I always find an excuse not to go to the gym. Today, I’m tired from work and I feel like I ate well enough to give myself a break. Tomorrow, I’m going to use the excuse that “this is the first free day I’ve had in a week, just let me enjoy it!” Somewhere down the line, I’ll finally get around to going to the gym. With my pump-up music blaring in my headphones, I’ll work extra hard to make up for my week of laziness. I’ll pull a calf or my knee will start to hurt, but I won’t think much of it. It’ll just be a little wear and tear, pain that will go away the next day. Only, it won’t. And then I’ll have a new excuse not to go the gym.
Now, imagine that we skip all of the pretense and just assume that no one is perfect about going to the gym. Sometimes it’s great just to revel in the experience of skipping. Sometimes that helps with stress. But those excuses are just that. Excuses. And at the end of the day, we can find a way to fit a little more exercise into our lives.
Step 1: Know yourself
Before you hit the weights, you need to know what you’re prepared to do. If it’s been 2 weeks since your last workout, you probably don’t want to lift as much as you did last time. After all, an injury only needs one rep to set in if you’re not careful.
Step 2: Stretch!
This one’s a no-brainer. But I rarely do it, do you?
Step 3: Find Creative Ways to Burn
If you’re already hurting a little bit, abandon the treadmill! Ellipticals are good low-impact machines, they tend to be gentle on the knees and when my runner friend got a sports hernia, he found that an elliptical was the best way to stay in shape. If you feel like walking, try incorporating other movements in order to raise your heart rate to a level more condusive to burning calories (such as arm swinging while carrying weights). Swimming is also a great low-impact exercise; it’s good cardio and if you don’t thrash around you probably won’t re-aggravate anything.
Step 4: Stretch again!
You need to loosen up your muscles after a good exercise like that. Get the blood flowing, reduce lactic acid build-up that will cause soreness, and increase flexibility while you’re at it.
Step 5: Get some protein and Drink plenty of fluids
Some people say to eat protein before the workout, some say after. Incorporate more into your diet and you don’t have to worry about it. And don’t try to hydrate an hour before your workout – the best way to ensure that you’ll have enough fluids to not faint is to be hydrated the day before.
Step 6: R.I.C.E.
Now this one might be kicking a dead horse, but you’d be surprised at how many people still don’t do it. If you’re feeling sore after a workout, you need to address the soreness. Don’t simply wait for it to go away. For one, if it’s a previous injury coming back to haunt you – see a doctor. If it’s something new popping up, go ahead and rest, ice, compress, and elevate. Those four steps will save you a lot of pain and maybe even get you back to the gym before you know it.
That's all I have for now. How do you like to work out? Do you find that low-impact cardio saves your knee from unnecessary stress?