Summertime beckons, and so do the fun in the sun sports: tennis games, 5k runs, and paddle races; there are so many ways to move our bodies after a long winter holed up inside. The temptation to bust a move is great, but too many people end up in physical therapy instead of enjoying their favorite outside activities. Here are a few tips to keep you from spending your sunny summer days inside with your physical therapist and outside enjoying whatever moves you.
Common overuse injuries happen when patients rev up too fast, going from nothing at all to ‘balls to the wall’. This can’t be overstated: the easiest way to avoid injury is by easing into an activity. This means warm-up beforehand, and gradually increase the intensity and frequency of the activity.
If your sport focuses on lower body activities, such as running and biking, it’s best to do a dynamic warm-up prior to starting. This means 10 to 15 minutes of stretching while moving, do each stretch for 1 to 2 minutes before moving on to the next. Ease into the activity, stay well hydrated, and use a foam roller to stretch muscles after the activity.
For upper body activities, such as tennis and paddling, the same advice applies: do a 10-15 minute active warm up, ease into the activity, stretch arms afterwards, and foam roll the upper back.
All activities are made better by a stronger core, and front and side planks are especially effective at engaging numerous core muscles. It’s best to transition gradually from spring into summer activities, for instance, ease into kayaking with shorter duration trips before embarking on a big long adventure.
Here are some example stretches of a dynamic warm-up for the lower body:
Medial and Lateral hamstrings
Stand straight with both feet turned out, keep your back straight, reach towards your toes, hold 1-2 seconds, come back up, take a step forward, turn both feet and repeat. This stretches different portions of the hamstrings if you turn your feet outwards instead of inwards.
Quads: Mini Lunge Walk
With your core engaged and front leg in a lunge position, you should feel the stretch in the front/thigh of the back leg. Hold 1-2 seconds, step forward with opposite leg.
Hips: knee to chest
Standing on one leg, hug knees to the chest, hold for 1-2 seconds, let go, take a step and repeat with the other leg.
Place one foot forward, with heel down and toes up, squat back slightly to feel a stretch in the front calf. Hold for 1-2 seconds, repeat with opposite leg.
Here are some example stretches of a dynamic warm-up for the upper body:
Reach arms across chest, then back to the side, cross to other side, right over left and vice versa.
The thoracic spine is integral part of upper extremity activities: warm up stand feet planted, core tight, rotate through the upper spine. Right and left.
The best way to avoid injury doing your summer activities is to stay active and do warm up and cool down stretches before and after exercising. If you have pain with a new or increased activity, stop doing what hurts! If you experience a flare up, ice the injury and do light stretching for 3-4 days. If the pain doesn’t resolve, seek a medical opinion. Remember, the sooner you seek medical attention for an injury the quicker it will resolve.
These stretches are for general informational use only and are not intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. If you would like an individualized warm up and cool down exercise plan, please call New Heights Physical Therapy Plus at 503.236.3108. We also offer running evaluations and bike fitting to keep you active and injury free this summer.