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4 Tips for Avoiding Injuries When Exercising

The good news? They’re super easy to fix.

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Between chasing down kids and holding down the fort at the office, you might be lucky if you even get a chance to exercise at all. (And if not, take comfort: You’re not alone.) But few things are worse than when you put in the effort to exercise only to experience nagging aches and pains afterwards. That’s because little things could be throwing you off—and sending your body out of whack. The good news? The most common mistakes are often easiest to fix. Here’s how.

Your Mistake: Doing Too Much, Too Fast

Your friend dished about her amazing new workout—and you’re ready to dive in. Slow your roll. “Many people want to reach their goals immediately and believe that overtraining will get them there,” says Caty Nolan, certified personal trainer and founder of Fit Positively. It won’t speed up your progress so much as set you up for an injury. Instead, she recommends easing into a new workout program or routine.

Your Mistake: Not Drinking Enough

Thirst is a common sign that you’re dehydrated, even mildly so; if you have to halt your workout to refill your water bottle, you’re already behind. “Two ways to tell you’re staying hydrated is clear urine and not reaching the point of being thirsty,” Nolan says. Weigh yourself before and after your workout; if you’re drinking enough water, there shouldn’t be any change on the scale. If your water intake is low, explains Nolan, it may even impede your performance, or lead to a heat injury.

Your Mistake: Uneven Muscle Group Training

You want a flatter stomach. (Join the club.) If you’re doing crunches all day, it won’t do much. “Many people want to target one muscle group, such as abs or glutes, and will only work out this one area,” Nolan says. “But the body becomes unbalanced and can cause uneven muscle strength and pain, which in turn can cause other issues, such as poor posture.” Switch up your workouts regularly to make sure you’re hitting various muscle groups.

Your Mistake: Not Stretching

File this under: Who knew? Stretching isn’t one-size-fits-all. According to Nolan, if your workout is one in which flexibility is important, like tennis and swimming, you should stretch in between your warm-up and your workout. If you’re going for muscular strength, stretch after your workout. No matter what you’re doing, though, it’s worth incorporating into your gym time at some point. “Stretching will help increase joint range of motion and may reduce the time of muscle recovery,” says Nolan. “Also, it should never be painful.”