After the ball drops in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, don’t let injuries make you drop the ball on your resolution to get in shape. Check out this list of fitness trends — and the injuries they commonly cause — so you’ll know what to avoid.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT programs grab the top spot in fitness trends for the New Year. As interest in this muscle-blasting, calorie-guzzling workout is on the rise, so is the risk for injuries.
This training involves spurts of rigorous, fast-paced movements, followed by intervals of less-intense motions or rest. When muscle imbalance, fatigue or improper form occurs, certain muscles pick up the slack for weaker muscles — and eventually get worn out and strained (along with joints and ligaments).
If you think a burpee is something that happens after eating fast food, it’s best that you prepare before taking a HIIT class. Modified interval-training routines can get you started. Walk fast for one minute, followed by two minutes of slow walking. Do this sequence for 20 minutes and gradually increase intensity. Experts recommend limiting your HIIT programs to three times a week to allow your body to recover. Also, avoid HIIT workouts while taking antibiotics like fluoroquinolones, which have been linked to tendonitis and muscle tears.
Body-weight training (using your own weight as resistance, as with push-ups) and traditional strength-weight training are also top trends for 2014. These workouts can enhance your sports performance, but can also sideline you with back and neck strains, shoulder labral tears and biceps tears.
Lifting weights overhead can stress the discs in your neck. And lifting weights that are too heavy for you can tear muscle fibers and tendons. Work up your weights gradually! It also helps to give muscle groups days off from workouts. Muscle fibers need time to repair after lifting; otherwise, they get inflamed and repetitive strain injuries can occur. Be sure to also monitor your form: Poor form results in some muscles getting overused and strained more than others. This creates a muscle-imbalance scenario that leads to wear and tear on nearby joints.
As basketball, softball and kickball leagues pop up, so do hamstring strains, ACL tears and sprained ankles. The New York Knicks routinely hit the gym, strengthening muscles for their basketball games. You aren’t any different! (Well, maybe minus the multimillion dollar contract.) If you plan to hit the court or field, you need to hit the gym, too.
Strengthening leg muscles eccentrically (as they lengthen) and concentrically (as they shorten) can keep you channeling your inner Lebron James. Additionally, rolling your legs on a foam roller can break up adhesions (“knots”) in muscle tissue that prevent your muscles from moving efficiently. And it’s a nice treat as you gear up for the game!
Yoga continues to be a hot fitness trend (literally, with hot yoga). It helps with body strengthening and flexibility; however, it can leave you Downward Dogging yourself right into the doctor’s office. Ligament strains — along with neck, shoulder, knee and lower back injuries — are commonly seen in yoga.
Ligaments are like rubber bands and can get stretched beyond a certain point and lose their ability to fully “recoil.” Hot yoga can make you feel more flexible, but can result in overstrained ligaments. Be aware of any pulling sensation during poses, and never lock your joints. Use props if you need help maintaining positions. Be careful with headstands and shoulder stands, which can compress the spine. Ask an instructor to work with you on proper technique.
Spin continues to be a popular workout. But keep in mind that you don’t have to do the Tour de France to get sidelined due to a cycling injury.
Common spin injuries include ITB syndrome (outer knee pain) and forearm and lower back issues. The hip flexor muscles shorten with spinning positions and can create tension on your lower back and legs. Leaning excessively on your hands can put pressure on your wrists, forearms and neck. Muscle imbalances like the outer thigh muscles being stronger than the inner ones can trigger kneecap irritation. A program targeting the buttock muscles, core stability and hip flexibility can help prevent these injuries. Also, have the instructor check your seat height and form before you begin the class.
Whatever fitness program you choose, core strengthening and flexibility are the best things you can do to prevent injuries. Don’t forget: Always check with a physician prior to starting any exercise program.