Since I've been something of a nag all week — Be sure to warm up! And don't forget to cool down! — I might as well continue.
For some reason, October always makes me think of safety. Maybe it's because of those public-service reminders to replace the batteries in our smoke detectors when we turn back the clocks. Or maybe it's because that first chill makes me think of stocking up on supplies for the inevitable power outages when the first heavy snow falls.
But there's a safety-related aspect of my daily life that I recently realized I haven't been paying as much attention to as I should, and that's the fitness equipment I use. I started thinking about this after reading about a recall earlier this year of stability balls. Somehow I managed to miss the story at the time, but more than 3 million balls were recalled after reports of injuries that occurred when the balls burst. Some 47 broken bones and bruises were attributed to this phenomenon, in which the stability balls burst like balloons, sending their users crashing to the floor, in some cases with dumbbells in their hands.
I started thinking about how many times I've used stability balls and other fitness equipment without giving them so much as a cursory inspection. It's been a longstanding bad practice that I've put a quick end to.
It's always a good idea to give the equipment you're about to use a quick inspection. Even at my gym, where the equipment is new and start-of-the-art, safety cannot be assured. I once watched a woman jump off a machine where a cable had just come off a cam, without telling anyone about the problem.
In the case of stability balls and resistance tubing, check them before each use for obvious signs of wear or cuts. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for inflation of stability balls, and recognize that they have weight limits. Check fitness machines for any loose parts, frayed cables or seat problems. If you have equipment at home such as a stair-stepper or treadmill, follow the manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance.
Anytime your body is moving, there's a chance for injury. Take nothing for granted, and be your own advocate for safety. Being fit does you no good if you're hurt.
Oh, and be sure to change your smoke-detector batteries this fall.