This weekend was such a beautiful introduction to spring! We finally stepped outside to the feeling of warmth rather than chill and got our first taste of the coming summer for 2017. This makes many of us consider getting outside to exercise. Whether you are planning to rejuvenate a serious training program or to simply boost your average steps per day, it’s important to employ some basic strategies to prevent common injuries associated with a sudden increase in activity:
- Never underestimate the power of stretching! It’s commonly neglected because it takes some extra time, but it is well worth it to avoid soreness and more significant injuries caused by chronic muscle tightness. Before a workout, it’s best to do some kind of dynamic activity to warm up the muscles. For example, if you are about to walk or run, bring your knee up toward your chest a few times (no holding necessary, just enough to bring it briefly through the range of motion), then bring your foot toward your backside a few times. After you’re finished with your workout, make sure to do your static stretching. These are the stretches you hold for 30 seconds with the intention of actually lengthening the muscle and decreasing lactic acid build-up, which is responsible for that nasty next-day soreness. There are many resources online or through the trainers at the YMCA to help you figure out which stretches might particularly benefit you, based on the activities you are doing and where you are prone to soreness.
- Vary your activities! It’s not good for your joints and muscles to only undergo one form of exercise. If you are a runner, it’s a good idea to take at least a day or two each week to allow your body to experience a different activity, such as biking, swimming, or yoga. This will keep your muscle groups more balanced, and decrease your risk of common overuse syndromes.
- Ease into it! It may be a good idea to set a limit for yourself the first few times you get out there to exercise. If you were able to walk 3 miles by the end of last autumn, but haven’t been walking since then, don’t start up again at 3 miles right off the bat. Limit yourself to something you know your body can handle at this point, maybe a half mile or a mile, and work your way up over the course of several days or weeks. This can prevent those pesky overuse tendinitis syndromes.
- Use proper footwear! It can be tempting to go for a walk in your flip flops, but make sure you take the time to change into your tennies instead. Plantar fasciitis can occur quickly if you expose your weak winter foot muscles to too much loading without enough support.
- Hydrate! With increased exercise comes increased need for water to replenish your body. Drinking enough water can be a hard habit to get into, but it can prevent many cramping syndromes, soreness, headaches, and exhaustion. Drink water before your body even tells you it’s thirsty!
May God richly bless your Easter celebrations, and have a happy and safe return to activity this spring!
Kristen Behl, PT, DPT is the Director of the Sport and Spine Clinic. She can be reached at 920-245-3773 or www.sportandspineclinic.com.
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