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Avoiding injury during high intensity workouts

Working out at a higher intensity, like P90X or Insanity routines, can be beneficial to physical fitness--but too often, unprepared athletes are experiencing injuries.

Everyone has at least heard about, if not attempted working out with the latest trends in exercise like Crossfit, Insanity, and P90X. The allure is exciting; building better bodies, getting in shape with a guided workout routine and in the Crossfit world, developing close social networks with people of common interests. While all of these methods can be highly beneficial in improving your overall health and fitness, they can also lead to injuries.

An increasing number of patients have been coming to physical therapy for injuries obtained during their workouts. Some are major blow-out types of injuries like ACL tears, Achilles ruptures, and rotator cuff tears while others present with lingering tendonopathies, back pain, and exacerbations of previous injuries. In my opinion, most of these problems can be avoided with proper preparation, education and preventative exercises.

These styles of exercise require high levels of fitness, strength, coordination and endurance. Most people's bodies are not used to performing at such high levels, and jumping from a sedentary or low level activity level type of lifestyle to high level is the perfect recipe for injury. There needs to be a transition period or ramp-up into such high levels. This is best accomplished by first participating in a supervised low to moderate level fitness program to learn about proper form, body mechanics and safe strength training progressions. Once this is completed, these principals will apply to higher levels of exercise.

Even for those who are used to exercising at high intensity levels, it is also important to 'listen' to your body. If a certain movement or lifting technique does not feel right, stop further attempts and try with less weight, less range of motion or by re-setting form.

All too often I hear athletes say they think it is good to 'work through the pain.' This is a myth that needs to be addressed. Healthy muscles and joints will not cause you pain during a workout unless they are being overly stressed out and injured.  The only 'pain' that is acceptable during a workout is the burn of the targeted muscle, indicating fatigue. Any other type of pain should serve as a warning sign from your body to consult with a healthcare professional for evaluation and treatment as necessary. If athletes would come in sooner for treatment, we would be seeing a much lower incidence of all types of injuries.

One of the main goals of mine as a Physical Therapist is to encourage people to get fit, remain active and enjoy exercises of all types—pain free. If participation in Crossfit, Insanity and P90X accomplishes this goal, then it comes highly recommended by me.

Desirea D. Caucci, PT, DPT, OCS is the co-owner of Conshohocken Physical Therapy.

Read more Sports Doc for Sports Medicine and Fitness.