From practicing yoga or running to lifting weights, form is everything. The best way to maintain good form is to be aware of your body and understand the purpose of the movements that you are putting it through. The most important thing you can do is to never push yourself to your strength limits unless you feel secure with the movements you are undertaking. If you are careless or ignorant, you can easily hurt yourself and by doing so you set yourself back.
Along the same lines, if you are hurt, you have to allow your body to recover and build it back to where you left off. Generally you can find exercises to do in the meantime that focus on other areas of your body, and you will continue to build your fitness level and strength despite being injured.
Some basics rules that I find incredibly useful:
- Never let your knee track over or past your toes when lunging (ideally it should be at a 90 degree angle with your thigh parallel to the ground)
- Keep good posture unless a movement specifically requires you to round your back
- Don’t lock or bang your joints; with the exception of your ankles, which you can flex to protect your knees
Study how your body reacts to various positions, and learn how to keep your balance. Like in the Karate Kid, when the kid asks when he will be able to learn how to punch, the teacher replies that he’d “better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home.” Remember that it actually takes more energy sometimes to do things slowly with focus and awareness. Before you begin to push yourself hard read up on the various exercises you have worked into your routine so that you can catch yourself if something feels off.
Once you understand movements you can also find good, qualified instructors to teach you how to progress in your routine. I must say though, carefully watch how the instructor teaches to make sure that they are doing their job; I walk past many (outdoor) fitness classes and cringe because I see people aggravating their backs or knee joints through repetitions with terrible form while their instructors standby and say nothing. A good instructor will help you become more aware of your body by helping to correct your form.