Summer is a great time to get outside and exercise. Morning comes early, so there’s plenty of light to go out for a run or outdoor swim -- to get in a few holes of golf or hike along a nearby trail. Clothing can be as light and comfortable as you want. Now that the rigors of winter and spring are over, it’s smooth sailing on the good ship Fitness! But make sure you play it smart to keep from getting sidelined during these all-too-brief summer months with an injury or sprain that could easily have been avoided. Here’s what the experts say about keeping your exercise activities safe and sane:
Physicians see quite a bit of shin splints, ankle sprains, and runner’s knee as summer progresses and winter-softened muscles suddenly get busy again. Softball season also brings out the old rotator cuff complaints, and flare-ups in tennis elbow become more frequent.
Muscle sprains and chronic spasms are the result of neglecting to warm up, and pushing yourself too hard to get to that next level of fitness. It’s slow and steady that not only wins the race, but keeps you from winding up in a lawn chair watching your friends getting their full share of exercise while you nurse a swollen ankle or painful shoulder.
Building up gradually is the name of the game when starting any new exercise or routine. Don’t be impatient if your body doesn’t seem to automatically do what your brain wants it to do -- bodies have a residual memory of past exercise routines, and when you suddenly change things around you’ll find some minor resistance to the chance coming from your muscles and even your coordination centers. This is normal. Deal with it. Also, make sure that you stay hydrated during the hot summer months by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after each exercise set. It goes without saying that good nutrition is also required if you’re going to push yourself to new physical fitness heights, or even just maintain.
Warm ups and cool downs should take ten minutes each, at the minimum. Don’t regard these subroutines as a waste of time -- they are what will keep most common minor injuries like sprains and spasms at bay.
If you’re running/jogging, make sure you choose a trail or path that is well-lit, well-maintained, and frequented by others. Suburban sidewalks may seem convenient, but the hard cement can do a number on your feet so my best advice is to select good running shoes; and the proximity to auto emissions is not going to help your lung capacity in the least. When engaging in rock climbing and other strenuous and demanding activities, always work in pairs. Bicycling without a helmet is just asking for trouble -- and is now illegal in most states. Ditto for skateboarding.
Use common sense with water sports. If you’re engaging in a new aqua sport this summer, such as water polo, take some lessons -- don’t just assume you’ll pick it up as you play. Remember that an exhausted or unconscious swimmer can drown in less than a foot of water.
Listen to your body
Are you on speaking terms with your body? Do you know when it’s telling you that it’s dehydrated or exhausted? Do you ignore warning signs like tinnitus or stomach cramps? Never assume you can just walk through the pain -- if something hurts, your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and to stop and find out what it is before it gets worse.
You can have fun this summer and increase your exercise routine without risking a major blowout that could keep you down until Halloween -- if you just use your common sense and remember to take little steps before big ones!