Throughout the discussion of the various types of exercises I’ve stressed the importance of avoiding injuries. As a diabetic, the last thing you need is more pain and discomfort. Exercise should be alleviating your symptoms and making you stronger . . . not causing you undue stress and discomfort. With this in mind I would like to focus on some of the common causes of injuries.
One of the most common causes of injuries to athletes – amateurs and professionals – is using improper form or technique when exercising. If bad body mechanics are not caught and corrected early they will only lead to short lived gains.
Inflammation of the joints is one such problem that can arise from not using proper lifting technique. For example, when doing the French Curls for the triceps, your elbows should be held at shoulder width. Many times I see people in the gym doing this incorrectly with elbows flared out. This will absolutely cause the elbow joints to become inflamed and irritated over the time.
It is important that you use the correct form when beginning any exercise program. Remember, you are not there to compete with other exercisers, you are there for YOU. Use proper form and technique throughout and you will keep injuries to a minimum.
Proper form also dictates that you don’t use momentum when doing any lifting movement. Your muscles should be doing the work. Avoid swinging weights or bouncing weights off your body as I see people doing every time I go to the gym. For example, when doing a bench press, do not bounce the bar off your chest/sternum; use the chest muscles to lift the weights. Squeeze the weights up. You will get better results and will remain injury free.
Be careful using heavy weights
The second most common cause of injuries is using weights that are too heavy. As with improper form, using weights that are too heavy will lead to joint pains, and eventually could lead to muscle, ligament and tendon tear. Who wants that? It is very important that you use weights that are light enough to do the recommended number of repetitions. You might even consider using no weights in certain exercises, especially in the warm-up stages.
You must use light weights for your warm up sets before tackling heavier weights. Do fewer repetitions in the warm up stages so as not to fatigue the muscle being exercised. Squats are a prime example. To prevent knee injuries start off with just the bar across your shoulders and do a couple of sets this way. Gradually build up to your maximum weight. When I am doing this exercise I start light and after reaching my max I will decrease the amount of weights until I get back to where I started.
Your warm-up phase is very important
This leads to another major cause of injuries . . . namely not warming up your body before starting your exercise routine. Even before you stretch you must do some form of light aerobics to get the blood pumping. As I mentioned earlier, I do 7 – 10 minutes of warm up on the treadmill prior to exercising. Just enough to break a light sweat. If I plan to do any jogging I will walk a couple laps first before I break into a jog.
After completing the warm ups, it’s important to spend a few minutes stretching the muscles, especially the muscles you plan on exercising that day. For example, if you are going to exercise the back muscles then do light back stretches. These will prepare your back for the additional stress it will be going through.
N.B.: An important point to mention here is that if you are injecting insulin don’t inject it in the muscle you plan on exercising that day. Injecting into an overly active muscle may cause the insulin to burn off too quickly. The muscle being exercised absorbs insulin faster than the muscle at rest. The more common injecting site is the abdomen. Ideally, you should wait at least an hour after injecting insulin before exercising.
Injuries can also occur if you are not hydrated. It is important to drink water before, during and after exercising. You can become dehydrated very easily and for a diabetic this is not good. Know to recognize the signs of dehydration and hypoglycemia.
If you are tired and fatigued don’t exercise. I have often gone to the gym and as soon as I began exercising I would have to stop because of fatigue.
It will only lead to injury if you follow through with exercise when you are tired. My advice is to get some rest and come back the next day. Become an expert at reading your body’s signals.
Please note also that if you take a break from exercising, such as a two-week hiatus, then don’t come back and start where you left off. Start with lighter weights and build up to where you were before the break.
I strongly believe that even if you take some time off from the regular routine, you should continue to do the basics. These include sit-ups, push-ups and stretches to keep your body toned. Plus, the time required to do these is very minimal anyway.
Safety features of the equipment
You should know the safety features of the equipment you are using. When using certain machines avoid placing your hands near moving parts. Use safety clips on weightlifting bars to prevent weights from sliding off.
Other causes include . . .
Investing in a pair of weight lifting gloves will go far in saving your hands from calluses, nicks and cuts.
If you plan to use heavy weights, protect your joints by wrapping them. This is especially true when doing squats.
Always cool down after exercising. This will prevent stiffness and muscle cramps.
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To a healthier you,
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