So many self-help books and health articles advocate regular exercise, but they rarely address what to do if your body isn't accustomed to consistent activity. If your lifestyle is mostly sedentary, your body can suffer a shock when you introduce it to a workout. It can be difficult for your mind to gauge when you've had too much exercise, which can lead to muscle strains, joint pain, or injury. Or you may be too cautious, easing into your workout plan too slowly, and negating any health benefits it could have for your body.
Here are some tips to help you adjust to a new workout routine:
Make warm-ups a habit.
Many people jump into their stretching routines without warming up their muscles first. The trouble with skipping the warm-up is that your muscles are cold and won't reap the benefits of your stretching session. Injury is far more common when the muscles aren't properly warmed up.
Warming up your muscles increases blood flow, and makes your stretches far more effective and less painful. You can perform a warm-up for about five minutes by walking around the exercise area.
Don't get too excited; your warm-up shouldn't include any vigorous activity. The point of the warm-up is to prepare your body gradually for the coming workout.
Don't forget to stretch.
This may seem like a throwback to your elementary school days in gym class, but your coaches weren't joking around. Stretching is integral to any active lifestyle — it increases your range of motion by preventing your muscles from tensing and flexing too much. This can improve your workout by enabling you to perform aerobic or strength-training motions correctly.
Stretching also reduces your risk of injury. If your muscles are too tight during an activity, you run the risk of tearing them through over-extension or excessive movement. Stretch for 10 minutes before and after your workout. Free mobile apps like Sworkit feature beginner stretch drills with video tutorials.
Recognize the difference between good and bad pain.
You might head out for your first week of running and find it's nearly impossible to get out of bed in the morning. Your joints and muscles ache, you feel foggy, and your body is trying to get used to the loss of calories.
As marathon runners know, it can be exceedingly difficult to understand exercise pain. When you begin a new workout, your muscles will feel like they're rebelling against you. They'll release lactic acid, which causes that familiar ache after a workout. Your muscles may grow stiff, and you may seek relief in heat packs or massage.
Should you train through strange, sharp pains that appear all of a sudden? These may be signs or symptoms of an injury, which can incapacitate you if they get worse. Be aware of the pain signals your body tries to send you, and consult with a medical or sports professional if you're unsure.
Mix it up.
Many people who are just starting an active lifestyle will get attached to a particular exercise. For example, you may find yourself running or biking exclusively. The potential issue with a uniform workout is that you're repetitively strengthening the same muscles every day. If you're running constantly, you're placing a lot of strain on key muscles, and they may not have time to recover.
This is the reason that cross training is so important. Mixing up your workout helps you strengthen a wide range of muscles, which can prevent repetitive injuries or stress.When you decide to make a lifestyle adjustment, it can be tempting to jump into a new routine unprepared. However, your body needs time to get used to an active lifestyle.
If you don't warm up, stretch, and listen to pain indicators, you run the risk of hurting your body and disrupting your workout goals. Stay in the game by researching your activity before starting and take the right preparation measures.