at once, which help improve core strength and stability, burn more calories and condense your exercise routine. Make sure to check out the popular fitness class that promises you’ll burn calories up to 36-hours after your workout.
Injury prevention step #4: Tread slowly
Don’t forget to recuperate. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated parameters of fitness. It might seem like “more is more,” but if you’re exercising every day with no recovery, you run the risk of overtraining (a condition where people can cease making progress and even begin to lose strength and fitness), which can lead to chronic fatigue, lethargy and burnout. This is the same reason why professional athletes schedule rest days: to allow their bodies to recuperate, get stronger and perform without risking injury. So, go for a massage today or simply chill out at home, and don’t feel guilty about it. Fitness is a journey for life, so enjoy the process. Oh, and don’t forget to add these six essential cool-down stretches to your post-workout routine!
Peter Levidis is a certified athletic therapist, sportspecialists.ca