Injuries like knee pain and lower back pain aren't always just random. Beware of these scenarios that could throw off your fitness—and your safety
No one goes into their workout planning on winding up injured. But sometimes, it happens. Here's what you may not know: There are actually times that you’re more likely to injure yourself. Fatigue, for example, significantly increases your chances of developing low back pain, according to new Australian research. Knowing when you’re most injury-prone, then, comes in handy big time. So be careful! Here are four other times to tread lightly.
1. During your period. Your performance doesn’t necessarily dip when you’re menstruating (even though cramps and bloating can make you feel like it does), but you may be more prone to injury—especially in your knees. That may be due to a slight loss of motor control during menstruation. Knowledge is power! Here's everything you need to know about Exercise and Your Menstrual Cycle.
2. When it’s super cold. Besides the obvious (you could slip on ice or develop frostbite, right?), taking your workout out to the cold might increase your chances of straining or tearing something, since your muscles are tighter than they are in warm temps. (Are Exercise Injuries More Common in the Cold?) That doesn’t mean you have to stick to the gym. The American College of Sports Medicine says that cold-weather workouts can be performed safely. This Guide to Cold Weather Running offers great tips on the best ways to warm up and stay safe when the thermostat is low.
3. When you’re distracted. The Australian researchers who found that you’re especially injury-prone when you’re tired also say that low back pain commonly crops when you’re distracted too. They didn't say why, but it makes sense: When you're distracted, you may be less likely to pay attention to your form or the little twinges that act as warning signs of pain, making you more likely to suffer. So quit your in-gym multitasking (like completing your set while keeping an eye on the televisions). But also beware of sneakier sources of distraction, like stress or hunger.
4. Post-stretch. While static stretching hasn’t been definitively linked to an increased risk of injuries, it doesn’t appear to do anything to prevent harm, and can even exhaust your muscles before a workout, according to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The result: You feel weaker and less stable than if you’d skipped the stretch. Opt for a dynamic routine beforehand instead. (Check out The Best Warm-Up For Any Type of Workout.)