Spring is around the corner (I hope Punxsutawney Phil is wrong) and it’s time to dust off those walking/running/hiking/tennis/soccer (you get the idea) shoes and get outside. With an increase in activity I usually see an increase in injuries in the office. While not getting active could be an answer it is not the best one. Getting active helps the body in so many ways including improving function throughout your life. I just want to make sure you can do it safely. No matter if you’re a young buck or seasoned veteran; these tips will help you avoid that Spring Break.
- Take it slow: if you took the winter off of sports and activities don’t start where you left off. Begin a gradual return to your favorite activity both in time spent and intensity. A slow progression back over a month or so will give the body time to adjust to the new demands. Even if you stayed active in the winter, you need to have a gradual ramp up for outdoor sports as we tend to put more stress on our bodies working out outside versus inside.
- Use the right equipment: Use the right equipment for your activity. Equipment is one of the factors that we have control over and can change relatively easily. Using the right equipment with proper form goes a long ways towards preventing injury.
- Warm up before: make sure that before any exercise program you spend at least 15 minutes warming up the body and getting it ready to move. We sit in school or at work all day and then expect our bodies to be able to perform complex movements in quick succession. This is a recipe for injury if you are not properly warmed up. Start with a easy walk and add in movement exercises such as walking lunges and jumping jacks as the body starts to warm up.
- Stretch after: stretching before exercise has not been shown to decrease injury rates and could decrease power in certain sports. While the studies are mixed on stretching afterwards I have found that a good cool down that includes stretching and foam rolling has been beneficial in avoiding a lot of the overuse type injuries that are common in my clinic.
- Get enough sleep: We are always going. Life can be hectic and when you try and cram all of the demands of the day into a 24 hour period somebody usually gets cut. Too often that is sleep. People figure they will catch up on the weekend or take a cat nap during the day but short changing your sleep time cuts down your ability to heal and recover from your day to day stresses. A seven to eight hour minimum is needed for the body to be able to adequately recover from a normal level of stress and exertion. As your activity levels go up, including intensity levels, so too does your need for more sleep. Make sure you are not short changing your recovery cycle and get a good nights sleep each night.