When you read online that you should consult a physician before starting a new fitness routine … there is a reason for this – and, it’s not just a disclaimer to protect the site owner against potential legal actions. It’s a recognition of the fact that exercise, done improperly, can be harmful and sometimes you can’t get everything you need to know with a few google searches.
A medical doctor, especially one that specializes in sports medicine – a relatively new focus – can check your overall fitness before beginning, help you define your limits and recommend specific routines to help you accomplish your chosen goals.
Regrettably, not all physicians are created equal. They’re rushed, overburdened with government regulations and paperwork and sometimes they’re just not very good doctors. This shouldn’t be surprising. Every other profession has a range of competence, there’s no reason to expect medical doctors to be any different.
Unless you are fortunate enough to get a great recommendation, experience (a part of which is simple trial and error) will ultimately land you a medical doctor suitable for your purpose. Asking the right questions like “What is your experience with sports medicine?”, “What is your stance on diet ‘X’ or drug ‘Y’?”, “What would you recommend for someone like me?” – will help you reach that goal.
Don’t be put off by a busy doctor, you’re paying for his or her time. Also, find one that’s willing to explain in terms you can understand, without acting like you’re an idiot for asking.
Nearly all physicians will have a basic knowledge of anatomy, nutrition, proper functioning and so forth. But physicians who specialize in sports or fitness will have a thorough, in-depth experience-based knowledge of the subject. It’s no criticism of physicians that they do not all have that. No one can be an expert in every area.
That in-depth expertise will help you in a dozen ways.
Avoiding injury is primary in developing any workout routine. Mild discomfort is normal, especially when beginning or after a long period of inactivity. But pain is a signal that something is wrong. It could just be improper technique, or it may be something more serious. A physician can help you find out the cause of your pain, or help develop a routine that avoids it in the first place.
Optimizing your cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, strength, endurance, balance, flexibility and overall fitness involves understanding first and foremost how different routines will effect you in particular.
Men and women have basic differences and even racial differences play a part in developing correct routines. Body types differ among different groups. Each individual has a specific arrangement of joints and muscles, a unique level of lung and heart capacity, a distinctive genetic inheritance and so forth. Ultimately, you need a workout that is optimized for you specifically.
A sports physician can help you achieve those goals, beyond the level at which most fitness professionals – good as many of them are – can generally do so. Make time to see one before beginning any strenuous exercise program.