5 Rookie Rules You Need to Know Before Starting a Fitness Routine

Just because exercising is good for you doesn't mean you can't get hurt. Before you start hitting the gym, learn these expert tips for staying safe while you sweat.

April 10, 2014
woman stretching gym strained
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You'll feel better! You'll look better! You'll live longer! Most of us are aware of the gajillion researched-backed benefits of working out, but that doesn't mean starting up a fitness routine is a risk-free move. Whenever you challenge your body in new ways, you stand the chance of getting hurt.

More: 6 Exercises You're Probably Doing Wrong


That said, the pros of a fit lifestyle far outweigh the potential cons. "The benefits of maintaining a fitness routine include decreasing your risk of heart disease, gaining energy, losing weight, and lowering your risk of diabetes," says Derek Ochiai, MD, board certified orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine expert in Arlington, Virginia.

Here, Dr. Ochiai names the top 5 lessons wannabe fitness fans should know before lacing up their sneaks:
Rookie Rule #1: Don't overdo it. Deciding to push yourself hard and fast from the get go increases chances of an overuse injury like tendinitis, which can be painful and prevent you from working out all together.

More: How to Prevent 3 Common Gym Injuries

Rookie Rule #2: Don't compete with the gym rat next to you. Instead of trying to match weights or pace with another gym goer, compete against yourself. You'll decrease your risk of injury -- and discouragement -- if you incrementally increase the best YOU can do over time.

Rookie Rule #3: Don't cram in a workout. We're all busy, but it's essential to build in warm-up time and a post-workout stretching session in order to curb soreness and avoid hurting yourself.  

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Rookie Rule #4: Don't get cocky with the weight machine. Machines can be safer than free weights (which can fall on you), because spotters aren't necessary, but being able to easily change the weight can give people a false sense of security. If you increase the resistance too quickly, again, you run the risk of an overuse injury.

Rookie Rule #5: Don't assume you can pick up where you left off. Getting back in the gym after a lengthy time off requires you to build back up to your previous fitness level. It took time to get there, so it'll take time to get back.

Tags: injuries