If you’re exercising, then congratulations on your commitment to fitness. You’re bettering your heart and respiratory health, keeping up your stamina, and managing your weight. Sometimes, however, exercise just hurts -- and not in the satisfying, “hard-effort” way.
If your joints ache when you exercise, it may be a side effect of some mistakes you’re making at the gym or on the trail. Minimize your risk of injury by ensuring you’re not committing these exercise no-nos:
Time is precious, and you want to make every moment of your sweat session count. However, skipping a warmup to save time sets you up for injury. A warmup gradually wakes up your heart, lungs, and metabolic system -- preparing your body to work harder and use fuel more efficiently. Gradually increasing intensity also prepares your muscles and joints for the work to come by increasing blood flow, optimizing your range of motion, and improving muscle elasticity.
So, before you do the hard part of your workout, take 5-10 minutes to gradually increase your intensity. For example, if you’re going for a run, walk for a few minutes, then slowly pick up your pace to a jog and then run.
Or, if you plan to lift weights, spend about five minutes on a cardio machine and another two or three minutes doing bodyweight moves such as squats and arm circles to get your joints ready.
You love your workout. In fact, you love that run, ride, or dance class so much that it’s all you do. Loving your workout is definitely a plus, as it increases adherence, but it puts you at greater risk of joint pain. When you do the same exercise all the time, you move your joints in a singular direction and wear them down, risking injury.
Vary your workouts regularly to keep your body guessing and strengthen your joints in all directions. If you always run, hit the pool or a cycle class once or twice a week. Those who love to lift benefit from a weekly hike or yoga class to balance out their efforts.
Staying fit requires consistency, but too much work and too little rest breaks your body down. Give your joints at least one day of rest each week. While you rest, your muscles grow and repair themselves, joints get relief from impact, and your hormones reset. You’ll come back stronger and fresher the next time you work out.
Shoes really do make a difference in your workout. Your feet support your joints, and if you don’t pay attention to how you house them, you’re asking for pain in your ankles, knees, and hips.
For example, wearing running shoes during a game of pick-up basketball can compromise your lateral movement, leading to joint pain. In turn, wearing high tops to run a 5K fails to provide the cushioning your joints need.
Head to a specialty store to purchase shoes that are right for your chosen activity. The staff can also analyze your gait and foot strike to recommend a shoe that fits your body and supports you appropriately.
Along with your commitment to fitness, you want all the results right away. Your enthusiasm is high, but your body needs time to catch up. Your muscles, connective tissues, bones, and joints need time to adapt.
When you begin a workout program, go with light activity at first and commit to short durations. Allow more frequent recovery days and progress a little each week. If you’re starting to run, do just a few 20-minute sessions per week, and add about 10% every consecutive week until you’re where you want to be in time and distance.
Those who strength train should start with light weights to hone form and develop the stabilizing muscles. You’ll get to the heavy bench presses and squat rack soon enough, and your joints will be ready.
If you’re having joint pain already though, come in to see me for treatment, so you can get back to your full exercise potential sooner. Call my office in Torrance, California, or schedule an appointment using the online booking tool.