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I keep on hurting myself when I exercise. Help! Add to ...

The question: I keep going through the same cycle of injuring myself, going through physio, getting better and re-injuring myself. What is going on? It is really frustrating because I am really trying to become healthier.

The answer: Congratulations on your perseverance. Continually injuring oneself can be frustrating!

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Try assessing the daily demands put on your body. A physiotherapist can help increase your body’s capacity to a healthy, normal level of strength. But if you play sports, run, lift weights or have a demanding job (like a construction worker), you may require more strength then you acquired through physio. You need to continue to increase your strength so that your body’s capacity is equal to, or ideally greater than, the demands of daily life.

When training, break down each exercise into three equally important steps: the set-up, the exercise and the dismount. Often people pay attention to form during the exercise, but their set-up and dismount is sloppy. Not surprisingly, they hurt themselves.

Don’t rush back into the intensity, duration, type or frequency of activity you were doing preinjury. For example, if you are a runner, start by covering a quarter of your preinjury distance at a slower pace before gradually increasing your speed and distance.

Make sure you have appropriate apparel and equipment. For example, if you are a cyclist, make sure your bike fits your body. If you sit for prolonged periods, make sure your work station is ergonomically correct.

Prioritize recovery. Stretch, foam-roll, hydrate, sleep, eat well and listen to your body. Stop exercising before any niggling irritations turn into an injury.

Lastly, don’t just think about proper posture and lifting techniques at the gym! You spend (if you are lucky) three to five hours a week at the gym, and 160-plus hours living your life. To stay injury-free, start being mindful of how you move during your daily life.

Trainer’s tip: Analyze your “between-injury” training program. An unbalanced routine could have contributed to your injury.

For example, a plan that prioritizes bench and shoulder presses, without strengthening your upper back and postural muscles, could contribute to chronic shoulder injuries. Change your routine so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes. If you have never kept a training log, start recording your weights, nutrition, hydration and recovery protocols. That way, if you do reinjure yourself, you will be armed with possible information on why the injury occurred.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is www.kathleentrotter.com.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

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