I have a knee injury and have to rest it, what exercise can I do and how do I know when it’s safe to use it again?
Having an injury doesn’t mean you can’t do anything, although it is an excuse many people use. Most of us live very sedentary lives and having an injury seems to promote even more inactivity. Just remember: doing something is almost always better than doing nothing.
First up, it should go without saying that if you’re in a lot of discomfort, you should get advice from a professional. But there are ways to work around common niggles.
Cardiovascular training is a great way to get the blood pumping but it can be hard to work around a knee injury. Depending on the type of problem, you could look to the cross trainer, which is a great non-weight bearing exercise. Swimming is another good recovery strategy, allowing you to work the affected area without exacerbating the problem.
If you want to do weight training, resistance machines may be your best bet, allowing you to focus on specific areas of the body. When you feel ready, they are also a great way to slowly build your strength back up, slowly increasing your range and weights. It’s important to gradually build back up to your pre-injury level: there’s no rush.
Moving the area around the injury can also help with recovery. If a particular movement causes pain, don’t do it, but what you can do is slowly build up movement, starting with small circles, which helps to improve circulation to the area. This should give you a good idea of the range of movement across the affected muscle or joint, which you can extend incrementally over time.
Sleep is also an essential component for recovery, so the more shut-eye you get, the quicker your recovery time will be.
I’m new to the gym and feel a bit intimidated, what are some exercises to get me started?
Lack of confidence comes from lack of knowledge. The worst thing you can do if you’re new to the gym is just turn up and try to cobble together a routine on the fly. Having a plan to follow will make the entire process easier, and give you more of a sense of accomplishment each time you complete a session.
Think about your goals and tailor your work-out accordingly. I recommend starting with a full body approach so you can gauge your fitness over a number of areas. Take a notebook and record the weights you lift. Once you get into a routine, you will soon notice your strength improving, and the amount you get through in the session will increase too.
If it’s your first time at the gym, ask for an induction or invest in a personal trainer. Another great way to train is to join a group session, which will be overseen by a professional and is likely to have other relative novices to make you feel better. It will also help to keep you accountable.
It’s very easy to talk yourself out of going to the gym – that little voice in your head will tell you not to bother today, stay in bed an extra 30 minutes instead. Ignore it.
There are countless ways to exercise so it’s worth keeping your options open until you find something you like. Some people love classes, others love weights, others yoga or boxing. It doesn’t matter, as long as you enjoy it and can continue to do it.
I’m really inflexible, is this a problem and what can I do about it?
When people say ‘I want to improve my flexibility’ I always ask what flexibility means to them. Some people say touching their toes, others want to improve their posture, others want to alleviate stiffness. Once you’ve settled on your definition, you can start to work towards it, measuring your progress as you go.
Increased flexibility can help improve performance, decrease aches and pains, prevent injury and make you feel better. The fitness industry spends a lot of time focusing on muscles but this is only a small component of a healthy training regime – we could all benefit from spending a bit more time working and moving our joints.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the more efficiently your joints are functioning, the less hard your muscles have to work. The body is connected with layers of connective tissue called fascia that run like a huge web from head to toe. All the time new tissue is being laid down, and if you sit in the same position every day, your body will lay down this connective tissue in a familiar way, growing thicker over time, limiting your mobility.
Yoga, pilates and stretching are great ways to improve your flexibility, as is the kind of three dimensional training we promote at my gym No.1 Fitness. This is an area that’s becoming more popular in the wider industry, involving resistance and weight training that promotes movements in more than one direction.
During your workouts, set yourself at least 10-15 minutes where you can introduce some mobility or stretching drills. If you don’t have time at the gym, you can always do this when you get home – do it while watching TV or in bed.
• To book a session at No.1 Fitness go to no1fitness.co.uk