Many of us get our physical activity outdoors, so the winter time can be very damaging to our waist lines and overall health. Now that the weather is improving, many people are getting out their running and hiking shoes, dusting off their bicycles and getting back to it. Unfortunately, many people will also hurt themselves in the process.
So, what’s the best way to prevent injuries after not being very active over the winter? There are several small things you can do. The first thing is to go slow at first. For example, if you are now starting to get back to a walking routine… don’t start with a 5 mile walk like you were doing last fall, just go for a 1 or 2 mile walk every other day and build up to it. If you were running a lot last year but with all of the holidays and bad weather you just didn’t get the time to run, there are a few things you can do to decrease your risk of getting hurt. Make sure your running shoes are in good condition and if they are worn out get new ones, if you have flat feet maybe try out a few shoe inserts to help support your arches. Most importantly warm up before your run and cool off after. Many runners just run, but if you want to avoid those nagging overuse injuries a quick warm up with some calf raises, lunges, wall squats etc. can go a long way to keep you out of the doctor’s office. New evidence suggests that static stretching before warming up is not helpful and if anything can actually be harmful if done incorrectly, so leave stretching to the end of the run.
Same concept applies for all you cyclists; check your equipment to make sure the seat and handle bars are the right height for you. Do a light warm up before hopping on your bike, take it slow at first, and try to take at least 5 minutes for a cool down with light stretching after your ride.
And for those of you just starting out an exercise routine, whether it is trying out some classes or even working out on your own at the local gym, walking around the park, running outside on the amazing trails, or trying out cycling the same rules apply:
If you start to notice some pain be careful, often pain is a warning sign that something isn’t right. If you have any questions about what pain is safe and what isn’t visit with your doctor and get things checked out because you can make things worse by “pushing through the pain”. We are lucky because in our area there are many qualified personal trainers, athletic trainers, physical therapists and sports medicine physicians trained to keep you safe and get you stronger and healthier doing the things you love to do, so don’t hesitate to seek one of them out. Most of all, have fun.