2001-02-03 / Sports

QUESTION Dear Shaun,

Dear Shaun,

I am so utterly out of shape, and I can’t take it anymore! I want to begin exercising so bad, but I keep hearing about people getting injured while working out. So naturally, I’m afraid to get on the treadmill or even touch a weight, in fear of hurting myself. Are there any universal tips for preventing injuries?



Okay Melissa, I have to say that I sensed a bit of frustration in the language of your question to me. So the first thing I need for you to do, is loosen up, let go, and just relax. That’s right, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and slowly count backwards from ten, while thinking of a calm-placid-blue ocean. Now repeat after me; calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean. Good, now that we’re all at ease, peaceful and untroubled, I’m going to stop acting like a weirdo, start acting normal, and answer your call for help.

But before I do that, it’s important for me to say, that I am in no position whatsoever to give any advice on treating an injury, because as much as my mother would have loved it to be true, I’m not a doctor. Preventing injuries is a different story, so allow me to help.

I suppose the best way to go about fixing your dilemma, would be to break down the two forms of exercise (cardiovascular training and strength training), and explain the necessary procedures and precautions you should be taking for each.

Now, when it comes to cardiovascular training, such as jogging, bike riding, or any other exercise that gets your heart rate pumping, it is extremely important to stretch and warm up before beginning each workout, as well as cooling down at its close. So that’s that.

With strength training or weight lifting, there are a few more items to think about, because you’ve generally got a better chance injuring yourself lifting weights, than jogging or riding a bicycle. That is unless you trip on a rock, fall off your bike, or something to that effect. In any case, with weight lifting, you should also warm up and stretch before each session, and cool down at its close. The manner in which you lift weights during your workout itself, could be the most dangerous, if not executed properly. Hence, here are some helpful pointers for proper execution.

Pointers on lifting weights properly, to prevent injury:

  • Lifting speed—Whatever exercise you’re doing, make sure to bring the weight down slow by controlling it, and lift (or push) it up at the same speed, slow. If you go fast, not only are you in the market for a ligament injury, but all you’re really doing is building up momentum, and allowing other forces to lift the weight for you, besides your muscle. Also, the slower you go, the less amount of pounds you’ll be able to use, which brings me to my next point.
  • Amount of weight (pounds)—Way too many people focus on the quantity of weight they’re lifting, rather than the quality of the movement. Remember, your muscles have no idea how much weight you’re using. The only way they’ll respond is if you use slow controlled movements, with light weights to start. Using too much weight for people-impressing purposes, will increase your risk of injury, and cause you to lose the form, which once again brings me to my next point.
  • Using proper form—Whether you think so or not, there are proper methods for lifting weights. Each exercise is different, so have a certified personal trainer or someone skilled experienced, show you how to perform them correctly.
  • Pay attention to the pain—Always pay attention to the pain you’re experiencing when working out. Basically, you’ll know you’re doing the exercise correctly, when you feel a burn in the muscle you’re targeting. If you experience any sharp shooting continuous pains, anywhere on your body, stop lifting immediately and get yourself checked out.

Okay Melissa, the pointers I just gave you are all inter-related, and if followed correctly should leave you in the clear from Mr. Painful Injury, someone you don’t want to have anything to do with. He’s evil, so be cautious, be careful, start slow, keep it light, enjoy yourself, and hopefully I’ll see you at the gym…and not at the physical therapist!



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