What do I mean by the idea of crashing a gym session? – No.3

Today my article is about protection. We want to benefit our joints and warm up gently.These articles are written with older people in mind. You may be not be old but physiologically you could be older than your age suggests.  Past injuries or medical problems can age us before our time.

Always seek advice from your GP if you are unsure about your medical status before heading to the gym. You can read my additional article –  Am I Fit to Use the Gym?. Or ask staff for assistance to guide you. Do not follow other peoples regimes. You would not use other people’s medication and so the same applies with exercise. Wear comfortable clothing and do not worry about appearance because everyone is just too busy working up a sweat. 

Diary: Day 3

I entered my usual 9.15 slot on time today but soon I was heading for some earlier 8am slots as well. As I grabbed my disinfectant bottle I nodded to Alan protected behind his screen. I counted around 9 people. This meant numbers were up from my last two sessions, the highest so far. As the session allowed 16 we still had ample room.

I noted a lady of advanced years working on the rowing machine. One man, a regular pre-covid user of the centre, was tucked away amongst the weights. Tall, slim and fit he was adjusting his mobile phone. Maybe it was for music or texting, I could not see. A couple of people with their machines were spaced apart, and walked at a gentle pace on the treadmill. I nodded to Alan. “So we are going to get 60 minutes then from next week. That 15 minutes extra will make a difference”. I said.

“I said all along it should have been 60 minutes because it would stop people crashing a gym session,” he replied. His response gave me the title of this article. Great. I loved it the idea of crashing a gym session. I changed the words a bit to fit the narrative but I think he would approve. The theme then is crashing. What did he mean?

Too little time

Given the time limit, currently 45 minutes, time was an expedient. The users of a gym could be tempted to push themselves without warming up. Cold starts and rushed activity are known to cause injury. This is more so where tendons and joints are generally supplied by a thickish fluid called synovial fluid. With movement the fluid becomes thinner and movement of fibres glides more smoothly once it is warmed up. Likewise fibres that make up muscles and ligaments are more pliable when warm. You can overcome problems associated with a cold start by stretching or using a light resistance on the settings to each machine. After this you can build up. If you are aching from an activity a few days earlier, don’t repeat the exercise perhaps. This allows your tissues to settle down. Again, I must emphasise I am focusing on the older user of the gym and we oldies know we cannot take risks. Older people are stiffer and take longer to get going. Cause equals effect!

Knee muscles

weight and tension selector uses a peg you can move around. 35Kg shown

I quite like Alex Cordier’s (2018) quick summary of ‘warm up’. The trouble is that there is so much written on warm up that it can become overwhelming. But much that has been written removes the idea that crashing a gym session is wise. Like a car crash it is easy to try to blame it in the equipment or lack of advisory signage. It is not a good idea to use the last person’s setting as they may be younger, fitter and certainly may have no injury. IMPACT is what we are trying to avoid. Being older, our recovery is poor and will take time once injured. This aspect of injury is frequently forgotten. ALWAYS CHECK THE SETTINGS BEFORE STARTING.

author extension exercise to strenghten the quads

My first piece of equipment is the knee extension. This exercises the main thigh muscles of which the vastus medialis is the important muscle to strengthen the inside of the knee. Strengthening your ‘quads’ is often a shortened term and means you are actually exercising four (quad) muscles. In the diagram (below) you can identify these key muscles. The rectus femuris and vastus lateralis make up the main bulk with the small muscle called vastus intermedius. Four muscles = quadraceps.

Peg & Weight Resistance

A light tension using the peg and weight is selected first which goes from down to 5Kg.  It is better to select a comfortable weight and undertake slow extensions. At this point let me make it clear that if you don’t know how to use a piece of kit, or you have not used it before, DO ASK. Our gym and fitness centre staff are always happy to help.

author cleaning the selector peg and tension adjustor

There is a knob just above the resistance peg. You can see this above where I am cleaning the selector peg. This allows you to fine tune the setting by four increments; 0Kg, 2.5kg,5kg,7.5kg. Getting the right tension is important. Slow movements or fast?

Well science tells us you can do a fast muscle movement and burn off more energy but hey, we’re in no hurry so gentle extensions are fine. I would change my mind later when I get to the end of the first month.


The idea is to protect the knee from twisting forces. If like me you have had knee operations, I mangled my cartilage (meniscus) and a tore my cruciate ligament. You are keeping your muscle tone in check without looking musclebound. Extend your knee. If it is flabby at full stretch then it needs a bit of tone. The purpose of doing this is so that optimum knee protection is achieved whilst running on the treadmill. This will also help with the exercise bikes. 

medicalstocks/shutterstock.com. illustrates the quadraceps (front) muscle

Balance and posture

In my last post, recorded as Day 2, I talked about balance. I like to supplement my exercise with thigh muscle exercises at the back of the leg. The muscles on the back of the thigh comprise the hamstrings mainly but our machine shows gluteal (buttocks). Hamstring and gluteal muscles are used when we stand up, climb and add to balance our body when we stand straight. By keeping the quads and hamstrings balanced the knee joint is better stabilised. The equipment used to exercise the hamstrings is almost the reverse in design. Instead of extension your flex the black roller down. But, if you have an injured knee set the tension peg at the lowest to start with and watch out for cramp. The link to explain cramp is a bit heavy on the physiology side of explanation but is common as we age. The flexing machine is not the only way to help the hamstrings. In this link just look at the diagram of which there are three key named muscles (semitendinosis, semimembranosis and biceps femoris), don’t worry about the exercises. 

Posters and signage

Most modern equipment provides pictures of the muscle groups on the machines. This allows you to know what muscles groups you are exercising. This is helpful and you might even find posters or charts of anatomy on walls of some centres.


What have we covered?

I have talked about the knee today as my first port of call.

  • Start off easy, don’t rush, warm up. There’s plenty of advice out there on warm up. Warm up might include stretching or light weight tension.
  • Protect those joints or parts of the anatomy by improving tone and strength eg the knee
  • I have discussed the equipment briefly and the quads and hamstrings
  • Balance both set of muscles on either side of joints

Well that’s it for this time. I moved onto other equipment to fill my 45 minutes. I do not feel it right to say that my menu of activity is the right way. Certainly remember from the first article our objectives are all different. DO ask for help if you are unfamiliar with equipment. If you are an older person then work to your ability. There is so much to say about the gym and keeping fit so I will pick up the story on Day 4 which is a Friday for me.

A word of warning click here

About me

The author at his gym

I am a retired podiatrist and have practiced foot surgery for over thirty years so I know a fair bit about body physiology and medicine. Plus, I took an additional degree in human movement and taught human biomechanics. Living life is a battle ground and most people do not realise injuries sustained when young live on with us peaking later on in life. Just like a virus gone to ground, injury just waits to flare up. That means as we age and return to exercise to keep fit we develop old problems anew.


In this series I am going to talk about my injuries so the reader can find a reference to being careful with some of the equipment. I am going to build up slowly and see where the journey takes me. My aim is to lose some weight, keep tones and stay fit. Do read my first two posts.


What’s next?Am I Fit to Use the Gym?and Some days are more sluggish than others. No.4′

Thanks for reading my new fitness series – ‘The idea of crashing a gym session’ by David R Tollafield at www.consultingfootpain.co.uk

August 2020

Published by Busypencilcase Reflective Communications. Est. 2015


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