Health Matters: Avoiding New Year’s Resolution Injuries
By Lisa Dumais
New month, new year, new me … it’s the mantra that many of us have as we build up high hopes of getting a fresh start with our New Year’s resolutions. However, the over-the-top optimism is usually short-lived – after all, January 19th is known as National Quitters Day for a reason. Most resolutions – especially those surrounding plans to get fit and lose weight – aren’t just unrealistic, they can also be dangerous to your health.
We often see patients during the early part of the year with injuries stemming from the “zero to 60” crowd – those who don’t give their bodies time to adjust to the transition from couch sitting to marathon running. The cost of doing too much too soon can add up in both medical bills and the now unusable gym membership you just signed up for … talk about starting the new year off on the wrong foot.
The best strategy is slow and steady. Remember, change takes time.
So, if you’re lifting weights, start small and do fewer reps, then gradually work your way up from there. If your goal is to run a race, begin with walking then increase your speed and distance over time to give your body a chance to adjust.
In that same vein, don’t underestimate the importance of warming up and cooling down regardless of the type of workout you choose. Stretching can significantly decrease your chance of muscle strain and help prevent soreness.
Another common mistake people often make is buying into the ‘no pain, no gain’ philosophy. It’s easy to tell yourself the new tweak or aches you’re feeling are natural and will go away if you just work through it. However, doing so can make the problem worse and develop into injuries that take more than a few weeks’ rest to treat.
Some soreness is common but feeling a sharp pain or aches in a joint rather than a muscle are signs that something isn’t right. So, listen to what your body is telling you, and don’t ignore any sign of pain.
Rest is also a crucial part of any workout routine to promote muscle repair and prevent fatigue. Pushing yourself too much without taking a break is just asking for trouble. It’s also a good idea to vary the types of exercise you do to avoid overuse injuries. Switching up the activities you’re doing instead of repetitively performing the same movements gives your body a chance to rest and recover.
It is always a good idea to consult a doctor before you start any new exercise routine as well, especially if it’s a drastic change from what you’re used to doing. In fact, seeing a physical therapist can also be a helpful starting point.
Prevent Injuries Before They Happen
You may think we’re just here for after you’ve been injured or had surgery, but the opposite is true. By looking at things like muscle tone, movement mechanics, and range of motion, we can identify movement faults and muscle imbalances – things we can help you work to correct to help prevent those injuries BEFORE they happen.
It won’t cost you a thing to get started either. Mercy Health’s physical therapy locations offer free pain and injury screenings. We can do those functional movement tests, so you know your strengths and weaknesses before you jump into a new routine. We can also assess any aches or pains you may have already developed and help guide you in next steps to help address them before more damage is done.
The great thing about physical therapy is that it’s a good fit for anyone, regardless of age or activity level. Whether you’re a competitive athlete trying to avoid being sidelined, a senior citizen just trying to keep up with the grandkids, or somewhere in between, learning about your body and the movement patterns you should be doing can keep you healthy and pain free – both of which will go a long way in helping keep you on track with those New Year’s fitness goals.
*Lisa Dumais has worked as a physical therapist for 21 years. A graduate of Cleveland State University, Dumais specializes in outpatient orthopedics and has certifications in Mulligan Manual Techniques, Kinesiotaping, and Dry Needling. She says she enjoys working with patients to achieve their maximum potential both physically and emotionally through integrating the mind and body connection.