Exercise fads come and go. Remember back to the 1980’s when aerobics first became popular? People around the country were watching Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. More recent fads include CrossFit, Spinning, Zumba, and core classes. Of course, a bone or tendon injury can occur with just about any activity or sport. The only way to avoid injury is to start an exercise program in a graduated fashion and use common sense. Most of the serious injuries I see are due to bad luck rather than a bad program.
However, enthusiasm at the beginning of a new program can sometimes get the best of us. CrossFit injuries typically occur from lifting weights that are too heavy to control well. Although our muscles need to work to get stronger, they shouldn’t be pushed to absolute exhaustion, as this can lead to muscle injury. Resting between workouts allows the muscles to repair themselves and get ready for the next workout.
Spinning is one of my personal favorites. It can be an unbelievable workout and since everyone can work at their own level of resistance, it allows for different fitness levels. Whether in a spin class or cycling outdoors, you should look at your bike set-up to make sure your core is engaged and your neck is in a neutral position (i.e., in line with your spine rather than flexed or extended). Some classes now include light weights so that you can work your upper body as well during a class. Certain bikes now keep track of resistance, power and rpms. If you are competitive like me, this may push you to spin a little faster!
Zumba looks like a lot of fun. I saw a few hundred people enjoying a free class in Millennial Park in Chicago this summer and wanted to join in. Zumba is a dance workout that attracts perhaps the largest variety of participants. Young dancers like it, as do middle-aged women who haven’t been to a gym in years. As with any activity, avoid moves that hurt and don’t do it every day, especially at the beginning.
Finally, I want to discuss core classes. These are very popular in New York City at the moment and have spread to most metropolitan areas. The workout is based on a ballet barre. The goal is to strengthen the core with a lot of squats, plies, and glute work. These workouts can put your joints in an “extreme” position at times which your joints might not agree with. If doing a deep squat to the point where your buttocks nearly touch your heels doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it. Like every gym activity, these exercises can be modified and still be a great workout.
My bottom line is: Go! Do what you find most enjoyable and worthwhile, but be aware that if a part of your body doesn’t feel right or swells, you likely need to discuss this with your instructor and see a doctor if your pain or symptoms persist. My goal as a Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon is to get all of my patients back to the sports and activities they love. Usually this is easier than you would think.
Dr. Sabrina Strickland is an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery’s Women’s Sports Medicine Center and at the HSS Stamford Outpatient Center, where she treats both male and female patients. Her research has focused on anterior cruciate ligament injuries in women, as well as rotator cuff repair and shoulder instability.