Finding a new fitness regimen is meant to improve your health and well-being. For some unlucky individuals each year, their unique fitness goals lead to unexpected injury that can take months to recover from. While treating a wound is important, avoiding it in the first place is even more important! There are a few basic tips and rules you can follow as you hit the gym this year that will significantly reduce your risk of injury.

The 50 Percent Rule

The 50 percent rule is simple: do half of what you think you can do. That may sound discouraging as you aim to improve your fitness, but it’s proven to reduce injury. Take a second to think about what you see yourself being able to do and then cut that in half. Your first steps into a new fitness routine need to be small, and that means not maxing out on the first day. It may seem too easy to be beneficial at first, but as you slowly increase you will be improving with a much lower risk of injury. If you think you can handle a 10-pound weight, only lift 5. You can increase pressure, repetition, or intensity by up to 10% each week. Growing faster than that will push your body too far before it’s actually ready and likely result in a painful injury. Be realistic with yourself and your goals!

Listening to Your Body

Fitness requires being in touch with your body. Your body knows what it needs, and it will tell you, but you have to be willing to listen. Exercise should never be painful, and if it is, you should stop immediately. While some muscle soreness is normal after an intense workout, muscle or joint paint that doesn’t go away is not normal and could be a sign of a potential injury. If you’re feeling very sore or tired one day, your body is telling you to take a day off from the gym. If you still want to do something, go for a light walk or take a swim in the pool, but skip the weights and intense cardio. If you notice one exercise causing recurring pain, consult with a trainer or physician to determine if your form or method is incorrect. Simple changes can easily prevent injury, but you have to be aware that a change needs to be made!