Heading into the summer season, many of us are getting out to enjoy the warm weather on fields, courts, golf courses and hiking trails. Outdoor exercise and activity is a welcome change after a long winter, but injuries threaten to sideline ambitious exercisers.
Muscle strains and joint pain are a concern each spring and summer when folks get back to their favorite sports or outdoor activities. One way to guard yourself against injury is to be able to move well.
One way to guard yourself against injury is to be able to move well.
Moving well involves the ability to move joints through their full range of motion with the right alignment and control. (For example, being able squat down without excessive forward lean.) These qualities are reflected in a fluid and powerful golf swing or the easy gait of an efficient hiker. Moving well often requires a body tune up.
Sitting for extended periods, as many of us do, creates muscle imbalances that degrade movement quality. Certain muscles get tighter, while others get weaker and function is compromised.
Diving into physical activity under those conditions can push a person towards injury rather than better health — exactly opposite of what it should do. I equate it to jumping into a car that’s been sitting idle for months and heading cross-country without checking the air pressure, changing the oil and making sure all systems are running smoothly.
Almost everyone will benefit from a body tune up before starting exercise. Tight shoulders, hips and ankles, and weak core muscles are surprisingly common. The best way to identify your specific needs is to have your movement evaluated by a qualified personal trainer or physical therapist.
Body Tune-Up Exercises
If you can’t visit a trainer or physical therapist, this quick series of exercises is an example of a general progression for improving mobility and core stability:
1. Foam roll tight areas, including thighs, glutes and upper back.
Hold steady pressure on sensitive spots and take five slow, deep breaths to reduce tenderness. Exercises are shown for thighs, glutes and the upper back.
2. Stretch the quadriceps, piriformis and upper back.
Perform two to three static stretches of 20 to 30 seconds on these areas, the quadriceps, piriformis and upper back.
3. Do core stability exercises like the bridge and bird dog.
Start with one set of 10 to 15 repetitions on each exercise and build up to three sets, two to three times per week. Exercises shown are the bridge and bird dog.
While it’s best to address your individual needs, this general approach will benefit most people and help reduce the risk of an injury. As always, consult your doctor about your cardiovascular condition and current injuries prior to starting any exercise program. Once you have clearance, tune yourself up and you’ll be on the road to a stronger, healthier you!