3 Unexpected Ways You’re Getting Hurt at the Gym

You know that nagging injury you got, but you have no idea how? You might chalk it up to sleeping wrong, or getting old, or maybe it was during that intense fitness class you took last week. Or maybe, it’s from one of these 3 unexpected ways you’re getting hurt at the gym.

For the sake of argument, assume your form is always on point, your fitness instructors give fantastic cueing and modifications, and your personal trainer understands kinesiology. Poor form and over-training are the main ways fitness injuries occur, but today we’re talking about the 3 unexpected ways you’re getting hurt at the gym.


Unexpected Injury #1: Transitions between moves

I’m a fan of Les Mills programs—heck, I’m a certified BodyFlow instructor and teach it twice a week—but as a fitness professional, I sometimes question the safety of these fully choreographed classes. It’s not so much the actual moves and instruction, but it’s how the music dictates the quickness of the transition. This is particularly concerning in BodyPump when people are haphazardly swinging their weighted bars around, dropping it to the floor, re-racking weights, and then quickly hauling it back on their shoulders for the next round within a quick 8-count of techno music.

These types of transition injuries can also occur on the fitness floor. For example, I see people carrying heavy kettlebells back to the rack incorrectly all the time. Or they pick up their 30 lb weight using their back muscles instead of their legs.

Prevention: Ways to prevent the dreaded transition injury, is to consider your workout to be from the second you step foot in the studio or on the fitness floor, until the moment you leave the fitness facility. When you have equipment around you, you need to constantly be on your A game and be cognizant of using proper form to retrieve and put away all fitness equipment.

Potential Injuries: Injuries during these transition can be as little as a random soreness, all the way up to a torn ligament. Still be aware of your body positioning during quick transitions.

Unexpected Injury #2: Choosing the “hardest” move instead of an appropriate modification

When I teach group fitness, I often offer several options of a move—also called “modifications”—so that my classes are challenging for all levels of fitness. I see time and time again though that students mirror me exactly without thinking about their body’s needs; or, they assume the most difficult modification is the only way they’ll get a good workout in. Over time I have learned to say cues such as, “really think about how YOU are feeling in this moment, if this stretch isn’t deep enough for YOU, try adding this element…”

Prevention: The thing is, it’s a HUGE myth that the most “challenging” modification is the only way to get a good workout. A lot of times good form goes to hell in a hand basket when someone tries to do the hardest variation—this just increases the likelihood of you getting injured. Master each level before moving up to the next one to prevent unexpected injuries.

Potential Injuries: There are a ton of unexpected injuries for choosing the “hardest” move instead of an appropriate modification. A couple weeks ago, a student complained to me that she had a calf injury because another group ex instructor had them lift their front heel in a 1st warrior stance. Always optional.

Unexpected Injury #3: Not properly fueling yourself

Okay, so maybe I’m stretching the term “injury” here, but it is still a valid point when it comes to unexpected ways you may be hurting yourself at the gym! When you under-eat and then hit the gym, you are setting yourself up for a spiral that many of us—including me—have had to learn the hard way. Best case scenario, is your body is scared it’s not going to get enough food so it starts holding on to fat and you hit a plateau in your weight-loss. Worst case scenario, your disordered eating patterns go from under-eating—a serious concern in itself—to a dangerous eating disorder.

A few caveats I want to make here. With 2016’s biggest diet trend being carb cycling, I want to make it very clear that although some are opting for “fasted cardio,” this is different than when I’ve described above. When they fast, they have spend the prior day eating a high-carb diet. They have intentionally fueled their workout, and will be eating healthily post-workout. Please don’t confuse this with the very low-calorie diet I am referring to above. 

Prevention: Depending on your workout, you should be fueling with water, protein and/or carbohydrates prior to an intense gym session. If I am going for a run, my stomach can’t handle food within the 1-2 hour window leading up to it; however, if I’m lifting or doing yoga, I can handle a protein shake, cheese and almonds, or another type of smaller snack. I personally don’t use a pre-workout powder, but I’ve heard great results from these as well. In general though, the average intensity most people give does not require an additional “special snack” outside of the normal meals and snacks of the day.

Potential Injuries: If you consistently under-eat, you may experience the symptoms of dizziness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, headaches, dehydration, faintness, etc. during your workout. If this becomes an on-going issue it may develop into disordered eating, or an eating disorder. Please note that over-exercising is a form of a psychological disorder that has less public awareness than anorexia or bulimia.

Preventing the 3 Unexpected Ways You’re Getting Hurt at the Gym

Preventing unexpected injuries really comes down to body-awareness, self-love, and understanding the privilege and seriousness of working out—particularly if you’re using weights. That’s not to scare you, or be overly cautious, but to hopefully help you to have a safe and enjoyable workout!

What are some unexpected ways you have gotten hurt at the gym? Let me know in the comments below!

Meridith Oram
Meridith Oram is an ACE-Certified Health Coach at Below the Fork where she encourages women to love themselves towards healthy. She is married with two boys, and lives outside of Philadelphia. She earned a B.A. in Communications from Villanova University. Meridith writes about FASTer Way to Fat Loss, fitness, nutrition, Celiac Disease, and easy (but delicious!) gluten-free recipes at belowthefork.com. Follow her @belowthefork on all social channels.
  • Daniel Rodgers

    We see so many injuries at our clinic from people who have trained incorrectly. Luckily, most of them are fixable.
    Great article

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