For many people going to the gym is an integral part of their overall fitness routine. Its facilities can house large amounts of specialized equipment you might be hard-pressed to store at your home, and it can also be a means of separating yourself from various distractions that occupy your life. But there are many instances where day to day obligations can present very compelling cases to put off going to the gym, reducing the frequency of visits, or stopping altogether. If you find yourself attempting to reintroduce hitting the gym back into your life after an extended hiatus, you are not alone. For a variety of reasons, many people return to the gym as a means of getting back into shape or improving their general health and lives through physical activity. But if you haven’t been there in a while, there are some things you should consider to make sure your newfound quest does not end prematurely.
Stretches and Preparation
When you walk into a well-appointed gym and are freshly determined to achieve your fitness goals, it can be tempting to leap right onto the machines and try to get results immediately. Over the years gym equipment has certainly seen advances in design and construction which make them safer and more efficient than ever. But if you test your limits and resistances too quickly, you can strain a muscle or in much worse mishaps with the equipment suffer a bone fracture or a dislocated joint. While it may feel mundane, it is essential to stretch properly and warm-up to optimize your workouts and avoid injury. When you start to build up your strength and proficiency in the gym, you might become inclined to skimp on the warm-up and go straight for the weights. If you want to minimize your risk of injury as much as possible, then you would do well to stretch and build up to every session properly.
Have a Plan, Isolate Muscle Groups
You may be familiar with the “cycle” that builds a muscle. When you engage in physical activity or exercise that works out a specific muscle, this wears out and in certain ways breaks down that muscle. Then when you rest the body naturally recovers and heals it stronger than before. You then rework the muscle through a cycle of exercise and recovery, making it progressively stronger and stronger. While for many this is practically common knowledge, not respecting or observing the requisite rest period to build up a muscle remains one of the most common ways you can injure yourself in the gym. If you are hitting the gym without a plan or set objectives, you might inadvertently work the same muscle over multiple exercises without even realizing it. Taking some time to familiarize yourself with what muscles each machine works, then focusing on a specific muscle group during a single session is an excellent way to balance your workouts while preventing injury from overworking a particular part of your body. If you need advice on what muscles to work on which day, consult a health care professional or a representative at your gym.
Proper Form While Lifting, Always
If you have not lifted in awhile or are perhaps unfamiliar with lifting technique, then you may open yourself to injury through improper lifting. One of the main contributing factors to improper lifting is actually attempting to overtrain or excessively lift. If you are trying to squeeze one more rep out of too much weight, you might tighten your neck, stop breathing, hyperextend your arms, and get your back involved in the lift. You might achieve that rep, but anything inadvisable in your lifting form can precipitously increase your risk of hurting yourself. Keeping your back straight, tension out of your neck, and a manageable weight/rep ratio are all critical factors. In addition to adequately educating yourself on the correct way to lift and adhering to these rules, you might consider lifting with a partner to help observe your posture and spot for you during more challenging weight exercises.
Consult a Chiropractor
If you have not hit a gym in a long while, it may be worth considering a consultation with a licensed chiropractor before jumping back in. A chiropractor specializes in the treatment and maintenance of the muscles, nerves, and joints of the spine and back. Caring for this part of your body is mission critical in sustaining prolonged fitness through exercise. Suffering an untimely injury to your back may sideline you immediately. Even if you don’t suspect anything amiss with your back, it may be prudent to see a chiropractor to appraise its condition, possibly adjust any irregularities, and advise you on how to best achieve your fitness goals while keeping your back healthy through the duration.
Making a fitness comeback after spending time away from the gym can be a daunting task. But physical fitness and good health are within reach of anyone who takes the time to incorporate the effort back into their lives. The past is the past. If you have decided to make a better life for yourself going forward through regular exercise and activity, then that is the only factor that truly matters.