With fresh leaves on the trees and perfectly mild weather, spring may just be the best time for outdoor exercises. Every year it seems, we devote at least one article to getting ready for spring, yet we continue to treat injuries that could have either been prevented or lessened by following a few simple rules.
First, always start out slowly. The main injuries we see this time of year are overuse injuries such as runner’s knee. Even if you’ve been exercising in the gym this winter, switching to outdoor activities will engage your muscles and joints in ways that they may not be ready for. In order to acclimate your body to new conditions, start by doing a lighter workout and ramp up incrementally.
Second, always have the right equipment. When changing from indoor exercises to outdoor activities, make sure you throw out your worn out running shoes and replace them with a fresh pair. For those in-the-know, one of the best ways to pick out a new running shoe is to see a professional fitter at a shoe store or sports retailer. Some stores also offer treadmill analyses to give you a comprehensive overview as to the best shoe for your stride.
Proper clothing also plays a role in staying injury free. When you’re jogging outside and perspiring heavily, wearing clothes that draw away sweat and reduce friction will help reduce overall bodily stress and maximize the effectiveness of your workout. Also, most runners are probably aware of the importance of lubricants during long jogs. If you feel any irritation in sensitive areas, then you should consult with a professional trainer or physician about a lubricant that will keep you moving with ease.
Finally, going on a strength training routine can help prevent injuries of all kinds by building up muscles and firming up the connective tissue in your joints. Strength training reduces the risk of injury by reinforcing those connections—something that cardiovascular training can’t do on its own. If you have any questions, ask a professional trainer or physical therapist as to what might be the best strength training routine for you.
So what are some of the red flags that indicate you might have an overuse injury? Persistent pain and swelling point to injuries that may be more than just a minor sprain. If swelling doesn’t go away after a thorough icing of the problem area, that may indicate an overuse injury. Similarly, if that tweak in your knee persists even when you’re not working out, then it’s time to go see a professional.
It’s always best to seek out a like-minded soul when it comes to finding out more about your springtime injury. If you’re a runner, then try to see an orthopedist who’s also a runner. If you’re a cyclist, seek a physician that knows about cycling. The reason is one of relatedness: seeing a doctor that knows your sport will help inform the diagnosis and allow for a better response to your injury.
Spring is not inherently hazardous, but there is something to say about overzealous individuals who end up as patients in our practice. Know your limits and stick to the basics: new shoes, new shirts, and, especially, a new attitude for a new season.
Have a wonderful spring and stay safe!