Work out wiser: How to avoid stress fractures
Heading to an exercise class? Don't ignore the importance of protecting your ankles and feet while doing so. Little things like a warm-up are essential to avoiding nasty problems like stress fractures.
Before you get sweaty in Zumba or do one more kick-kick-punch combo in cardio kickboxing, there are important parts of your body that needs a little attention: your ankles and feet.
Get warmed up
Warm-ups might seem tedious, but they are absolutely essential to your health during workouts. "Concentrate on warming up the muscle groups you're planning to hit in the workout through a full range of motion. Static stretches won't do the trick here; you want moves that bring blood into your muscles and increase flexibility to keep yourself safe while you sweat," says Amy Clover, CPT, CES PN1, of Four Leaf Fitness.
Take it slow
Haven't exercised in a while? Then you'll want to take a lesson from the tortoise — as in "The Tortoise and the Hare": Slow and steady wins this race.
This technique will help you develop the right form while building some stamina.
"You'll teach your body how to do it correctly and gain strength faster than you would if you sped through your workout. Give your muscles the chance to learn; you can speed it up for more of a cardio effect as soon as you feel strong enough to do it with good form," says Clover.
Build your core
Your core muscles are incredibly important — they help you balance and sit up. The strength of your core is really important.
"In almost all movements, keeping your core tight throughout will help correct imbalances and keep you from injuring your lower back. To correctly tighten your core, pull in that area right under your belly button (as if someone were going to punch you in the stomach), then think about reaching both sets of obliques toward each other (like you're tightening a corset)," says Clover. "This will activate all your stabilizing core muscles, helping to protect you from an unstable spine."
While you are doing the slow and deliberate motions to learn the moves well, also focus on the motions to ensure that you're performing the exercises correctly. "For example, if you're doing seated cable rows, concentrate on pulling those shoulder blades together, shoulders down away from your ears and the muscles down your back engaging to bring those handles toward your sides. You'll work out safer and smarter (meaning you'll see results faster)," says Clover.
OK, this may not have much to do with protecting your bones, but everything to do with protecting your health. Be sure to always wipe down the equipment as you work out. "Nasty bacteria (like staph) live on sweaty benches and cardio machines," says Clover. "Make sure they don't make your skin their new home by wiping down equipment with antibacterial wipes (available in most gyms) and use a towel to cover shared surfaces when you work out (remember which side you put down)."