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Fitness classes are all the rage—but sometimes, they can put you at risk for some serious pain.
When Jennifer Love Hewitt broke her wrist in a boxing class, she took to the Twittersphere to spread the word. Ouch.
It just shows: Although group fitness can be a great way to get exercise and stick to a weight-loss plan, classes aren't all super-fun sweat sessions—sometimes, they involve blood and tears, too.
Whether you're a badass boxer like Hewitt or swear by your morning spin class, check out these tips from the fitness industry's top instructors for how to get fit without getting hurt.
Common Injuries: Sprains and strains in the wrists (à la Jennifer Love Hewitt)
How it Happens: Not wearing proper protective gear, using poor punch technique
Prevention Tip: Wrap 'em up, and throw a legit punch.
Properly wrapping your wrists and hands before class will help support your bones and tendons and prevent injury, says Ray Wallace, NASM, Chief Fitness Strategist of Pedal NYC.
When applying wraps, make sure your wrist is totally straight. Start by placing the loop around your thumb. Roll the wrap around your wrist three times, then wrap the fabric around the palm of your hand. Next wrap in between each of your fingers, starting with the pinkie. Twist the wrap directly below the thumb and loop back up through each finger. Wrap the left over fabric across your knuckles, and around your wrist. Attach the Velcro to secure the hand wrap.
Learning how to correctly throw a punch can also keep you safe, says Wallace. When throwing a punch keep your palm facing down, fists tight, and be sure at least four fingers make contact with the bag. This will alleviate pressure on your wrists.
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Common Injury: Knee pain
How it Happens: Setting the bike up incorrectly
Prevention Tip: Get to class early. This will ensure you have enough time to get situated on the bike.
Start by adjusting your seat. Move it forwards and backwards until you can put your front knee directly over the pedal axle when sitting, says Wallace. Then adjust the seat to the right height.
Place your feet on the pedals and rotate them until one leg reaches the bottom on the pedal stroke—your leg should have a 30-degree bend in the knee. Next, adjust the handlebars so you can comfortably place your hands on the bars with a slight bend in your elbows.
Bonus: Arriving early will also guarantee that you catch the warm up, which prevents injury by prepping your body for the demands of the class, says Wallace.
Common Injury: Muscle strain and repetitive stress injuries
How it Happens: Using too much weight, doing too many reps, or not varying exercises
Prevention Tip: Varying exercises and intensity will help prevent overtraining, says Brynn Jinnett, Owner of Refine Method in New York City.
This may mean incorporating rest days into your regimen, adding a specific period of lighter lifting or varying your movement patterns (lateral, forwards and backwards, up and down) which will all help to ward off injury.
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Common Injury: Stress fractures in the knee, ankle, and foot
How it Happens: Wearing improper footwear, poor jumping technique
Prevention Tip: To protect your knees during jumps, never land on a straight leg says Kelly Anne Wadler, a Zumba and hip-hop instructor in the New York City area.
Always bend your knee when you land, for a bit more give. Also, investing in a supportive pair of sneakers will keep your ankles and feet free from injury.
Common Injury: Neck discomfort
How it Happens: Having weak abs and neck flexors
Prevention Tip: Listen to your body. If something hurts, stop, reset your alignment by inhaling deeply, pulling the abdominals in and up as you exhale, and then try the exercise again, says Christina Morrell, a Certified Pilates Mat and Apparatus Instructor based in Manhattan.
If the discomfort continues, try a different exercise. New to Pilates? Consider taking a private lesson to familiarize yourself with exercises and modifications before attending a group class.
Also, the stronger your core, the less strain will be on the neck, says Morrell.
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Common Injury: Wrist and lower back pain
How it Happens: Performing poses or distributing weight incorrectly
Prevention Tip: Spreading your fingers wide and pressing through the fingertips in any pose where weight is on your hands will reduce pressure on the wrist, says Charlene Lite, a New York City-based yoga instructor.
Avoid lower back pain by lengthening the spine up and away from the hips before bending or rounding the back. During floor stretches, sit on a block or a few blankets to prevent rounding the spine.