How To Stay Safe When you Exercise

By Amanda Roland

What if I told you there was a drug that could make you look and feel better, increase your quality of life, give you more energy and even increase your libido? The catch is, you have to do it just about every day, and it takes about 30 minutes to administer. In training, as well as physical therapy, we often refer to the type and amount exercise as a “dose.” With this concept of exercise as medicine it is important to know the line of under dosing and over dosing. Too little and you won’t see any change, too much and you could hurt yourself, badly in some cases.

When Does Exercising Become Dangerous?

There are a few ways that exercise can have the opposite of its intended effect. I think CrossFit is great, it has sparked an unprecedented movement in fitness. It captures the many different components of exercise, such as cardiovascular, strength, power and endurance and rolls them in to one great workout. However, it has been known to go too far in some cases. The problem with group fitness is that what pushes one person to the limit can push another off the edge. It is important for the coach to be able to recognize who can
do what and modify the “dosage” appropriately. As with most things, it helps for us to be aware of ourselves rather than relying on others.

A rare but fatal consequence of going too hard is a condition called “rhabdomyolysis.” This happens during or right after an intense workout. In a nutshell, the muscle begins to break down to the point that the kidneys can’t filter the waste, leading to renal failure. The signs are extreme muscle fatigue, swelling, pain and dark urine. If you suspect you may have this, seek medical treatment immediately.

Long term consequences of going to hard are more subtle. Running or lifting with poor mechanics can lead to muscular imbalances and/or tendinopathies. Most injuries with exercise are from people doing too much too quickly. They usually present themselves with some type of pain in a tendon (the thing that connects the muscle to the bone.) For example, Achilles pain is common in runners, and shoulder or rotator cuff problems with lifters or overhead athletes.

Remember to pace yourself, this idea that you must lose X amount of weight in X amount of time tends to be counterproductive. It is important to plan your regimen ahead of time or have an expert do it for you. Couch to 5k is a great website to get people to start running and avoiding injury. They focus on small incremental progression in the running routine. The same idea is important in lifting as well. Start small, focus on learning the movement before adding a bunch of weight.

Write it down


Be sure that you are progressing. If you aren’t challenging your body, then you aren’t going to have any change. It is a difficult line to know but an important one to understand. A valuable tool is an exercise log. Write down everything that you did for that day, and maybe a sentence or two about how you felt afterwards. This can give you a good idea of how you are progressing. It serves to help you plan your progression as well as a check to see if you are adhering to the program. The internet has a wealth of information of different programs to follow, but there is no substitute for expert knowledge. If you can afford to have someone draw you up a plan to stick to then do it. In the end, listen to your body. It will tell you when you are doing too much!