Why newbies injure themselves during exercise

  • Fitness
  • Friday, 31 Aug 2018

Not knowing how to operate a treadmill once caused this writer's editor to fall off one and badly bruise herself. — Reuters

My former editor once told me she fell off the treadmill on her first gym visit.

Too embarrassed to ask the trainer how to use the equipment, she hopped on, pressed some buttons and took off like a roller coaster.

Unable to keep up with the speed, she got dizzy and not knowing how to stop, she jumped off, fell, and badly bruised her knees and elbows.

Sadly, no trainer came to her rescue and that ended her short stint at the gym.

Visions of bandits jumping off a moving express train flashed in front of my eyes.

Because she has a tendency to poke fun at herself, we laughed over the incident and I insensitively quipped, “But boss, it’s just like a conveyer belt. Didn’t you see the red button that says S-T-O-P?”

“What button? Where’s the button? I could only see the room spinning,” came her innocent reply.

That was when I realised many gym newcomers don’t know how to use gym equipment or perform exercises correctly, and sustain injuries in the process.

According to a 2013 study from the University of Arkansas, every day, there are more than 10,000 people treated in emergency rooms across the United States for injuries stemming from sports, recreation and exercise.

There is also a rate of 3.1 injuries for every 1,000 hours spent doing CrossFit training.

In another 2015 Australian study published in Injury Epidemiology, resistance/weight training injuries accounted for more than half of the presentations.

Those who engage in such activities with incorrect technique are more vulnerable to both overexertion injuries and crush injuries, because incorrect technique can cause them to lose strength, and subsequently, drop the weights.

Due to the nature of the activity and the equipment used, any injuries sustained during resistance/weight training activities would likely be acute and traumatic.

Often, I hear people narrate their horror stories by mentioning they felt “something pop” or “something go limp”, or something was strained or sprained.

The portal www.ellipticalreviews.com analysed data released by the US National Electronic Injury Surveillance System on workout-related emergency room visits from 2016.

They found treadmills topped the list of gym equipment most likely to result in injury (my former boss fell into this category), with running causing more than one in three gym-related hospital trips.

Among the common complaints were shin splints, stress fractures and runner’s knee.

Unsurprisingly, all were likely to be a result of the person pushing themselves too hard or not warming up properly.

Injuries due to awkward landings or twisting motions may be difficult to prevent so gyms should encourage proper footwear to ensure it provides appropriate support and educate users to improve their technique.

Don’t be put off by the statistics though. You can take steps to minimise the risk of injury while you work out.

One of the ways to avoid an injury is to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly.

Exercises such as overhead presses, squats, push-ups, etc, require a certain amount of technical skills, which we aren’t born with. When in doubt, ask the trainer for help.

The trend nowadays is to look for solutions on YouTube. While there are good videos out there, the majority of newbies are not attuned enough with their bodies to follow instructions and observe safety, especially when it comes to doing squats and lunges.

Isn’t it better to invest in a trainer just to learn the basics?

Plus, if you’ve constantly been doing the exercises wrongly, it’s harder to retrain the body once you allow the muscles to form a memory. Eliminating a memory, just like the ones in your mind, is not easy.

Poor posture during the day and while on your gadgets also weaken the musculoskeletal structure and put you at a higher risk of injury when doing resistance training.

The other mistake is to do too much too quickly, in both reps and weights.

If you’re a weekend warrior and you unleash all your accumulated weekday stressors by pushing yourself hard for two days, something’s going to give.

I can’t tell you how many clients and students I have that fall into this category. It also reveals a lot about their impatient personalities.

When I show varying levels of difficulty to cater to different stages of fitness, these “quick gainers” will insist on doing the more challenging routines. Irrespective of gender, they absolutely refuse to set their ego aside.

Overexerting yourself can put you at risk of injury and some exercises are more likely to cause more damage than others.

Gyms and trainers owe a duty of care to all members to keep them relatively safe from accidents and foreseeable injuries.

Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul.

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