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What You Need To Know To Prevent Injury At The Gym

Even the most experienced gym goer can get injured during cross training. A physical therapist shares what you need to consider at the gym.

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Running and cross training take different types of tolls on our bodies. The movements and muscles worked are varied based on the activity and that’s why even the most fit runners can still get injured in the gym (and vice versa).

“Gym veterans—or pros—are still susceptible to getting injured when training in the gym,” explains Jeff Yellin DPT, CSCS, USA-W, ART, the partner and regional clinical director at Professional Physical Therapy. “However, often the actual workout routine is not the cause, but rather the lead up to the workout is what increases the risk. Everybody nowadays has limited time available for their workouts—especially those training for long races or marathons that require long periods of preparation with minimal rest days.”

It is important to remember that having a short amount of time to workout often means you’ll have to modify what was on your training schedule.

“It is imperative to change up your workouts based on a number of variables; if you are short on time, do not neglect a proper warm-up. Instead, you might adjust your workout by increasing its intensity and tempo or decreasing your rest intervals,” adds Dr. Yellin. “If you are short on sleep or energy, or just haven’t eaten much prior to exercising, adjust your intensity levels or resistance and then make up for it during the next day’s workout.”

In the case of preventing injury, listening to your body is key. This idea also carries over when setting your goals—not only longterm but for an individual workout—and being honest with your fitness level and where your body is that specific day. You don’t want to become discouraged with a lack of progress on a certain day—or, on the flip side, injure yourself because you pushed too hard.

The most common injuries Dr. Yellin sees from gym-goers are muscular strains and cases of tendonitis. He explains that muscular strains are micro-tears of the muscle fibers and occur during an overzealous lift—pushing your body too hard—or when a muscle group is workout out too much. Tendonitis is an inflammation of the tendon and this occurs from trauma or being overloaded with too much stress over a short period of time.

So how can you avoid these injuries? Again, being realistic about where you are is key.

“The best way to avoid muscle strains or tendonitis is to understand the mechanism of making gains in the gym from working out or exercising,” notes Dr. Yellin. “When you apply stress to a muscle or tendon, you are actually breaking down the muscle fibers. An example of this would be such as when lifting a weight over and over again, or during long bouts of cardio. In order to grow stronger and more resilient, these muscle fibers need to recover by growing more efficient and denser, and thus more tolerable to these stresses. Without providing these muscle adequate time to rest and recover, proper nutrition for fuel for repair, and stretching to maintain their elasticity and flexibility, one’s risk of gym-based injuries increases.”

This rest and recovery doesn’t just happen in between sets—it also should play into your overall training. Properly spacing out your hard effort speed workouts, high intensity gym days and long runs by adding shorter, slower recovery runs or rest days in between is the key to minimizing the chance of injury. And if you miss a cross-training session? Don’t add it in before or after a hard run to make it up. As Dr. Yellin says, “Consistency and adaptability are the key to reaching your goals safely.”