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Ease back into an exercise routine

Springtime is around the corner in Middle Tennessee. And with the change in seasons often comes a renewal in exercise and fitness.

After three months of hibernation, you’re now ready to hit the pavement or gym to get back into your old exercise routine or start a new one. But, wait. Before you lace up your running shoes or attend your first spin class, you should be aware of some problems you may encounter if rushing into a routine too quickly.

“I see a lot of injuries this time of year that result from people trying to do too much too soon,” says Ian Byram, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon at Vanderbilt Bone and Joint Clinic in Franklin and Spring Hill. “It’s important to set goals, but they should be realistic based on your body’s level of deconditioning, or in other words, how long you’ve been inactive.”

When starting a new routine, Byram recommends taking it slow, knowing your limits and listening to your body.

Weekend warriors
For the busy parent who is preoccupied during the week with long hours and after-school activities, weekends may be the only time to squeeze in some exercise. However, Byram encourages the weekend warrior types not to overload their bodies with strenuous activities.

“Playing six basketball games over the weekend when you’ve been fairly inactive all week, for example, places you at risk for suffering a muscular strain or even more serious injuries,” Byram said. “If you are limiting your exercise time to just the weekends, you need be more aware of the amount of stress you’re placing on your body in that short of time.”

Byram recommends extending workout routines over multiple days throughout the week, if possible. A realistic goal would be to start exercising three days a week. As your conditioning and muscle strength improve, expand your routine to four or five days. Alternating between cardio exercises and strength training is a great idea, he says, because it will give one muscle group the rest it needs while conditioning another.

“Easing back into an exercise regimen is crucial,” Byram says. “We all want to lose weight quickly, but a lot of times we push our bodies so hard that we ultimately burn out before reaching our goal. The pounds will come off when you combine a steady routine with healthy lifestyle choices.”

Know your limits
It’s often said you should know your limits when beginning a new routine, but what exactly does that mean? Conditioning level, predisposed illnesses and age, Byram says, are important factors that determine the amount of physical stress your body can endure.

“Sometimes we forget that activities we were once used to doing now can take a toll on our bodies if we’re not in condition,” he says. “Just because you think you can run eight miles, doesn’t mean you can or should, especially if you haven’t run since December.”

While soreness is inevitable, the amount of soreness and stiffness you experience the next day can be mitigated by stretching muscles directly involved in the activity before and after every routine.

“Muscles lose flexibility when not used often, which can increase your chances of pulling or straining a muscle,” Byram says. “Stretching before and after exercising is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to prevent injuries.”

Listen to your body
If you experience prolonged soreness in a specific area, Byram suggests taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen and resting for a couple days. If the pain continues after a few days, set up an appointment with a physician.

“Rest is so important for your body to rejuvenate itself. You certainly don’t want to fight through pain, but it’s also important to remain active,” Byram says. “For example, if you are resting your foot, you can continue to do upper-body conditioning. One of the last things you want to happen is to allow your entire body to become deconditioned, because then you’ll have to start all over.”

If you haven’t exercised in a while, Byram recommends reassessing your workout gear to ensure its comfortable and protective.

“You want to make sure everything fits comfortably and according to your body build,” Byram says. “Shoes you bought two years ago may be worn out; your body characteristics may have changed or maybe you need  more cushioning or support.”

And of course, always remember to drink plenty of water, even when it’s cool outside.

“When it’s hot and sunny, it’s natural to think about staying hydrated,” Byram says. “Exercising in cooler weather can be a little more deceiving. But the truth is you do sweat quite a bit when you’re wearing multiple layers. It’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water.”

For more information on advanced orthopaedic services at Williamson Medical Center, visit

Posted on: 3/8/2013


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