A funny thing happens when people get back into fitness, especially every February when it comes to people working out. No, I’m not talking about those who give up on their New Year’s resolutions. I’m referring to the insane amount of people who start developing nagging aches, pains, and eventually injuries.
It never fails. We’re super motivated and start thinking “I’m going to do cardio everyday, stop eating all carbs, and take every exercise class I possibly can!”
Only a few weeks later, I start getting calls from people who tweaked a knee, or started feeling a weird knot in their hip, or have a pinch in their shoulder and are bummed because just when they felt like they were making progress, something happens to slow them down.
If this sounds like you, keep reading because I’m going to show you how to stay injury free when you get back into your fitness routine. Plus, I’m sharing a few exercises you can do, starting today, to bulletproof your body year round.
5 TIPS TO STAY INJURY-FREE WHEN GETTING BACK INTO FITNESS
We're going to dive into the following tips to stay injury-free when getting back into fitness. Some of these sound simple but don't disregard them. I feel like oftentimes, I see people on this endless search for information and the next best thing, when the "best thing" is right in front of them.
I'm telling you, I see this same injury cycle happen all of the time and if people followed these tips, they'd be way ahead of others who are still wasting time seeking answers that they already have.
What we'll cover:
Do NOT pick up where you left off
Listen to your body
Keep your strength training simple
Set realistic goals
Use mobility training to safeguard your body - I'll share my favorite with video instruction down below so don't miss it!
Tip #1: Don't Pick Up Where You Left Off
Look, although they talk about muscle memory, exercising is not like riding a bike and simply doesn’t work this way. Just because you were crushing workouts before you took a break, doesn’t mean you’re ready to pick up where you left off. If you rush back too fast you’ll be sitting on the sidelines with an injury and fall even further behind where you want to be.
Start out nice and easy by slowly increasing intensity, duration, and frequency of your workouts. So what does this mean exactly?
If you were crushing 60 minutes of high intensity strength workouts, 3 to 4 days per week before, start out with 30 minute workouts, 2 to 3 days per week and slowly build your way back up. Slow and steady wins the race my friends.
Tip #2: Listen to Your Body
As you start to introduce exercise back into your life, it’s crucial to listen to what your body is telling you. Your body is a brilliant piece of machinery that will always tell you what it needs. It will tell you if you need more rest, if you can train a little harder today, or if you need a good recovery day. You just have to listen to it. If you’re feeling a little banged up, take a restorative yoga class, get a massage, learn a new mobility routine, or simply ride the stationary bike to get a little movement in.
Tip #3: Keep Your Strength Training Simple
Ask any coach or fitness professional and they’ll tell you strength training is crucial but if you pick a few compound movements instead of going extreme, you'll get more bang for your buck. My favorite compound movements are deadlifts, squats, push-ups and rows, and set a timer for 30 minutes to see how many rounds you can get done. Keep it simple and safe. You don’t need complicated exercises to get your workouts in.
Tip #4: Set Realistic Goals
Everyone needs to set goals to attain what’s most important to them. However, be reasonable when setting these goals. If you think you’re going to exercise your heart out to lose 30 pounds in a month, you’re sadly mistaken. You’ll end up messing some body part up and have to take time off from training to recover. Set a few miniature goals that you can accomplish the first month as you get back to it.
Some examples include:
Get 2-3 strength training workouts in every week for 4 weeks straight
Get 2-3, 45 minute cardio sessions in every week for 4 weeks straight
Prepare 3 healthy home cooked meals a week for 4 weeks straight
Tip #5: Use Mobility Training to Safeguard Your Body
Mobility training is a style of training that develops control, builds strength and increases range of motion within your joints, so they stay healthy and move the way they were meant to.
Just like strength training builds muscle and conditioning strengthens the cardiovascular system, mobility training strengthens the joints.
Everything starts and ends at your joints so when we can get them to work their best, pain and injury goes away, sports performance improves and future injury is mitigated. This is the piece to the injury and performance puzzle few are exploring.
THE BEST MOBILITY EXERCISES TO SAFEGUARD YOUR BODY
We’re gong to use mobility training to target what I call "the big 3" - the shoulders, hips and spine.
