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Workouts Gone Wrong: Ways to Injury-Proof Your Sweat Sessions

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Pushing yourself too hard, overtraining, bad form -- these common exercise mistakes can wreck your routine and your health. Here's how to injury-proof your sweat sessions.

What's Happening

It was a seemingly normal workout: a high-powered circuit of pull-ups, push-ups, and squats. "Difficult, yes, but done in 20 minutes," says Shari Becht, a 40-year-old chef in Highland Ranch, Colorado. Seventy-two hours later she knew something was seriously wrong. "I couldn't believe how big and heavy my arms looked," she says. They were so swollen and sore she could barely straighten them, and her fingers tingled. Worried, Shari rushed to her doctor, who did blood work. "The next afternoon, I got a call saying, 'We have a hospital bed waiting for you,'" she remembers.

Shari was diagnosed with exertional rhabdomyolysis, a condition brought on by intense activity in which muscle fibers break down and release electrolytes and proteins into the bloodstream. One of the proteins, myoglobin, can occur in such high concentrations that it overwhelms the kidneys, which can lead to kidney failure or death. Shari spent three days in the hospital hooked up to a saline IV drip to flush her kidneys. Two years later the experience is still fresh: "My biceps have damaged muscles cells and still swell up sometimes, so I avoid working them now because I'm terrified of getting rhabdo again," she says.

Even though Shari's experience is an extreme example, workout injuries routinely happen. Each year, more than 174,500 women end up in the ER with an exercise-related injury, according to the most recent government data. "Everyone gets hurt at some point, no matter what activity they choose," says Lewis G. Maharam, MD, a sports medicine doctor in New York City. "Most commonly, it's from doing too much too soon or from moving your body in a way it's not accustomed to."

With so many of today's hard-core fitness trends focused on pushing you past your limits, it's easy to get carried away. We asked experts for advice on avoiding the risks of the most popular workouts to ensure that your routine is all gain and no pain. Follow this guide to stay safe and sweat happy.

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tomscotto wrote:

As a certified cycling coach, trained bike fit/biomechanics specialist, and master indoor cycling instructor, it constantly disturbs me when non-qualified individuals are asked to provide a solution (Workout Rescue). Giving general and incorrect advice is unprofessional and irresponsible. Please maintain your creditability and integrity by using qualified people to add value to your informative articles.

10/2/2013 09:53:57 AM Report Abuse
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8/6/2013 07:10:36 AM Report Abuse
lilshippo16 wrote:

wow this article really makes you think. Im 21 years old and sometimes I know with my age I get over zealous and push way to hard. Some days its ok an i bounce but there are times when I really feel it. This is a good reminder that were not invisible no matter how in shape your in

7/19/2013 02:42:01 PM Report Abuse
beautifulbooks wrote:

Great article! Thank you so much. I'm a 56 year old lady that likes to fit and UNINJURED! This is incredible wisdom for all! God Bless You all in your mission to keep us fit ahd healthy.

7/17/2013 11:57:58 AM Report Abuse
jasmine_clare wrote:

This article is great. I just started back at the gym and already hurt myself. I wish I had read this two weeks ago. The information about Yoga, bicycling, and free weight lifting is very helpful to me. I took notes in my phone and will be taking it with me to the gym. -Jasmine

7/17/2013 11:54:33 AM Report Abuse

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