It’s May 1st and Memorial Day is 29 days away! If you are not beach body ready, you are not alone. While jumping into a hardcore fitness routine might sound like the fastest route to getting that beach body, it could actually delay getting you to your “ideal weight.” More times than I can count, I have seen patients who jumped into an intense fitness routine to shed those unwanted pounds for the “big day,” a vacation getaway, or as the summer approaches only to be sidelined by an injury. Check out my tips below for avoiding injury as you work to get back into shape.
- Assess Your Current Fitness Level
Have you been working out? For how long? What does your fitness program look like? If it’s been a month or more since your last workout, start out slow. Take a brisk walk or add short running intervals to your walk. Looking to resume a weight lifting program? Start by lifting half of the weight you were lifting for each exercise before your hiatus and be sure to use good form. If the first set is too easy, you can always add weight. The goal is to challenge your muscles without causing injury.
- Cross Conditioning is Key
To prevent injury, you not only need to use good form but also vary your fitness routine. Aim for 150 minutes of exercise a week with at least 2 full body strength workouts (30 minutes each) and 3 cardio sessions ranging from walking or running to biking or rowing. The key is to find a couple of activities you enjoy and rotate them to prevent an overuse injury. Lifting will not only help prevent injury by strengthening your muscles, joints, and ligaments, but toning your muscles will create a slimmer appearance. And as you gain muscle, your body will burn more calories at its resting state! Don’t belong to a gym and not sure where to start? There are plenty of youtube videos, streaming services and apps to help you. Look for options that demonstrate various levels and/or modifications. (Have a favorite? Add it here – I like Hasfit -lots of free options & they show modifications for every exercise)
- Prevent Soreness with a Cool Down and Stretch
Be sure to spend a few minutes (or 10) to cool down after your workouts. Why? Because during strenuous exercise, your muscle fibers, ligaments, and tendons become damaged and waste products build up in your body causing delayed onset muscle soreness. Cooling down properly aids in their repair and can help prevent soreness in the days following your workout. Bring your heart rate down by exercising at a reduced intensity for at least 5 minutes such as slowly walking. Then perform 5 to 10 minutes of low intensity, long hold static stretching. The goal isn’t so much to gain flexibility but to lengthen the muscles.
If you are still sore despite starting slow, don’t give up. The muscle soreness should subside in 24-72 hours and a simple walk can help keep your new fitness routine on track while your body recovers!
Dr. Mc Millan is a Board-Certified orthopedic sports medicine surgeon practicing in the Virtua Health System of south Jersey. For more information please visit www.drseanmcmillan.com or follow us on twitter @sportsdrsean.