I’m all for people getting involved in sports and fitness. Heck, I have made a living out of teaching people ways to perform better at sports, fitness, life and survive injuries through training. Nothing beats the feeling of satisfaction of helping others improve. Conversely, nothing is worse for a trainer than to have someone become injured while working out. According to several sources, reported gym injuries are up 35 percent in the last few years. Scholastic injuries are way up, and over half of them are overuse injuries. I don’t know of any orthopedic doctors who are eating ramen noodles because business is slow.
Yet, we have more advanced equipment, better training, faster ways to communicate and better coaching.
That being said, I just finished watching the latest workout fail video on youtube. I am amazed at the situations adults put themselves in to “challenge” themselves. Any expert athlete will tell you how much preparation goes into amazing performances. They want to keep doing what they are doing so they take every opportunity to use good judgment, practice risk management and train a lot.
As a strength and conditioning coach and an athletic trainer, I have worked with a broad range of genetics, abilities and personalities. My job has always been to push athletes and keep them safe while preparing for sports. It’s easy for average people with little experience to get seriously injured while training for performance or rehabilitation.
Here are some ways to avoid injury at the gym.
Genetically gifted athletes are just that. You and I can’t do what they can do because their situation is very special. All the training in the world will never overcome genetics. This doesn’t mean you should give up. I’m not here to crush your dreams, I’m just saying you should be realistic about your risk so I don’t have to contribute to paying your medical bills. Nothing personal.
Get professional instruction
Don’t let your ego get you injured. None of us know it all. If I had a buck for every person who said, “Wow, I never knew that,” while we were training I’d be rich. You’ll hire someone to clean your house but not to help you with your body? I know, you worked out back in college and you know what you’re doing. The best athletes in the world have a team of people helping them. They beg for advice on new training methods, ask for a spot, read a lot, study their game and listen much more than they talk.
Apply the proven training principles that athletes have used for over a century
The best athletes can only peak a few times a year, not every workout. This is just how the body works best. Working out should be the same way — training to reach a goal. I think a lot of people quit because they are “just working out” and have no epic goal to peak for. Creating the goal is the first part of training.
When you attempt a sport, however, you must train to peak during the season or for a specific event. Athletes don’t just train to beat themselves up or for bragging rights at the water cooler. Most of them hate working out. They just want to play their sport, but they know that in order to compete, they have to train.
Make a safe environment
Move stuff out of the way that could hurt you.
Don’t let your phone or iPod dictate your training and rip you right off the treadmill.
Get a spot.
Work within your ability.
Don’t push yourself on dangerous stuff while fatigued: This is really dumb and not part of any educated training protocol.
Don’t make homemade equipment unless you build gym equipment for a living. These people are called engineers, and they know how to build stuff better than you and me.
Honestly assess risk before attempting stuff. Better yet, get an objective opinion about risk before you try your next “Epic move Bro.”
Have you ever been to a power lifting meet or an Olympic lifting meet? I’ve been to many of these events. It’s really quiet while the athletes concentrate on their performance. You need to concentrate when doing dangerous stuff. That’s why there are no cheerleaders at Olympic lifting events. People shouting and cheering you on is very encouraging, perhaps encouraging enough to make you really bust yourself up over fear and ego.
So while you attempt your next epic personal best, remember this: Pro athletes have a team of trainers, physicians, chiropractors, and therapists to help them recover, and they don’t have to get back to work on Monday, either.
*Steve does not really use the term “epic” to describe random insignificant events, based on the definition of the word. Please forgive his sarcasm.
Steve Wells is an athletic trainer and owner of Midland Fitness