I have heard a lot of excuses when it comes to why some people don’t exercise;
I don’t have enough time
I don’t have access to a gym
I don’t have the motivation
I am too tired
I am afraid of getting hurt
None of these are acceptable and there is a “work around” solution to all of the above. However, one of these excuses stands out to me and should be considered every time you workout and that is the concern over becoming injured.
I have observed several injuries in the gym and have hurt myself on a few occasions as well. In this post I will describe what I have observed when it comes to people injuring themselves during a workout and also share with you the injuries I have incurred over the past two decades of lifting, sprinting, jumping etc. There is one thing that I want to point out from the onset- in every single instance the injuries that I have observed were 100 percent preventable and caused by human error or outright stupidity. Exercising in the gym is actually very safe so long as you know what you are doing, pay attention and leave your ego at the door.
The most common injury I observe always results from the same mistake- not paying attention. I think this is the number one reason we humans get hurt period! If we simply paid closer attention to the task at hand we are all far less likely to hurt ourselves.
When in a gym environment there are numerous pieces of equipment that we can bump into if we are not paying attention and this could result in a trip and fall or stubbed toe. I have done this myself on numerous occasions. However, the most serious injury I have seen occurred in a gym where I used to workout at back in Winnipeg. The gym was very hardcore and some of the equipment was quite possibly of the “home made” variety. As in most gyms there was a lat pull down machine that looked something like the machine pictured below.
The only difference was that this machine was taller than normal and this meant that the bar was at least 8 or 9 feet from the floor forcing a person to stand on the seat in order to reach it (a clue as to its home made origins).
Like any lat pull down machine there was a bar at the top of the cable that a person would use to “pull down” the weight and perform the exercise. The only difference was that this bar was heavy. A standard bar attachment may weigh 5 pounds or so but this one was solid steel plus longer and thicker than normal. My guess is that this bar weighed closer to 20 pounds and that was the reason for what happened next…
I was seated on a bench about 5 feet away from the lat pull down machine when I saw the accident unfold in front of my eyes…
A man came over to use the lat pull down machine- he sat down on the seat and reached over to change the weight on the weight stack. The second he removed the pin from the stack the bar above came falling down striking him just on the top of his nose and eye socket. His nose pretty much exploded with the force of the bar travelling from many feet above. His face was a mess so paramedics were called and they took him away to the hospital. I never saw this person again so I have no idea as to how badly he was hurt but it sure didn’t look good.
To this day I never pull the pin on a weight stack without holding on to the bar above using my opposite hand. Many of the newer machines are counter balanced to prevent this from happening but you can never be too careful.
The second accident is one that plays out in gyms across the globe on a daily basis and always involves guys lifting more weight than they can handle. On this occasion there were two young guys performing incline dumbbell presses for their chest. This is a great exercise but is often performed using too much weight resulting in crappy form. I will give these guys credit- at least they were spotting each other- or so they thought.
They were lifting heavy dumbbells- in fact, I could tell right away that they were lifting too heavy as they could barely get the weight up to their chest to begin the exercise. After managing to crank out 2 or 3 reps in crappy form I heard the guy doing the lifting say that he wanted to do one more…
And that’s when it happened. On this last rep he lost control of the dumbbell as his upper arm caved in causing the 100 pound weight to smash into his mouth. This resulted in a very gruesome scene and once again the ambulance was called. Of course this mayhem was completely preventable (especially if his “spotter” was paying proper attention instead of looking at himself in the mirror).
Accidents number three and four actually happened to me. The first incident sounds pretty minor but man did it hurt! I was in the gym doing some work using a barbell and needed to put some more weight on the bar. I rested the barbell on the floor and walked over to the plate tree where the individual plates were being stored. Just as you find in many commercial gyms, the plate tree was a disorganized mess with 10 pound plates sitting on top of 5 pound plates and nothing in the correct spot. This is one of my biggest complaints when it comes to gym etiquette- you should always return your weights to their proper place in an orderly fashion. Anyways, I walked over to the tree to grab a 25 pound plate that was resting on top but when I pulled on it I neglected to notice the 10 pound plate that was sitting in front of it. This plate then fell off the tree onto my foot breaking my fourth and fifth toes.
Believe me when I tell you that I NEVER again removed a plate without paying careful attention.
My final trip down the highway of pain came as a result of distraction. It was leg day and like any good trainee I was performing barbell squats. To be clear, I LOVE squats and I believe that most people can and should perform them on a regular basis. However, you must always pay attention while squatting and focus on using excellent form. To assist people with this in most gyms you will find the squat rack is usually positioned in front of a mirror. The mirror is great as it helps you to maintain good form and allows you to focus on the body part that you are training thus helping you to focus more intently on the task at hand. The drawback to the mirror is that you can also see other people and what they are doing and this can cause your mind to wander and for you to lose focus.
And that is exactly what happened to me.
I was squatting heavy (in excess of 300 pounds- not much for some dudes but plenty for me). I was descending into a repetition just as a very attractive woman walked by and smiled at me. Like your typical testosterone fueled twenty something I was instantly distracted, turned my head to return some cheesy reply and forgot that there was 300 plus pounds on my back… and that I was in the bottom of a squat position…
I promptly lost all balance, tilted forward onto my toes and crashed the weight into the rack!
The noise was ridiculous and that was pretty much how I felt too. Can you say EMBARRASSED?
Not only was my pride wounded but I had injured my back as well. That little distraction cost me a trip to the emergency room where I was given pain killers, muscle relaxants and instructions to pay better attention when lifting.
Sage advice indeed.
Proper form and execution of exercise is crucial to remaining injury free and getting the best possible results. These injuries were all preventable and were simply the result of broken focus. Exercising has its risks but these risks are minimal and pale in comparison to the risk you run if you neglect to take care of your body. Learn from the stupidity of others and your chances of getting hurt will be minimal at best.