With springtime almost here and the days getting longer, many of us are excited to get outside and start exercising again. While outdoor exercise is great for so many different health reasons, we need to be careful to ease back into our exercise routines so that we can avoid sprain/strain injuries. As chiropractors, we tend to see a spike in the number of patients coming in with sprain/strain injuries during the spring months. Some of the most common injuries we see at this time of year are hamstring and groin strains, shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, ankle sprains, and plantar fasciitis. Here are our top tips to avoid these injuries as you start ramping up your exercise routine.
Make Sure Your Shoes Are In Good Shape
One of our best tips in order to avoid sprain/strain injuries is to make sure you have proper gear for whatever exercise you’re planning to do. This is especially important for what you’re wearing on your feet. If you’re a runner, make sure your shoes are still in good shape for this season. Typically running shoes should be replaced every 300-500 miles, depending on the shoe. Running or exercising in shoes that are worn out and overused leads to instability in the foot and ankle that can set the stage for injuries. If you’re unsure if your shoes are in good shape, take them to a shoe store that specializes in running, and get them checked out by expert. Or, if you notice pain in the back, hips, knees, ankles, or feet during or after a run, consider getting a new pair.
Warm Up First
One of the best ways to prevent exercise-related injuries is to properly warm up your muscles and joints before beginning exercise. When you transition from sedentary activity to rigorous exercise without warming up first, you are setting the stage for injury because your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are not prepared to work properly under the increased force you’re placing on them. Spend some time stretching and doing light movement, like walking, before you start your exercise.
We often talk about the importance of staying hydrated, but when you’re exercise it is even more important. Your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints must be properly hydrated in order to function. Muscles that are dehydrated cannot stretch and contract to their full potential, which increases the risk of muscle strain. Without vigorous exercise, the general rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. So if you weigh 150lbs, you should be drinking 75oz of water daily Our water needs increase when we exercise, so make sure you are drinking more water to compensate.
Many forms of outdoor physical activity are repetitive and linear, meaning that they require us to move in the same plane over and over again, like with running or biking. This can set the stage for overuse injuries because other stabilizing muscles that are not used heavily with those activities are not strong enough to keep up, leading to poor biomechanics while you are exercising. Cross training helps make sure you are working on different muscle groups and building and using muscles more evenly. Make sure you incorporate other forms of exercise into your routine, such as yoga, rowing, weight training, or team sports.
Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
One of the biggest mistakes we see in our patients is trying to do too much too soon. We get it. The weather gets warmer, the sun starts shining, the days grow longer, and suddenly we’re motivated to get out there and make up for the past few months of hibernating. Though pushing yourself can feel great in the moment, it’s always a good idea to ease back into your exercise routine so that you can avoid sprain/strain injuries. Start slowly, and aim to increase your speed, distance, or duration by about 10% each week. It’s better to gradually let your body adjust to new exercise, than to push yourself too hard and suffer an injury that sets you back weeks or months.
Don’t Ignore the Pain
If you do begin experiencing pain in your back, hips, knees, ankles, or feet when you start ramping up your fitness routine, don’t ignore the pain! We can’t stress this enough. You don’t need to stop exercising every time you experience discomfort, but if you start experiencing sustained or worsening pain, then listen to your body and get it checked out before it turns into a bigger issue. Getting injuries treated early on prevents them from persisting and worsening. Please contact our office today for more information on how we can help.