An exercise routine is a great way to keep your feet and ankles healthy, but you need to be smart and deliberate in how you approach your training session. If you just go through the motions and ignore the potential hazards, you could be setting yourself up for injury. You want to take your athletic performance to the next level, and you want to do it as safely and efficiently as possible. Here’s how:

Develop Slowly

It may sound a bit odd that we’re recommending that you take things slow if you want to be as efficient as possible in your workouts, but know that your muscles and your body will need time to adapt to your new routine and to safely take on a more intense load. If you try to start with a six-mile run or set a new maximum bench press on your first day, not only will you be at risk of injury because you’re trying to push your body hard right away, but you won’t be all that efficient. Set yourself up for short-term and long-term success by starting with a shorter or less intense workout and gradually taking on more of a challenge over time.

Listen To Your Body

Get in the habit of listening to your body before and after a workout, and give it what it’s asking for. The more physical challenges you take on, the better you’ll get at deciphering the difference between soreness and pain. Muscle soreness is a natural response to targeted stress, whereas pain could be the sign of a sprain or tissue tear. If something doesn’t feel right, take the day off and let your body heal. The same can be said at any point during your training. If something feels off, or something is hurting, shut it down for the day. One efficient workout is better than two low-effort workouts because you were afraid of an injury.

Stretch

Take time to prepare your body for the upcoming activity by stretching and loosening up. Muscles are at their most efficient when they are in an active state, but they take a little time to transition from an inactive to an active state. Stretching helps them prepare for stress without throwing them right into the strain of a workout. If you don’t stretch, your muscles will have to get conditioned on the fly, and that puts you at an increased risk for injury. Give yourself 5-10 minutes before a workout to ease into activity and help your body prepare for what’s to come.

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