These areas are involved in just about every form of exercise, so targeting them with the mobility exercises I’m going to show you today will give you the biggest bang for your buck. They’re also the simplest way to make sure your joints and muscles won’t be screaming when you get back into your fitness routine.
Today we’ll be doing some mobility exercises called CARs which stands for controlled articular rotations and I love them because they take your joints through their biggest pain-free range of motion, while bringing much needed blood and nutrients to the area.
If you’ve never done CARs before, I’d highly recommending checking out my 3 must-have mobility moves. They’re the first thing I teach every person that I coach and are a non-negotiable.
Today’s exercises put a twist on my 3 must-have moves by changing our orientation to gravity and attacking the joints from a different angle.
Mobility Exercise #1: Side Lying Hip CAR
First up is the Side Lying Hip CAR. As the name says, you’re going to be performing this movement laying on your side. I know reaallllll original. This exercise strengthens and unlocks the muscles of the hip. The added bonus is that you’ll be lifting your leg up against gravity which puts more load on your glutes and the muscles on the side of your hip.
The side of your hip will not only be asked to rotate the hip, but now it must support the weight of your leg. After a few reps you’ll feel all the lateral muscles of the hip engaging in a new way. These new sensations lead to new gains!
Coaching Tip: Don’t let your pelvis or lower back move while moving throw this exercise.
Mobility Exercise #2: Side Lying Shoulder CAR
Next up is the Side Lying Shoulder CAR, which once again, means we lay on our side.
Unlike the Side Lying Hip CAR, where we’re moving against gravity, this Side Lying Shoulder CAR moves WITH gravity, which allows your arm to get into larger ranges of motion overhead and behind your back. When you’re in these larger ranges of motion, you’re able to strengthen tissue that you wouldn’t have access to in other positions like standing.
Coaching Tip: Don’t let your sternum rotate up towards the ceiling. Keep it pointed straight ahead to limit your torso from assisting you.
Mobility Exercise #3: Bear Pose Spine CAR
Our last mobility exercise is the Bear Pose Spine CAR. That’s a mouthful, but the base position, Bear Pose, is what makes this movement so unique. Think of Winnie the Pooh sitting on the ground with a jar of honey in front of him and you get the idea of what Bear Pose looks like.
The goal of this exercise is to move each vertebra one by one, which is the key to a healthy spine. So if you’re back is always tight or you’re worried about your lower back, this is going to be your new best friend.
This position can be a little uncomfortable if you’re not used to sitting on the ground so I'd recommend placing a yoga block under your butt to allow you to move through greater ranges of motion.
Coaching Tip: Use your hands for leverage to help you pull the sternum up and through when going into extension.
WHEN TO DO YOUR MOBILITY TRAINING
I’m sure you’re wondering when to do these exercises, and what’s great about mobility training is how flexible it can be. You can do your exercises anytime, anywhere but my favorites include:
First thing in the morning - warm your body up for the day!
Before, during, or after your workout
In between episodes of your favorite binge-worthy show
Before bed, which is a great way to wind down after a long day
Anytime of day that you think of it
The key is to find what works for YOU. It’s all cumulative, so a little here and a little there adds up to big time mobility gains.
Another tip that works for people especially in the beginning, is to set alarms on your phone throughout the day. Even if you only do it one or two times that’s still enough to reap the benefits of this powerful tool.
You’ve got some new tips and moves in your toolbox, so there’s no reason your body will be aching as you get back into your fitness routine!
MORE MOBILITY GOODNESS
For my favorite mobility exercises to bulletproof your body, click the link below where you can get my 3 must-have mobility moves for free. Once you try them, you’ll see why they’re my all-time favorite.
*Some of these items were found on Amazon so I wanted to be sure to mention that as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
ABOUT COACH MATT PIPPIN
Matt is a Strength and Mobility Coach with over 15 years experience in his field and has coached over a thousand professional, collegiate and everyday athletes with the goal to help them move, feel and perform at their highest level. He's incredibly passionate about bringing simple and effective online mobility training programs to everyone who wants to take control of their self care and make lasting change. CLICK HERE to learn more.
NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Level 3: Fascial Stretch Specialist
Level 1: Institute of Motion Health Coach
Certified FRC Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Level 1 Kinstretch Instructor
Weck Method Qualified