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When you start working out, it can be easy to get so distracted by your new gym attire, endorphin rush and bragging rights that you forget a crucial part of exercise: what you do before and afterwards to avoid injury.

Nothing is more disheartening than having your fitness journey grind to a halt because of a muscle strain or tear, so make sure that along with getting those weekly training sessions in, you’re taking the time to stretch, rest and recover.

Here are a personal trainer’s top tips for avoiding exercise-induced injury:

Call an expert first

Yes, Instagram has taught you how to make French toast roll-ups and contour your face to look like Barbie, but when it comes to working out, it’s best to get the guidance of a certified trainer, even for just a few sessions. Along with helping you reach your goals, they’ll teach you warm up and cool down techniques you can use in future training.

Don’t be cold

It’s never a good idea to exercise without warming up properly first. Make sure you do dynamic stretches and movements that target the specific muscle groups you’re about to engage. This warm-up will also increase your body’s core temperature, get the blood flowing to your muscles and allow you to prepare for the workout ahead, mentally.

Mix it up

Changing up your workout routine is key to preventing boredom, hitting a plateau in your training and overworking the same muscle groups (a leading cause of injury). Plus, research has shown that switching things up can speed up your body’s metabolism #winning

Be brainy and brawny

Another significant cause of injury is putting your body under too much stress too early on in your training. So be smart about it. If the furthest you’ve ever run is across the road to your favourite coffee shop, don’t sign up for the Cape Town marathon, only to have to get your mom to come and fetch you because you’ve rolled an ankle three kilometres in. Also, just because you could bench-press your petite friend 10 years ago, that doesn’t mean you still can (or should) today. Be realistic about your training, and you’ll avoid both disappointment and injury.

Dress appropriately

If you’re looking for an excuse to get new gym wear, then you’ve found it: injury prevention. Investing in a good quality pair of running shoes every year could save you a whole lot on physio appointments down the line so treat your feet. You’ll probably be able to run faster and further too.

Fuel your workouts properly

As we’ve discussed before, pre and post workout nutrition is an essential part of your fitness routine. In addition to helping your body build new muscle and become stronger, you need to replenish your glycogen stores with carbs and protein so that the muscles you’ve just worked can recover before your next workout. Check out @sugarfreesundays for expert fitness nutrition advice as well as many a delicious, healthy recipe.

Strength is key

Even if “gains” aren’t your goal, adding strength training and core work to your workout is the best way to prevent injury. Strengthening your muscles will make your body less likely to take strain or breakdown.

Listen to your bod

If you’re still stiff from a gym session you did three days ago, rather put your feet up and tackle that run tomorrow. Rest and recovery are an essential part of building new muscle, recovering and of course, preventing injury.

To give those inflamed muscles a helping hand, take Releaf MSM with Curcumin, a product with natural anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate pain and maintain healthy joints and connective tissues.

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