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Mistakes can hurt when exercising
Slow down! Warm up, take your time and vary your workout routine to avoid injury.
By Lindsay Minnema, Washington Post
Published October 16, 2007
Kickboxing in flip-flops. Doing Pilates on a gravel surface. Common sense tells us these aren't smart workout habits.
But not all exercise mistakes are so obvious; many are unknowingly committed by those trying to cram their 45-minute circuit training into 30 minutes or less.
What you save in time could end up costing you in other ways, including long-term damage to muscles, bones and ligaments. Benjamin Shaffer, an orthopedist with Washington Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, said overworking the body and ignoring its need to recuperate often causes painful problems. Here are some common workout mistakes:
Skipping the warmup
Going from normal activity straight into high-impact exercising puts tremendous stress on the body - stress that could ultimately slow you down.
"When your muscles are cold and stiff, you're more prone to injury," said Shaffer, team physician for the Washington Nationals baseball team and Capitals hockey team.
Warming up raises core body temperature and fills muscles with blood, so they are more amenable to stress. Those worried about time needn't fret: A warm-up takes only five minutes. Shaffer recommends stationary bike work, a brisk walk or jumping jacks.
Failing to stretch
Stretching is not the same as warming up, Shaffer said, even though it does help prep muscles for the stress of exercising. Three to five minutes of stretching provides greater flexibility and range of motion. And it's particularly important for people hitting middle age. "You're just not as elastic as you once were," Shaffer said.
Properly executed stretches should be gentle, easy and sustained. Avoid bouncing, Shaffer said.
Condensing your routine
Shaffer calls them weekend warriors: people who cram their entire routine into the weekend and skip working out during the week. But, Shaffer said, "You can't do all your athletic endeavors in two days of intensity and expect it to make up for the rest of the week."
These exercisers have a tendency to overdo it, which strains the body and can result in painful musculoskeletal damage.
'No pain, no gain'
It is normal to experience some muscle soreness during and after a routine. "You should feel tension and stress," Shaffer said. "But if what you're doing is really painful, you're not doing yourself any favors."
Working out to the point of exhaustion causes muscle fatigue and can lead to burnout. Exercising through the pain means ignoring your body's signs that it is sustaining unnecessary damage. A related mistake is returning to a workout routine prematurely after an injury. Shaffer said, "It's important that you be symptom-free, have normal motion, no swelling and normal strength."
Forgetting to mix it up
"No pro athletes do the same exercise every day," Shaffer said. And neither should you. Muscles break down during a workout and can take 36 to 48 hours to heal, so don't always subject them to the same work. Instead, switch your routine.
If you're a runner, maybe swim or bench press between runs. Know what your body is capable of and feed it a fresh variety of workout routines.