Small Gym With Various MachinesEvery January, gyms are flooded with new recruits looking to change their lives for the better. Unfortunately, some new members won’t make it to February—not because of lack of stamina, but because they suffered a sports injury from improper training.

Whether you’re a “resolutioner” or a die-hard athlete, there’s always the potential for injuries at the gym. Our podiatrists offer tips to help you prevent foot and ankle injuries that could prevent you from hitting your fitness goals.

Best Practices for Foot Injury Prevention at the Gym

It can be tempting to dive into a new activity right away, but there’s a reason all workout videos carry a warning label to see your doctor first. By scheduling your yearly physical and bloodwork at the start of a new year, you can help your doctor detect any invisible health conditions before they cause you harm.

Once your doctor has given you the green light, you should:

  • Check your gear. You don’t have to buy a whole new wardrobe to begin exercising, but some upgrades are worth the investment. For instance, your old canvas sneakers may not have the support you need for running, jumping, or aerobics, leading to painful blisters or ingrown toenails. When shopping for athletic shoes, always buy the type made specifically for your chosen activity and have them fitted by a professional.
  • Take the tour. Even if you’ve joined a gym in the past, it pays to know how each facility operates. Gym staff will usually give you a tour of the facility after signup, allowing you to see all of the equipment, how it works, and the proper etiquette for sharing and wiping down machines.
  • Watch and learn. The reality of a workout can be far different from how it’s portrayed on TV. For instance, professional weightlifters often drop heavy barbells after lifting, but this can cause broken feet and toes at the gym. During your workouts, watch how others use the equipment—especially what they do before and after each exercise.
  • Focus on form. Improper form is one of the most common factors in fitness injures, resulting in everything from a pulled muscle to sprained ankles and stress fractures. Most gyms have trainers on staff to teach correct form for each piece of equipment, as well as tricks of the trade that can help you avoid injury.
  • Ask questions. If you’ve never used a certain piece of equipment before, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Staff members (and other gym-goers) will often take the time to explain how spin bikes, treadmills, and weight machines work.
  • Increase gradually. Rest is just as important for your muscles as exercise, so avoid working out for multiple days in a row without a break. Always give your body time to get used to increased movement, and build recovery time into your workout schedule to prevent an overuse injury.
  • Warm up and cool down. Warming up and cooling down are essential parts of every workout. A proper warm-up builds up your heart rate and prepares your muscles, tendons, and joints for activity, while cool-down and stretching prevent cramps and muscle pulls.
  • Know when to stop. Exercise involves a delicate mix of pushing your body to do more and stopping before you trigger an injury. You can find this middle ground by paying attention to your body and recognizing your limitations. If something hurts, slow down. If slowing down hurts, stop. If the pain doesn’t subside, see your podiatrist as soon as possible.

If you have suffered an athletic injury, the foot and ankle specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry are here to help. We offer free initial consultations and create a customized treatment plan to get you back on your feet as soon as possible. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your first visit.