5 ways to be safe while working out

Published 7:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fall sports have officially begun. High school athletes are beginning to work out to better themselves and expand their abilities in their sport. During high school, students’ bodies begin to go through transformations.  Growing and stretching actually leaves them vulnerable to injuries while working out.

Here are five ways to be safe while working out as a student-athlete.

First, every athlete must engage in a warm-up before hand and a cooldown afterward, whether they are doing cardio or lifting weights. This initial step is most commonly skipped due to not understanding the importance of warming and cooling your muscles.

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Performing low-level aerobic activity for five to 10 minutes will get the blood flowing, allow you to breathe faster and increase the core temperature of your muscles. This step is vital to adjusting the muscles to the demands of exercise, instead of hopping into a workout with cold and unprepared muscles. To cool down, one should gradually decrease their pace, adjusting the body to go back to a normal state. A cooldown can consist of a slow jog after a cardio workout or decreasing the intensity of a workout when lifting weights.

Second, after warming up the body properly, one should stretch before entering the intense portion of the workout. For athletes, flexibility is important to performance as well as avoiding injury. However, stretching should always come after the warm-up because warming up cold muscles could cause injury. Also, you want to end your workout session with stretching, after the cooldown, to ensure maximum flexibility and avoid injury. During exercise, the muscles tense, creating the risk of pulling a muscle.

Third, hydrate before, during and after an exercise session. My soccer coach was known for saying, “hydration is key.” Especially for fall sports, where practice can occur during the warmer months of the year, hydration is key for muscle development and performance. Replacing fluids throughout a workout can be the difference between gaining strength or pulling a hamstring.

Your muscles need water in order to grow. If you are dehydrated, you become exposed to muscle cramps, which could either take you out of a game through heat exhaustion or a muscle tear. When muscles cramp, they begin to knot, stretching the muscles beyond their comfort zone. This is a common injury among athletes that can be easily avoided by drinking at least a half gallon of water per day, and a couple of sips throughout a workout.

Fourth, listen to your body. It’s normal to be sore after a workout for a couple days, but if discomfort strikes immediately during a workout, stop. Continuing a workout on a pulled muscle or any other injury can cause further damage. If an injury occurs, seek the advice of a doctor, coach or an athletic director before exercising again.

Fifth, keep your workout station clean by cleaning sweat from the bar, bench and floor. This could not only prevent illnesses, but also severe injuries. In my experience, I have seen bench bars slip from people’s hands resulting in 200-plus pounds falling into their rib cage and neck. I’ve also seen dumbbells break toes and feet and I’ve witnessed someone slip while squatting, which led to a severe knee injury.

All of these steps promote safer and smarter habits while exercising. With these tips, you can avoid injury and increase muscle development.