The new year is upon us. If you’re eager to get rid of the extra weight you put on over the holidays, you may have made a new year’s resolution to bump up your exercise routine. Many Americans approach work-out resolutions with gusto–vowing to shed excess pounds and convert their bodies into lean, mean, exercising machines.

However, if your body is unaccustomed to regular, vigorous exercise, this approach can quickly lead to injury. If you slip on an icy sidewalk during your jog around the neighborhood, you could end up with a break or sprain. If you start workout out on machines at the gym, you could suffer injuries by using improper form or by tackling high weights too quickly.

Every year at this time, hospitals and emergency rooms see a surge in injuries from workouts gone wrong. Here are a few tips to avoid resolution-related injury:

  • Prepare your body: Before each cardio workout, it’s important to warm up your muscles by stretching. In addition, strength training has been proven even more effective than stretching alone to significantly reduce acute and over-exertion injuries.
  • Ramp up slowly: If you’ve been pretty inactive lately, don’t jump into a high-impact boot camp. Start by getting your body accustomed to moving regularly–through walking, cycling or swimming. For weight lifting, start with manageable weights–then slowly increase in intensity.
  • Change it up: You may have vowed to go to the gym five days a week for the next month. However, your muscles need time to recuperate between workouts. Therefore, it’s important to target different muscle groups in your workouts–allowing a couple days for any muscle group to rest before working it again. This can help prevent over-exertion injuries and allow your muscles to grow.
  • Rest: If you’re not getting enough sleep each night, you’re more likely to sustain injury while exercising. In addition, studies show that insufficient sleep can actually make your body respond less effectively to exercise.

Don’t let your well-intentioned resolution for a healthy new year end in disaster. Following the above guidelines can help keep you safe from unnecessary injury.