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Avoiding injury from hand weights

By Jerry Vance

About this time of the year, the average sane adult takes a look in the mirror and suffers a pang of anguish and fear. Perhaps the inclination is to ward off age or fat.

With the holidays over and relatives gone, a lot of crazed adults will try to squish six months of body re-do into three weeks of illogical, unorthodox and unhealthy exercise and nutrition. Wishing for a quick fix, they purchase 5- to 10-pound weights and begin the body torture.

Maybe I’m exaggerating. Maybe it’s only 2-pound weights? In my fitness room, I must have at least 10 sets of discarded weights left over from good intentions.

People who forget their hand weights have done so for a reason. What do you plan on doing with your weights? Do you plan on running with them? Have you read the instructions on the package for beginners? Do you suffer from arthritis? How are your knees? Do you have any of those little blue veins taking over your legs?

Weightlifting is a separate type of exercise. You need a qualified instructor to teach the proper method. Hand-held weights for use in a fitness class are different – they can be as little as half-pound and give you measurable achievement during class.

It’s how you use hand weights that will give you the extra edge and speed up your progress. Make slower movements, with more control, when you handle weights. Keep your knees slightly bent, hips tucked under, and extend overhead movements over your hips for stability.

Any time you “fall into” an exercise movement carrying added weight, you greatly increase your chances of muscle tear. Think about your body. It didn’t walk in the door with 10 pounds of extra weight. Try not to surprise it too much when you add it on.

Some days are not going to be good ones for weight addition. Maybe you partied a little too long last night, or have a slight cold. Skip the weights; you need a sound body for safe weight training.

Another hint: Don’t run with hand weights. If your knees could talk, they’re dialing 911. It’s bad enough when you carry around your own extra weight.

I don’t wish to discourage you. Weight addition in exercise can be useful. A lot of people use weights in my classes. However, think small, think slow – just think.

And remember if you drop the things, your toes are below.

— Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the senior center.