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Personal Coaches and Trainers agree that most people are using the  fitness equipment incorrectly leading to immediate and lifelong injuries. Fitness equipment and exercise routines aren’t always intuitive, and trial and error is never a smart strategy when it comes to injury-free fitness.

Here’s a Q&A with Vail Vitality Center’s Angela Muzic on how to make your workouts safe and effective:

What are the benefits of working in a gym, with equipment and weights, versus only participating in outdoor recreation? 

Angela Muzic: Living in the mountains, it seems as though everyone participates in multiple outdoor activities — which is great! Being outside is incredible for the mind and body. However, as we repeat certain movement patterns, such as hiking uphill or biking singletrack trails (to name a few activities), we develop patterns of overuse in muscles which can not only cause dysfunction in opposing muscle groups, it can lead to or cause injury and pain in the muscles and joints.

All too often I hear “I workout everyday and I’m healthy, I’ve never had an injury but my back or my knee has been so painful!” The outdoor athlete should be aware that coming into the gym to resistance train will not only improve their athletic efficiency, it will also help prevent injury by encouraging proper patterns of muscle use. 

What are the most common ways that you see people misusing equipment at the gym? 

Angela Muzic: I think the gym is an intimidating place. There are a handful of people that I see using equipment properly and progressing their workouts effectively, but I would have to make an educated guess that about 80 percent of the people I see in the gym are clueless as to how to program for their goals.

Most of the time, I see people trying things with poor, poor form or doing the same routine over and over. The body is made of levers with specific functions and when you workout with bad form, or train the same patterns of movement, whether you are on a machine or using free weights, you are encouraging and training poor patterns of movement and muscle activity. Your body will remember this and again, you will suffer compensations and encourage incorrect patterns which can lead to injury.

I would remind members and guests that the coaching staff are educated experts and here to help. Even the biggest meatheads move incorrectly, sometimes! Don’t be afraid to ask how to use something or get some advice on how to achieve your fitness goals. We won’t bite! I promise!

How many times would you recommend someone work with a trainer to understand all the gym equipment and how to use it property? 

Angela Muzic: That is really an individual assessment. I have had the privilege of working with all ages, profiles, injuries, average people, amateur and professional athletes. Every demographic could benefit from working with a coach/ trainer. I, on occasion, work with other fitness professionals, just to keep on track and check in that I haven’t developed dysfunctional movement patterns in my active outdoor and gym life. An educated professionals eye on you can only help.

From my experience, after over a decade in this industry, it takes me about three sessions to really get a full assessment of an individuals body. From there, we can dive into your individual programming with specific machines or weights. Everyone is unique in their body movement, athletic (or lack of) history and learning style.

I would recommend at least three sessions with a coach/ trainer. From there, you can decide if you want to continue or work on your own. Even if you go back to the weights without your coach, be sure to check in at least every 4-6 weeks to get a new assessment and keep you on track. Our bodies are always changing and adapting!

What are the easiest machines in the gym to use, which are also the most effective, do you think? 

Angela Muzic: I wouldn’t say any of the machines are easier than another, but the machines that you sit on are usually safer than free weights. They keep you in set ranges of motion and, especially for novices, help you feel the muscle you should be working with diagrams and descriptions.

That being said, in my opinion, when used properly, the squat rack is by far the most effective spot on the fitness floor. It is intimidating! If you have never used it or have not learned all of the basic lifting techniques, ask the nearest coach! We love to help!

Angela muzic and stress management vail vitality centerSince moving to Vail, Angela has had amazing opportunities to coach athletes of all levels including celebrities and professionals in tennis, NFL, MLS, NHL, and MLB as well as professional and Olympic snow sport athletes. She also uses her adaptive skills in rehabilitation incorporating her movement expertise and relationships with some of Vail’s best in chiropractic, massage therapy, physical therapy and body work. Angela is responsible for the Winter Snow Sports Conditioning Program at the Vail Vitality Center.

Call The Vitality Center to schedule an appointment. Email at service@vailmountainlodge.com, or call 970-476-7721.