Anyone reading this is likely to be a gym member, or considering becoming one. Although there aren’t many downsides (if any at all) to joining a gym, it’s important that in your fitness routine you are fully clued up on the dos and don’ts, and the hazards that can occur in a gym.
Health and Safety at the Gym: The Invisible Chair
A Little Bit About Me..
Let’s start with a bit about myself. I’m a 22 year old male who has been going to the gym sporadically since the age of 15, and regularly since 18. Over the last few years, I’ve made the transition from purely cardio to a more free weight-orientated training schedule. Having picked up a lower back injury about two years ago playing five-a-side football, I’ve noticed just how much strain weight training and, more importantly, poor form can put on the body.
As a result of this, I found it particularly hard to get back into a routine of training my back, legs and abs as these are the workouts that tend to put the most strain on my back. I’ve finally built up the confidence again to start squats with the help of a lumbar support belt, but I’ve actually noticed that when they aren’t done properly, these can cause a common knee injury. Having asked a gym instructor to watch my form and give me tips, he told me that my feet were too far back, meaning that my knees were coming too far forward. He gave me some great advice and told me to imagine there’s an invisible chair that you’re trying to sit on, and position yourself like that.
Another thing I found after suffering my back injury was an urge to make up for lost time. As a result, I ended up trying to lift heavier weights than my body allowed for. This was purely because I was of the mindset: “I’ve done it before, I can do it now!” – Something I found to be incorrect. This can cause inevitable strain on your muscles and joints, and can actually have the opposite effect to the one desired.
It’s more likely to slow down both your strength gains and recovery time. It’s important to realise that getting back up to your old levels of strength or fitness, or setting new levels, takes time and patience. No matter how frustrating it can be in the short term, the long term health benefits make it worthwhile.
Gym Safety Tips Embraced: The ‘Stop’ Button
We all know that no one wants to stand out as “the new guy” in the gym. I, like many others, have been guilty of this and I’ve tried to get going on a machine without actually knowing how it works. Even the simplest of machines such as a treadmill can be the cause of ankle sprains or, perhaps more embarrassingly, head injuries from falls.
These can all be avoided if you take a few minutes to read instructions, familiarise yourself with the surroundings and probably more importantly – the “stop” buttons! As mentioned earlier, the same applies for resistance machines. We all expect to ache after a good session at the gym, but there’s no point making yourself ache more than you need to.
One thing I found particularly useful when I joined my latest gym (I’ve switched gyms three times in the last 12 months – long story) was to have a proper induction from a personal trainer. Although you may think you know how to work everything (I certainly did), you will definitely find that each machine has different little intricacies and little features you weren’t aware of.
What’s more, you can pick up training tips from the instructors, as I’ve already mentioned I did with my squat exercises. Another benefit is that you can find out more about them in terms of qualifications and certificates. An hour-long induction could help prevent weeks or months of pain and damage to your body. Think about it, which would you prefer?
Finally, as I’ve mentioned in the last paragraph, it’s a great idea to get to know your fitness instructors and, more importantly, know their background. This doesn’t mean interrogating them about where they studied, how long for, and the names of their qualifications and so on. But it’s worth dropping into conversation questions about what they used to do and so on.
This way, you’ll be able to tell if they are properly qualified personal trainers or just regular gym-goers who happened to get a job at their local establishment. At the end of the day, it’s your body and training that is potentially at risk if they aren’t fully qualified, and you have a right to know.