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Avoid the ‘Weekend Warrior’ Dilemma

Posted by Danny Sanchez, PT, CEAS on February 14, 2018

Watching the Winter Olympics can be a great inspiration to get into an exercise regimen, especially if you’ve been fairly sedentary since the holidays started. But before you head to the ice to try a triple axel or a quad lutz it’s important to make sure your body is ready; otherwise, you may find yourself sore at the very least, and possibly with severe injuries.

Employers can help ensure workers show up injury-free on Monday morning by reminding them of the risks they face and how to keep themselves safe.

Weekend Warriors

Many of us are guilty of doing little to no exercise during the week and trying to make up for it on weekends. Or we have the opportunity to play some physically active sports with our friends or kids.

‘Weekend warrior’ is the general term for someone who gets involved in strenuous activities only on  the weekend. In addition to sporting activities, that can also include doing projects around the house that are physically demanding.

The problem is your muscles can’t suddenly be flexible and ready to go just because you are. You need to take care of them and prepare before diving in. Remember, Red Gerard has practiced snowboarding in his backyard every day for years. He didn’t just decide to take to the slopes and magically win a gold medal. Also, he’s 17 years old.

The Risks

Whether it’s skiing, skating, painting a room, shoveling snow or working out in a gym, you need to be cognizant of how physically fit (or not) you are. Over straining your muscles can cause some serious trauma to your body.

Some of the injuries we see among weekend warriors are;

  • Pulled muscles
  • Cramps
  • Heart attacks
  • Ruptured Achilles tendons
  • Sprained ankles
  • Shin splints
  • Shoulder injuries, such as sprains, strains and dislocations
  • Knee injuries, especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears

Many, if not all of these are preventable. It just takes some forethought before you go racing on the treadmill. Here are some tips that can make a big difference in how your body handles strenuous activity:

  1. Move during the week. While the mantra is that every adult should do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days, the reality is far less. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fewer than half the population actually meets this goal. But doing something even a couple of days during the week can make a significant difference in your ability to play hard on the weekends. So doing something, say on a Tuesday and Thursday can help prepare you.
  2. Be real. If you haven’t skied for 15 years, don’t expect your body to be as nimble on the slopes as you remember. Start off slowly with conditioning exercises to get your joints and muscles ready. When you do head out, start easily and go slowly; i.e., skip the moguls.
  3. Warm up. This is crucial to get your body ready to do any physical activity, but especially when you’ve done little or nothing in a while. Ten minutes of walking or light jogging and some easy stretches can do the job. Remember to hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and never bounce during a stretch. Also important is to contract the opposing muscle group; for example, if you stretch your hamstrings, contract your quads.
  4. Cool down. Your body can’t stop on a dime; it needs to recover. Reduce the intensity of the activity but keep moving for a few minutes. Follow that up with stretches.
  5. Vary the fun. Unless you’re an Olympic athlete, you don’t need to stick to just one sport or activity. It’s good to mix it up a bit and do a few different things.
  6. Listen to your body. If you pushed through the pain when you were younger, don’t think you can still do that now. If an activity causes you pain, take a break. If your muscles are sore for more than a few hours, use the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation.
  7. Get protected. Helmets, gloves, knee pads are meant to protect you from injuries. Use them.
  8. Drink, drink, drink…water. Stay well hydrated to replace the fluids you lose during exercise.

Conclusion

Getting back into physical activity is great — as long as you take proper precautions. Whether it’s been years, months, weeks or even a few days since you last did vigorous exercise, your body needs to be ready in order to avoid injuries. Taking these few simple steps can mean the difference between being in pain and feeling in tip top shape.

 

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