1. Follow the Rule of Ten
If you want to push yourself, build up slowly: Run 10 percent farther than you did last week, or add 10 percent more weight than you lifted last week, says Dr. Rajeev Pandarinath, an assistant professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences.
2. Don’t Lift Above the Shoulders
Our bodies aren’t built to lift heavy weight over our shoulders, says Dr. Kenneth Fine of the Orthopaedic Center in Rockville. When you’re holding your arms out at a 90-degree angle from your body, the weight shouldn’t go above that.
Says Fine: “The irony is that shoulder presses are not important for the human body, and many elite athletes do not do this exercise, whereas amateur athletes often do. An overhead press puts too much unhealthy stress on the rotator cuff.”
Exercising for several hours a day can be healthy, but it’s best to mix the types of exercise. “Limit any particular activity to one hour a day,” Fine says.
4. Warm Up
Light cardio exercises to warm up your muscles, followed by gentle stretching, can help prevent injuries. More dynamic stretching, such as walking lunges and high knees, can help prepare you for high-intensity workouts such as CrossFit, Pandarinath says.
5. Listen to Your Body
“We like to think we’re still in our twenties, so we train with a lot of gusto and cross a line and start having shoulder and knee pain,” says Dr. Chris Annunziata of Commonwealth Orthopaedics in Arlington.
As more runs and marathons have cropped up, people are “diving in too quickly,” causing injuries, says Dr. Daniel Pereles of Montgomery Orthopaedics. CrossFit and Tough Mudders, among other workouts, can lead to rotator-cuff tendinitis (from lifting weight overhead) as well as knee tendinitis and stress fractures (both from repeatedly jumping).
It’s fine to challenge yourself, but don’t ignore your body’s messages.
Not sure if you’re over-exercising? Read more about when to consult a specialist and therapy treatments that could help relieve your aches and pains here.
This article appears in our October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.