Even if you're relatively fit and accustomed to working out at the gym, a few missteps here and there can raise your risk of injury. To stay as healthy as possible, watch out for these common workout mistakes that even frequent gym-goers make. Luckily, they’re easy to correct once you know what to look for.
Skipping the Warm-up
One obvious way people shave time off a workout when they’re in a hurry is to bypass, or rush through, the warm-up. But is this O.K.? No. In fact, it can increase your injury risk. Warming up raises core body temperature, improves muscle elasticity and range of motion in the joints, increases the rate of oxygen being delivered to working muscles, and more. All this allows your body to gradually get used to greater intensity so you can perform better and more safely as the workout progresses.
Going for the Familiar…Every Time
If you almost always gravitate to the same fitness-class formats, cardio machines and/or strength-training equipment, plan to mix it up more so cross training becomes your weekly norm. Cross training challenges your body with variety, making it a reliable approach to improving overall fitness, while also avoiding overuse injury due to muscle imbalances and repetitive routines.
Indulging in Digital Distractions
Occasionally glancing at your activity tracker during a workout can help you recognize when to ease off (good for injury prevention) or push yourself harder (good for better results). But constantly consulting a wearable or app on your phone could lead to a common culprit for injury at the gym: inattention.
When you allow yourself to become diverted on a fast-moving treadmill or while handling heavy weights, you raise your risk of injury. Play it safe and stay in the moment.
Overloading on a Good Thing
Most people struggle with not getting enough exercise or cutting corners when they do work out, which doesn’t do much for health promotion. But the opposite scenario—overdoing it with exercise volume or intensity—also increases injury risk.
If you’re the type of gym-goer who routinely attends two or more fitness classes back-to-back, or someone who pushes him- or herself to the brink in every workout, you could be taxing your body beyond what’s appropriate.
A well-rounded, recreational fitness program calls for a range of intensity levels throughout the week. To that end, avoid back-to-back fitness classes if the formats are similar (e.g., both cardio-focused workouts). You're better off doing one cardio class, then moving on to a complementary activity, such as muscle conditioning, yoga or stretching.
Remaining Consistent, But Aimless
If you're already going to the gym every week, you’re on the road to improved health and fitness. Kudos to you! However, it might be time to up the ante toward better health promotion and injury prevention by ensuring you’ve got a sound workout program in place.
The right plan will help you know what weights you should be lifting, and why. And what exercises are best for you and your goals. Are there any moves or equipment you should be avoiding? The more prepared you are for each workout, the better the results. Consider hiring a personal trainer who can help set you on the best and safest course of action.
Making a few tweaks at the gym toward greater exercise safety and effectiveness can go a long way toward keeping yourself injury-free in the short-term—and well into the future.