Heed your body’s warning signals to avoid injury


As classic as legwarmers and Jane Fonda workout videos is the adage, “No pain, no gain.” But how do you know if you’re making progress or courting trouble?

The most common form of pain we associate with physical activity is delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. You’ll usually feel this soreness a day or two after beginning an exercise regimen, increasing the intensity of an existing routine or targeting a fresh set of muscles.

If you’re a man over age 45 or a woman over age 55, or if you have an existing medical condition, check with your doctor before starting any new workout regimen.

Normal soreness means your body is adapting and reshaping in response to the activity. Your muscles may feel tender to the touch, have a slight burn during exercise, or ache slightly when at rest.

DOMS should only last two or three days and may feel better with stretching or light movement.

When you’re pushing yourself within a healthy threshold you’ll likely feel muscle fatigue and some strain during a workout. But pay attention — your body will give you warning signals if trouble lies ahead. It’s up to you to honor that signal, and back off before something pops.

That warning during exercise is likely to feel like acute, stabbing or sudden pain in your muscles, joints or connective tissues.

You may need to simply correct your form with the help of a trainer, build up strength around problem areas or give yourself more time to recover before exercising. Sharp pain associated with injury will likely not resolve as quickly as normal muscle soreness.

Consult a physical therapist or other medical practitioner if the pain worsens with further activity or doesn’t resolve in a week to 10 days. In the meantime, be sure to ice (20 minutes on, 20 minutes off is recommended) and rest the affected area.

You don’t have to push yourself to the point of injury to get in great shape. Remember that other classic adage: Slow and steady wins the race.

How To Avoid Pain and Injury

  • Warm up and cool down beforeand after your workouts to prevent injuries.
  • Start slowly. Build up the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts gradually over time.
  • Mix it up, Alternate types of exercise to target different muscle groups.
  • Allow rest and recovery. Go too fast, too hard, too often and you’ll reach a point of diminishing returns.
  • Know your limits. If you have previous injuries, arthritis, or other weak spots, make adjustments and build up your strength slowly.