After about a week of dealing with a painful leg injury, I have come around to reevaluating my approach to this whole workout business. To clarify, I damaged the quadriceps on both my legs, especially my right, which made it extremely painful to sit or stand up. This was followed by a short period of knee injury, which made it difficult to do pretty much anything. I still haven’t recovered fully from that, but at least I can sit and walk around now without too much pain.
To say this was anyone’s but my fault would be foolish. I understand pain is an intrinsic part of working out; the old adage, ‘No pain, no gain’ is true, and only with difficulty and hardship can you achieve the results you want. However, there is such a thing as too much pain, which can cause long term damage while trying to achieve short term gains. The very thing you are trying to build – your body – will be ruined, and again it will only be you to blame for it.
Looking back I realize where I went wrong and what I could have done to prevent the events from last week from happening. Those who have been working out for a long time now know this but if you are relatively new to this then this is something you should do every time you workout to prevent injury.
By the way, I’m well aware of the pain you experience during the first few weeks of working out and I’m not talking about that. Those few days are very rough, especially to those not used to physical exertion. But while it seems a good enough excuse to give up on the whole thing, it is important to note that it’s only temporary and within a few weeks you’ll be over it.
No, I’m talking about a different kind of pain, which if you are not careful, can cause permanent damage. What I’m mentioning below will sound obvious but forgetting this is what caused me problems. So make sure you remember this when you are working out.
Warmup involves short, quick exercises you do before a workout that helps warm up your muscles and get the blood flowing in them. Before you ask your muscles to do the heavy lifting, you need to ensure they are properly oxygenated and are at their full capacity to handle the load. Working out without warmup is asking for trouble because the muscles just aren’t ready to handle the load you are going to throw at them. So make sure you do a full body warmup, or at least warm up the muscles you are going to work on that day.
Set your limits
Every body has its limit. When you are working out to build up muscles, you have to scrape the upper bounds of your body’s limits and try and go just beyond it. When you push your body, it eventually adapts to the higher levels of stress and you get stronger.
But there is a limit to how much you push yourself. Doing two extra reps when you feel you’ve had enough is fine. It feels terrible for some time but it’s okay. But there will be a time when your body shows a very clear message that you need to stop right now and that is something you can’t ignore. There is no way of mistaking this and when you feel it you need to keep your ego aside and stop the fuck right there.
When we are working out in the gym in the presence of others we often tend to push ourselves harder than we normally would. Whether it’s consciously or subconsciously, we are competing with those around us. While a little competition is never bad, it could push us to do unrealistic things our body is not ready to do yet.
Often, gym trainers are known to push people. Personal trainers, in particular, are out there to get results. They won’t take no for an answer and will continually push you often well beyond your limits. But while it’s okay to play along and push yourself a bit, when you feel that limit being breached it’s time to keep your ego aside and say you can’t do it. And you will lave a legitimate reason, too. After all, the body won’t show a signboard that it’s done. The warning sign usually comes in the form of a sharp, unnatural pain in the muscles that you’d have to be a fool to ignore (like me).
So know your limits and carefully work around them. Push yourself but not straight into a hospital.
Like warming up, it’s important to stretch the muscles after you are done working out. It helps prevents injury and muscle cramps. There is right way to do stretching and it has to be done properly to prevent injury. Every muscle group that you worked out that day has to be stretched afterwards.
Keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water during and after a workout.
Like I said, these things sound pretty basic but keeping these in mind avoids a lot of pain later. Physical injuries aren’t funny, especially permanent ones that can ruin your life forever. So while you’ve taken the noble cause of working on your body, make sure you go about it the right way.