How to have an active and injury free summer!

Icing-an-injurySummer’s coming! Nothing is better for improving fitness, losing weight and just feeling good than getting active. In the summer we have a lot more opportunity for this, especially outdoors. The trouble is that we may be coming off a fairly inactive winter and our summer activities may tend to happen mostly on weekends. The deconditioned (even if it’s only slightly) and the weekend warriors are two of the most injury prone populations. Here’s how to prevent becoming a statistic!

First things first: make sure to warm up. The biggest  misunderstanding about warm-ups is that warming up for a workout is synonymous with stretching. But stretching before a workout generally does not work in your favor. It can cause decreased performance during your workout and stretching cold muscles can cause injury. What your warm-up should consist of is light to moderate cardio, multi-joint movements and easy versions of what you’ll be doing during the workout. A good warm-up for a run could be to simply start of walking for a few minutes. Body weight squats and arm circles are great moves to get the blood flowing and lubricate the joints. Keep your warm-up going for 5 to 10 minutes.

During the workout the best injury prevention comes from good form and core strength. Good form is critical when lifting weights, but it also matters in other sports and activities. If you’re not sure what proper form is then it might be worth it to do some research, take a class or work with a trainer. As for core strength… that’s pretty simple to take care of. There are lots of ways to work on your core to help you get a strong base for activity. Planks are one of the best. Once you’re able to hold the plank for a solid minute, then there are lots of variations to try that will increase the challenge, increase your core strength and keep things interesting.

After the workout is over make time to stretch. If possible you’ll want to dedicate 5 to 10 minutes to stretching the major muscle groups. Stretching may seem like an inconvenience, but it’s a great way to cool down after a workout and stretching when your muscles are warm is when it will be most effective. If you’ve only got a minute or two then stretch out the muscles you worked the most during your workout. Stretching may prevent or lessen soreness. It will also help you maintain and even increase your range of motion which is another important part of avoiding injury.

Anticipating workout conditions and requirements will make your experience more enjoyable and are another way to keep you injury free. You want to know how long you’re going to be out so you know whether you should bring a good portable snack like an energy bar or trail mix. You always want to have some water on hand. Footwear is a big factor. The right shoes can give you the support and the traction you need for your activity. Same goes for clothing. Be aware of the weather and the type of movement as well as the intensity. You want to dress to be warm/cool enough for the weather. If you’re out on a sunny day you’ll need sunscreen. High intensity exercise may dictate you dress in layers or maybe bring a change of shirt or socks. You want to wear clothes that allow freedom of movement and comfort. Sore muscles after a workout are to be expected, but chafing and blisters from wearing the wrong clothing, totally avoidable.

The bottom line is really preparation. Know your activity and what it will require. Carve out a few minutes for warming up before and stretching afterward. Make it a priority to do a little research if you’re heading out to try something new, if you’re not familiar with how to warm-up or stretch or even if you have some experience with the workout or activity, but you’ve run into glitches in the past. There’s a ton of information out there including groups on Facebook where you can ask questions and get some great advice and tips.

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