My pathway to fitness was not as pain free as one would think. A lot of fitness specialists have been into training all their life and their bodies are used to effort and exercise. When I first started working out years ago, I was an unhealthy couch potato and feeling absolutely crap and out of energy most of the time. I made all possible mistakes, like aspiring to run 10km without preparation and conditioning , OR lifting on bad form and suffered from a knee injury, painful rotator cuffs, incredible tight hip flexors which made my back twitch and pull . It was not an easy path and I became my own physio as well as read so many books on the subject! But it was worth it because now I know how to guide my clients to exercise safely and what is needed to be done first if you’re an absolute beginner, in order to prevent pain and injury in the future.
RULE NUMBER 1:
USE CORRECT FORM!
Learn the correct form without any weight or resistance first. I have seen many people doing heavy lifting without using correct form or without keeping a neutral spine and it literally makes me cringe. It is a sure way to acquire an injury sooner or later, the heavier the weights the bigger the risk.
Common mistakes include :
-squatting with your knees going over your toes and starting the squat from knee joint instead of hip joint (remember the joint that starts a compound movement tends to take most of the weight – trust me you don’t want your knees going bad)
-deadlift with compromising your posterior chain. I see it all the time – people rounding their shoulders forward instead of keeping them rolled backwards and engaged. Or with neck looking up or down instead of being aligned with the rest of the spine. Or with rounded back.
Also, have your posture and feet assessed before you take up serious running, because sometimes a simple custom made insole for your running shoes can save your knees and hips from pain – yes, yes! Your feet are more important than you think and looking after tiny muscles and bones of your feet is a priority when taking up high impact sports.
RULE NUMBER 2:
Do NOT use static stretches as a way of warming up. You will risk injury and it is no way useful in a warm up. Use gentle cardio such as low impact jumping jacks, dynamic stretches, jog in place, leg swings, bodyweight exercises that will mimic your workout ( for example push ups before heavy chest press, squats before jumping plyometrics etc.) Start slowly, get your heart rate up, get the blood flowing, open your lungs and feel you’re working. NOW you’re ready to lift.
RULE NUMBER 3:
Do not work the same muscle group every day. First of all you’re increasing the risk of tear and injury and secondly you’re sabotaging muscle growth. Your muscles do not grow in the gym but when you’re resting. You must give them a chance to heal little microtears in the muscle tissue that are caused my weightlifting / workout ( during the eccentric phrase) . That is exactly what builds a muscle. If you wear your muscles down everyday, they won’t grow and you will hurt. Eat well, sleep well, stress less and you will aide your body in growing a beautiful muscle AND stay safe.
RULE NUMBER 4:
Do NOT lift more than you can handle. Just don’t. Make sure you can do the exercise on a 100% correct form without any resistance and add the weight slowly.
Same goes for running – don’t ‘just’ run. Make sure you strengthen muscles in your legs so they can properly support your joints. Squats, lunges, side lunges, hip flexor stretches ALL HELP TO PREVENT tightness, pain and injury both before and after going for a run.