With exercise on the minds of many, it's important to go over a few pointers to ensure the next trip to the gym does not end in injury.
• Be careful of "no pain, no gain." Many beginners feel their workout isn't working if it's not hurting. While mild pain is to be expected, it's up to the individual to determine if the pain is indicative of something bigger. Swelling and extreme stiffness are not normal, and individuals should cease working out if either of those problems arise. For beginners, expect muscle soreness after the first couple of workouts. This can be painful, but it's often a result of working muscles that have not been taxed in quite awhile. This pain should subside, and once the muscles grow accustomed to being worked, the pain, stiffness or soreness should no longer appear after a workout (this may take a workout or two for the muscles to get used to it). If the pain persists, do not continue to exercise through an injury. Any persistent pain should be discussed with a physician.
• Know your limits. Beginners need to be especially aware of their exercise limits. Initially, they shouldn't attempt to do exercises their bodies can't handle. Lifting too much weight is common for beginners. Ideally, lift smaller amounts when beginning a workout to get the motion of the exercise down pat. As workouts progress, a person can then gradually add weight. Many fitness professionals feel adding 10 percent each week is a safe and effective approach, but individuals will know after a few workouts what works best for them. It's good to push oneself, but don't push too hard and increase the risk of injury.
• Work with a trainer. Personal trainers can help beginners immensely. Trainers can teach beginners how to use machines and stretch properly and can answer any questions beginners commonly have. Trainers can be expensive, but many gyms offer one or two free personal training sessions to new members. Once those free sessions are finished, individuals can continue with the trainer or choose to go on their own. But if the free sessions are made available, beginners should take advantage of those sessions to help get their fitness routine off on the right foot.
• Fewer repetitions, more sets. A common mistake when beginning an exercise regimen is to dive right in without really knowing the ins and outs of a routine. For example, many people load up on repetitions, feeling the more reps, the more effective a workout will be. However, beginners often find fewer reps but additional sets is more effective. So instead of doing four sets of 10 reps, do five sets of eight reps. This might seem too small to make a difference, but beginners often tire near the end of a set, and doing fewer reps per set can help them avoid fatigue and make the most of each repetition and set.
• Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout an exercise regimen to remain hydrated. Maintaining proper fluid levels helps avoid cramping and dehydration, which can bring their own batch of painful side effects, including nausea and heart palpitations. For those who workout in the early morning, be sure to drink water before working out to overcome any dehydration that may have occurred while asleep. For those who workout after work, be sure to drink water throughout the day so the body is fully hydrated when the time comes to hit the gym.