Check out part one of the article here to find out how you can work to look after your body in the gym – then check out the rest of the article below, and ensure your injury prevention plan is fully holistic!
Know when to push through and know when to hold back
“Know when to hold and when to fold” – Kenny Rogers
We all say something along these lines… “I could have pushed harder”; “I could have gotten an extra rep if…” or “no matter what it takes I will lift this weight”. I have no problem with this kind of attitude or mentality as anyone that knows me knows that I will push myself to the max to be successful. But, the problem lies in that sometimes we can push too hard, and we need to understand when it is the right time to push that extra rep, mile, or whatever the case may be.
You have to be humble in the gym when it comes to lifting weights and you have to check your ego at the door. This means that every single time you walk into the gym you are not going to set personal records or lift insane amounts of weight. Different factors can play into how we feel on a daily basis. For example, how we slept, stress levels, what we ate prior, soreness from a previous workout, hydration, it could be a multitude of things.
For me, I used to have this mindset of completing the set in its entirety regardless of what my form looked like because I felt if I didn’t progress each and every workout to a large magnitude, I was not doing it right. It is in humbling experiences of failed lifts and having training partners that can open your eyes. I have also studied exercise science for the last 7 years and have learned a great deal of how the body works and why weight (pounds) is a small factor in building muscle, from a bodybuilding standpoint.
Sometimes it takes setting the weight down mid set to catch your breath, regroup, and then continue, or to use a lighter weight and pay particular attention to your body’s mechanics and form. If you don’t feel right, instead of risking injury, push hard at a lighter weight and focus on the muscle contraction more, the strength will come back.
Another good tip is to find a great training partner you can rely on. That training partner can provide extra motivation, accountability, and a little extra push through some of those heavier weights. You always want to lift intensely, but you need to do so in the safest way possible. Sometimes “no pain, no gain” is the wrong way to think.
Rest when needed
Just like in the previous section of knowing when to push through and when to not, you need to know when to rest. Rest is very important to muscle building, losing weight, rehabilitation, etc. because it is only time for our body to actually grow. A lot of people still believe that the more time you spend in the gym the better, when it doesn’t need to be as long as thought.
For experienced people in the gym, it is not uncommon to be in the gym for 2.5-3 hours. This includes warm-up, mobility work, the training session, cool down, shower, etc. More is not always better. This is because in the gym we break our bodies down and it is actually outside of the gym, with our sleep and rest/down time, that our bodies actually grow or reap the benefits of our workout. If we do not take advantage of rest, we are only undercutting our results in the gym.
Rest days are built into programs for a specific purpose, not just for the sake of them being there. But they are implemented in order to allow the body to recover and grow, let the muscles take a break, let your nervous system calm down, and allow your body to repair itself. If we did not implement rest days into our workout regimens, our risk of injury goes up. An analogy would be a scab on your arm. You cut yourself or open your skin, so you put a band-aid on it. If you keep peeking to see if it’s healed or keep removing the band-aid, you risk opening the skin again and you’re back to square one.
Allow the body to recover, focus on your nutrition (coming up next!), stay hydrated, and relax. When you go back into the gym on your next workout day you will be refreshed and ready to go at your workout 100%, instead of 90% or even 50%.
Have a focus on nutrition
Just like rest and sleep, nutrition often gets put on the backburner when it comes to our goals. Nutrition is also very important to preventing injury. Nutrition provides our body with nourishment in order to function and perform daily activities. These activities include, sports, work, working out, but also includes hair growth, muscle growth and repair, bone health, eye health, etc. This health can be obtained with proper nutrition that is not deficient in any one area. A lot of people will cut out essential nutrients when wanting to lose weight or drastically increase certain nutrients when wanting to gain muscle, etc. There are extremes on both ends of the spectrum.
A common theme however is that there is not enough emphasis placed on smaller, yet extremely important vitamins and minerals. Don’t get me wrong, carbs are great for energy and protein is great for muscle building and fat is good for joint lubrication, hormone production, satiety, etc., but if we are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, we are not going to be achieving optimal health. A lot of people have a few select foods that they eat day in and day out, and just because they saw initial results and feel great right now, they stick with that plan for months and years. You may look okay on the outside, but your insides may look like crap.
If you are deficient in say calcium, your bones can progressively become weaker, which will open your body up to being more prone to fractures and bone breaks; or if you are iron deficient, you could be sensing a lack of energy, and become very frustrated because you do not know why. The first reaction could be to increase your food, particularly sugary carbs, and then your weight can go up, because your body didn’t necessarily need carbs.
Lab testing or getting a regular lab panel done to check these levels is recommended to see where your body currently is at, and then you formulate your nutrition accordingly. Making sure that we are feeding our body properly for our workout, and giving our body enough energy to exercise is just as important as eating to allow our body to recover. Nutrition can be talked about for a while, so if more information is wanted, please reach out to me at my contact information.
The concluding factor in this article and the take away from it is that injury can come from a wide variety of avenues and it does not just have to be a broken leg or concussion. But, there a lot of strategies that you can implement in order to prevent injury, or time out of the gym, that are going to do you more benefit than harm in the long run. The main goal of any program should be to improve overall health while still achieving our fitness goals. This should be done in the safest way possible. Be smart and use some of these strategies to continue to train and train optimally for years to come!
David Rynecki B.S.,M.S.,CPT,CES,FNS,CSS,Pn1