You're motivated, you're determined and you've told yourself over and over again that this is the year you're finally going to get in better shape. Having a positive mindset for improving physical fitness is a great start, as long as you don't overdo it right out of the starting gate.
"Jumping into an exercise routine right away and trying to do too much too soon can quickly do more harm than good," said Dr. Marcus Talerico, M.D., a Board certified orthopaedic surgeon with MidAmerica Orthopaedics in Libertyville and former U.S. Navy staff orthopaedic surgeon. "If your body isn't used to the rigors of progressive athletic training, your bones, joints and muscles will definitely let you know by screaming out in pain -- which can quickly discourage someone with good intentions for improving their health."
Dr. Talerico recommends a balanced, sensible approach to any new exercise plan that combines cardiovascular and strength training -- not one that's too ambitious or unrealistic for the person in mind. A good first step is visiting your doctor for recommendations that fit your medical history and meet your specific needs.
"If you've been treated for things like high blood pressure, heart disease, chronic pain or other conditions, it makes sense to meet with the person who best knows your medical history, your primary care physician, and work together on mapping out a fitness plan before stepping into the gym, lifting that first barbell or lacing up your running shoes," Dr. Talerico added.
Training Errors Take a Toll
According to statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which have also been cited by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), more than 800,000 Americans in 2011 received medical treatment for exercise-related (non-equipment) injuries. The AAOS also reports that more than one in four Americans are already dealing with bone or joint-related health problems, so knowing your limits and a level of athletic training progress that's right for you is critical.
In addition to recommending a balanced approach for a new physical fitness regimen, Dr. Talerico often points patients to other basic exercise tips recommended by the AAOS for preventing sports injuries:
Begin with a warm-up, then stretch out -- Yes, even before you start stretching out, a warm-up of running in place for a few minutes while breathing slowly and deeply can increase heart rate, blood flow and loosen up muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints.
Stretch to the point of tension, not pain -- After a brief warm-up, begin stretches slowly and carefully until reaching a point of muscle tension when bending to touch your toes or doing other stretches. Inhale before each stretch, hold it for 10 -- 20 seconds before releasing it and exhaling. Do each stretch only once and never stretch to a point of feeling pain.
Use proper equipment -- For runners, it's all about the shoes. Make sure they're proper for maintaining foot stability and absorbing the pounding of a long run on the road or treadmill. You should make sure there's at least a thumbnail's width between the end of your longest toe and the end of your shoe. If buying your first pair of serious running shoes, you may want to consult a specialist at a technical running store on shoe specifics that are best for your feet.
Take your time, stay hydrated and cool down -- For those who are strength training on machines or with free weights, move through the full range of motion with each repetition and breathe regularly. And for all forms of exercise, it's important to drink enough water to avoid getting dehydrated. The AAOS recommends drinking a pint of water 15 minutes before exercising, drinking some water every 20 minutes during your routine and having another pint during the final phase or cool down. For the cool down, slow down and lower the intensity of the workout for 10 minutes before stopping.
"It's not really a no-pain, no-gain proposition when taking a smart approach to athletic training, especially for those starting a new routine," Dr. Talerico concluded. "Dealing with an injury can quickly sidetrack anyone from moving forward with their fitness goals, so it's important to plan your routine, start out slow and push yourself only to your limits and avoid any pain."
To learn more about avoiding sports injuries, MidAmerica Orthopeadics of Libertyville or to contact Dr. Talerico, please visit www.handtoshoulderclinic.com or call 1-855-4MY-ORTHO (1-855-469-6784).