Check your 'fitness ego': Prevent injuries from even the most basic exercises
Before you attempt that side plank or do another downward dog, stop and take a step back before you hurt yourself. That's right, even the most seemingly benign exercises can cause serious hip, lower back or shoulder injuries when not executed properly.
Colin O'Banion, a physical therapist and the owner of Integrate Health & Wellness in Manhattan, says he often sees patients who, despite exercising four to six times per week, get injured when they take boot camp, core fusion or other boutique fitness classes above their fitness level.
"It's just a recipe for injury," said O'Banion of this phenomenon, known to insiders as "fitness ego."
Performing common weight-bearing moves without the correct form, like a squat with weight on one's toes instead of heels, or a plank with a sagging midsection, can prove to be disastrous, too.
So what's an exercise enthusiast or a beginner looking to get in shape to do? Knowing your body -- and its limitations -- is key.
"Take responsibility for your own fitness level," said Joanna Paterson, a personal trainer and the owner of Bodiesynergy. "When you're trying out something new, go for an introduction or beginner level."
Finding a fitness professional you trust, developing proper form and alignment and progressing from basic to more advanced classes and exercises are advised, too.
Jill Abelson, a 14-year veteran yoga teacher and trainer, recommends that students choose a class level that's right for them and find an instructor with a breadth of knowledge and a good deal of teaching and training under his or her belt before jumping right in. Working on the basics is also important.
"The details really do matter," she said.
Paterson, who's worked as a fitness professional for almost 20 years, also recommended communicating any injuries or limitations before a workout so that the trainer can offer modifications. Understanding the difference between good pain and bad pain is key, too. Feeling sweaty and out of breath is expected, but if you can't breathe or balance properly, are sweating too much or feel lightheaded, you've likely entered the "red zone."
"At this point, you stop," said Paterson.
Other clear signals to back off include sharp pain and a popping or breaking sound.
"Listen when your body is saying no," Paterson said.