"Well Arnold, I just can't wait until spring!"
"I know Ed! It's been so cold - I didn't even wanna go to the gym."
"Ah shucks -- I hardly went at all!"
"Well shoot. It's already mid-April, before ya know it we'll be outside golfing and biking; hey, maybe even play some touch-football?!"
"You can bet your boots! I can't wait. As soon as this stupid snow's gone it's sun's out, guns out! That's what all those darn kids are saying these days!"
And thus, two weekend warriors are born.
It would seem fair that such a bitterly cold winter would grant us green grass and dry pavement in early March, but here we are in late April battling sub-zero temperatures and prairie white-outs. Spring will surely arrive soon, right? Even through a short, mild Winnipeg winter, it can prove difficult to stay active. This year, the unusually brutal temperatures and winds have left most of us cooped up inside; reluctant to even head out to the car and potentially the gym.
As it heats up outside, so does our desire to get out there and enjoy ourselves. This late, brief transition period increases our risk of early-season injury. The risk is also due to the variety of actions in which we feel comfortable engaging during the summer; it's weekend warrior season!
To break things down, weekend warriors gravitate towards two types of sports: linear activities that involve much repetition, and rotation sports that are often more dynamic and explosive. From these two types of exercise, different forms of injury arise. How can you prepare yourself for spring and avoid potential pain?
Look online for the links to three videos that explain various types of warm-up drills. These were compiled a few years ago and were designed for a combination of soccer and hockey players, but there is still plenty of relevancy to spring movement preparation. Check them out, and then read on.
Linear sports such as running and biking appeal to the weekend warrior because they are good reminders of how in-shape they were in high school. While some of their cardiovascular fitness may remain, their musculoskeletal resiliency has most likely dwindled significantly.
These activities make up the majority of time spent outside for many people. They are performed solely in the saggital plane (see previous article at wfp.to/rightmoves), and usually involve plenty of repetition -- millions of foot strikes or pedal strokes. Amping up your distances too quickly in either mode of exercise can cause overuse injuries since your body can't handle the overload; you have progressed too quickly -- or not at all. Biking may seem pretty benign, but if all of a sudden you are in a very hunched position for prolonged periods -- your back and hips will remind you it's been months since they last did this. Running can often cause foot, Achilles, and knee pain regardless of how slow you begin running. With these activities, it is important to gradually increase your time spent performing the activity, and to prepare yourself with appropriate exercise. Warming up before each run or ride is also paramount.
Rotation sports such as golf and baseball are like catnip to the weekend warrior. Such sports allow them to show off how strong and powerful they can still be. "Look how far that one went!" is a statement that commonly precedes their low back or shoulder pain.
Because of the explosive nature of these actions, your susceptibility to hip, back, and shoulder injury is increased. After a sedentary winter, you also lack range of motion in many of the joints required for these complex movements, which increases your risk for muscle strains and joint sprains alike. To avoid these injuries, it's imperative to perform warm-up exercises that challenge your range of motion, and most importantly, to gradually add speed to each movement pattern.
There are many more sports out there that incorporate both linear and rotational movements, and the drills in the videos. No matter how recreational you think a sport may be, the risk for injury is there and it is in these situations they occur most frequently. Soon the roads and fields will be dry and gravel free -- will your body be equally ready to enjoy an active and exciting summer? Let's provide a positive connotation to the words "weekend warrior."
We welcome your questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and you could be featured in a future article. Tim Shantz is a certified athletic therapist and trainer.