So you’ve finally decided to incorporate some strength training into your lifestyle. Good for you!
If you’ve been putting off working out with weights because you were worried about avoiding injury, don’t put it off! With proper form and knowing some key tips, you’ll be able to experience the safe and pain-free benefits of strength training for many years to come.
First of all, know that if you are a woman over 40, strength training is a must. The benefits have been well-documented for its positive effects for both men and women of various ages, but especially as we age. Blend your weight training with some cardio a few times per week, and you’ve got a recipe for amazing health for many years to come!
Knowing the keys to avoiding injury is part of the reality when you incorporate weight training, whether it be strains, pulled muscles, or fractured toes from a dropped dumbbell gone awry. With a bit of preparation and conscious thinking, avoiding injury will keep you out of the doctor’s office or worse yet, the emergency room. Follow these tips to reduce injury and receive maximum results. Your bone density is at stake!
4 Tips for Avoiding Injury
1) Don’t skip your warm up.
In the interest of saving time, sometimes we tend to shirk the warm up routine. Warm muscles – with blood, oxygen, and nutrients flowing through them – are more pliable than cold muscles, and this can lead to fewer strains and pulls.
A good warm up also helps our range of motion and increases coordination, enabling us to sustain the workout ahead. Low impact warm ups like slow stretches or a few minutes on a stationary bike are ideal if you are a beginner. The main thing is to get the blood flowing and warm up your cold muscles.
2) Focus on form.
The human body is amazing and resilient, but it is possible to get injured if we speed through exercises with improper form. If a particular move is too difficult with a certain weight, slow down and/or reduce the weight. Resistance bands work well, too, in place of a set of dumbbells, or if you happen to be traveling.
When paying attention to your form, it is important to be mentally present, and remain focused on the particular body part you are working on during every move. Don’t let ego get in the way of safety, and try to lift too heavy “like you used to”, especially if you haven’t done much strength training in a while. And remember it’s not a race. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. In no time, you’ll grow stronger and will be able to increase your reps or your weights.
3) Avoid overtraining.
As midlife women over 40 we need to listen to our bodies for possible signs of overtraining. The body is resilient, but it is going to talk to us when it needs us to pay attention. Listening to the signals is one of the keys to avoiding injury.
Symptoms of overtraining don’t always include sudden pain. Subtle, chronic pain that won’t subside can also be a sign. I once had a client who told me she “tried lifting weights” for a few days but had to stop because it was sore. In her case, we discussed the difference between actual injury and the normal process our muscles go through when we begin a new fitness routine. It turns out, she was scared she pulled something, but really just needed a day or so to recover. It’s a good thing she didn’t quit. Today, she’s going strong and has increased her strength overall by leaps and bounds!
Injury vs normal soreness
When you exercise, and especially when doing resistance training, your muscles experience slight mirco-tearing, which you’ll usually feel one or two days after you’ve taken your muscles beyond what they are used to. This is a normal. The muscle tissue goes through this stage of slight tearing, then it repairs itself, and becomes stronger and healthier (and this is a good thing!). The process even has a name. It’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short.
If you experience DOMS it means you are doing something right! But if your muscles feel fatigued after several days and that feeling doesn’t go away, then you might want to check in with a doctor, in case you it’s something more serious. At the very least, rest that muscle area for an extra day or so.
To avoid any injuries beyond normal DOMS, a proper exercise program should gradually progress steadily over time, and vary different muscle groups with enough recovery time in between. Any home workout I recommend will specifically account for these proper incremental increases to your routine (including rest days!), which will keep you safe, yet yield great results.
4) Sleep, rest, and eat well.
The role of sufficient sleep is so important to our body’s ability to restore and repair muscles, and to rebuild our immune system, even regulate our hunger hormones. Rest is different from sleep. Rest is an important key to avoiding injury because it helps our body renew itself naturally.
When you were younger, you might have needed one day in between a tough lifting day and the next. Now maybe you’ll need two. Don’t sweat it! Only you will know how much rest and recovery time you need because everybody is different. It’s all about listening to those signals your body is giving you.
It goes without saying that eating to fuel your body is better than stuffing your face with junk. But more than just the right kinds of foods, we have to be mindful as we get older that we are eating enough. If you catch yourself desiring to restrict your calories, to get “better” or “faster” results, don’t do it! Your body needs the fuel, and restricting calories could result in wrecking your hormone balance. You’ll probably just end up right back at square one or worse after you resume normal calorie levels anyway.
Programs like the 21 Day Fix can help you make your calories count by teaching you how to eat the right portions of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats for best results. The 80 Day Obsession timed meal program is also amazing. Both programs avoid any sort of calorie counting, and also assure you get a balance of macronutrients along with a variety of whole foods.
Benefits and Risk
Avoiding injury doesn’t have to mean you can’t be intense with your workouts. You just have to train smart and within what your body can handle (and this will change as you get stronger).
The benefits of resistance training are many, including reducing symptoms of arthritis, diabetes, obesity, and osteoporosis. To remain safe, listen to your body, and if you are new to this, take it slow (always consult a doctor before embarking on any strenuous physical activity you aren’t used to).
If you do get injured it’s not the end of the world, but it will set you back a bit while you slow down to recover. Avoiding injury in the first place will keep you on track, allowing you to make the most of your valuable workout time so you won’t miss a beat. Follow these tips and you will be on your way, not only to a nice looking physique, but longevity, balance, and strength for a long, healthy life!
To your success and beyond!
She girds herself with strength, and makes her arms strong. ~ Proverbs 31:17
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Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. ~ 3 John 1:2