Exercise dos and don’ts

There are many books, magazine articles and YouTube videos, which delve into the correct and incorrect ways of exercising.  Many people, going to the gym or other fitness centres, rely on the instructor or personal trainer, when it comes to exercising correctly.  However, there are trainers that is not qualified to cater to everybody’s needs; this can create a problem.

If you are new to a class, make sure to tell the instructor beforehand.  If unsure about the type of class and/or the intensity of the exercises, ask other members, friends and/or the instructor.  When you have an injury, it is important to let the instructor and/or personal trainer know about it, as well as if you are pregnant or not.  It is not often that you will find instructors and/or personal trainers, that is qualified in rehabilitation and the elderly. 

For the older generation; make sure to train only with someone who is well qualified in working with elderly people.  Do not, however, think that some injuries only occur to the elderly.  young people also suffer from injuries; the difference is the young bodies bounce back easier.  Regardless of your age, it is very important to stop inflammation in its tracks, before it becomes chronic and arthritis sets in.

Always listen to your body and exercise at a pace that is comfortable for you.  When working with weights, don’t go for the heaviest in the beginning.  Using heavy weights too soon (especially if not used to it), can cause unwanted injuries.  Always make sure to keep your wrists straight and use your elbows to bend.  If you bend your wrists whilst doing bicep curls, for example, it will cut off the circulation to your hand.  Metacarpal tunnel syndrome can set in and no, it is not just a “hairdresser thing.”

Always make sure to bend your knees when picking up weights.  There is nothing worse than picking up heavy weights with your back!  A dead lift, for example, can still be done with straight legs and soft knees.  The trick is not to lock your knees.  Instead, opt for doing leg lifts, lying on your tummy, rather than dead lifts.  Whether you suffer from a shoulder injury, stiff neck or nothing at all, be careful when working with weights overhead. 

Pulling the weight machine up and down, overhead, is not a good idea, as the shoulder muscles stay contracted and all the focus is in the neck- and upper area of the shoulders. 

If you do want to work on shoulders, upper back and neck, opt for working with weights at shoulder level.  In other words, you can either lift and lower the weights to shoulder level (without shrugging the shoulders), or you can bend and straighten the arms, at shoulder level.  Push ups are also a good option; especially done on a Pilates ball.

For those ladies that are pregnant, please remember that you cannot lift your head for sit ups, in the first 3 months of pregnancy!!  This can cause a miscarriage and, sadly, not many trainers know this.  Also take care in the last 3 months of pregnancy and never sit with your legs wider than your hips.  Stay clear of squats and lunges to the side, careful if you still want to do yoga and keep your legs in line with your hips.  Anything wider, can unlock your pelvis and baby can arrive sooner than anticipated!

For those who had hip replacements, the same apply as with pregnancies.  When you lift your legs to the side, keep it close to the body; even if you are doing Water Aerobics.  Back injuries and/or operations should be careful and not jump and/or run on a hard surface.  In water, it is easier and softer on the bones if you do want to march fast, for example, on one spot.  But it you have any injuries, be careful on land and in water.

For those who don’t have any injuries, had no operations and the like, do remember to keep your knees soft when you jump, do jumping Jacks, and so forth.  Your knees take a lot of slack, as the hips, but did you know that your knees are your weakest joints, then the hips in second place?  If you love running, but suffer from knee pain and the like, rather opt for bouncing on a trampoline / mini trampoline.  You will still reap the benefits of jogging, but without the impact and injuring of your joints.

The most important thing is to ask the experts before you attempt to do a new exercise or join a class that you have never done before.  Make sure that there are different levels offered, for example beginner, intermediate and advance.  Always let the trainer know about your health.  If you cannot do an exercise, never force your body to do it.  Start at beginner level and, over time, as you get more fit and stronger, you can move to a higher level.  Rather be safe than sorry; regardless of your age. You only have one body, so take care of it and enjoy being active; after all, what is the point of doing something if you don’t like it?  And remember:  always stay hydrated, make sure to warm up properly and stretch after you have exercised.

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