With the holidays upon us it’s a time to be mindful of just how beneficial your workouts can be. Whether your routine includes several grueling sessions per week of weight training, a daily swim in the ocean, or a simple walk in the park, it’s important to stay consistent with exercise. This way you can burn those extra holiday calories, relieve stress, and even make gains. As you up your intensity, do so in a safe and sensible way.

Be aware of your body. When you’re active and something starts hurting, cut it out, or you may risk serious injury- injury that could set you back. Stop, drink water, stretch lightly, and re-evaluate your form. Proceed with caution and if pain persists, take a break, head for the ice, and seriously consider seeing your physician.

This is especially true for individuals with pre-existing joint or muscle issues. For certain conditions, consult your doctor before beginning or restarting your routine. I’m referring here to things like chronic neck pain, shoulder impingement or rotator cuff issues, chronic low back pain and chondromalacia (excessive wear and tear of the kneecap). Once you’re diagnosed and treated for one of these ailments, only with your physician’s approval should you return to working out. Most doctors will tell you that with the correct progressive exercise program, many of the above conditions can be greatly improved often without any prolonged lay-off. If you’re working with a trainer, get a note from your physician giving you clearance to exercise and have the doctor list any restrictions you may have to observe with your current condition.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure awesome workouts, maximum gains and zero injuries:

  1. Don’t forget the importance of a 5 to 10 minute warm-up before you lift. A brief walk to the gym from home or a few minutes on a recumbent bike can rev-up your metabolism and warm-up joints and muscles preventing injuries.
  2. Stretch briefly and lightly before lifting weights. Save more intensive stretching of the muscle group you are working for between sets or after your overall workout. Greater flexibility means less chance of injuries during bodybuilding or any other sport or physical activity.
  3. Weight training should be progressive. Begin with a light warm-up set and then progressively challenge your muscles with the next few sets as you add weight gradually and carefully. Keep a journal of the weight you lift.
  4. Always watch your form as you perform each exercise. Get a good contraction of the muscle during the positive or concentric part of the motion and slow down on the negative or eccentric phase of the repetition. Take your time with each exercise and make each rep of each set count. Don’t bounce, jerk, or throw weights around. Put weights back where they came from and maintain good gym etiquette.

(Photo by Ivan Samkov from Pexels)