In 2005, my friend Charissa was getting married. I was very excited because it was the first "friend" wedding I was ever invited to. A few weeks prior to her wedding, we had the genius idea to roller blade around our town's lake. We wanted to burn some calories but have fun while doing so. Conveniently, there are a few paths you can 'blade on, run on, walk etc. We were both doing great, keeping a pace and laughing. Until one minute, she was there and the next she was on the asphalt. On the asphalt with a broken collar bone. Did I mention this was a few weeks before her wedding?
Not only did she break her collar bone, she also had a little bit of road rash. On the day of her wedding she looked as beautiful as ever, not moving her left shoulder as much as possible. She had a permanent smile plastered across her face and you would never know that she just had a traumatizing experience a few weeks before her wedding. Also, makeup and pain killers helped too.
I had a similar experience on Monday morning. As many of you already know, I go to boot camp at Hudson Valley Fitness a few times a week in the early AM. I was pumped because I actually got out of bed and went to boot camp when my original intention was to turn the alarm off and sleep for another 45 minutes.
My trainer had us doing different exercises, and I was just going through the motions of squatting, crunching and so on. I get to the kettlebell swing exercise. It's more weight than I like to use but I figured, "Challenge yourself!" I did about two swings of the kettlebell before I felt my lower back spasm out of control. My fluid motion became a tad overzealous and as a result I could barely move. I had to sit out the remainder of my sessions for the rest of the week, but I asked Kyle Buckley, Certified ACSM Personal Trainer for some advice on safety when working out (especially before a wedding). Here's what he said:
- Know Your Limits: Don't use this as an excuse to quit early on your workout! But know your body's limits, especially when starting out. Going over the top with duration or intensity may seem like the fast track to results, but more than likely it will be the fast track to injury. Your intensity is relative to your fitness level and as you progress you will need a harder workout to challenge your body to change, but in the early stages a basic workout can challenge your body as much as the most intense workout will once you reach that level.
- Natural Range of Motion: Your muscles are meant to work in certain ways. If you see someone "fit" where you train doing something out of the ordinary, that does not mean you should try it. Chances are they did not get "fit" by coming up with strange moves that are not natural for your body/muscles. Keep it simple, and focus on proper form with basic exercises, especially when first starting out.
- Body Weight: Don't under estimate the power/efficiency/safety of body weight exercise. Not only is it safer, but you can get a great workout while focusing your form. By staying off a piece of equipment that will isolate a certain muscle, you also force your core into action while recruiting a number of other muscles to allow your body to complete the exercise. The more muscles that work, the more that have to recover which results in the most calories burned during and after, not to mention this is how your body is designed to move.
- Warm up/Cool Down: Get your heart rate up prior to starting you work out and prior to stretching. Stretching cold muscles can result in injury. Warm up by jogging, jumping rope, biking, anything that will increase your heart rate and get oxygen rich blood pumping out to your muscles. After you workout, take a few minutes to walk and/or strecth out to help lower your heart rate, and loosen tight muscles. Also use this time to reflect on what you have just accomplished and look forward to the next challenge of the day, fitness related or not.
- Focus and Breathe: Whatever you are doing in your workout, focus your attention on just what you are doing. Think about the muscles you are using and how the motion feels through your joints and muscles. Though it may seem that others are "looking at you at the gym", I can assure you that most people at the gym are too busy looking at themselves in the mirror to notice you at all! Focus your attention on your form and control the motion. Also, don't forget to breathe. For some reason a natural response to a stressful situation is to hold your breath. Again, focus on what your doing, control YOUR body and breathe. Exhale on the contraction.
These are a few ways to stay safe when training. Don't feel funny asking a fitness professional for advice, or help and be sure to consult with a doctor or fitness professional about prior injury to see what type of exercise will be good for your body.
As I nurse my lower back injury back to health, I'm going to take Kyle's advice.
Kyle Buckley is a certified ACSM personal trainer at Hudson Valley Fitness.