With the warmer weather approaching, the idea of getting outdoors and enjoying the sunshine is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The winter months have caused many of us to stay indoors and not be as active as we may have hoped to be. Whether you are an outdoor sports enthusiast, an avid gardener or are planning your latest home improvement, returning to your outdoor physical activities after a long winter can be both mentally and physically challenging.
The following tips can help the outdoor athlete, gardener and DIYer avoid injury while outside this Spring.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ATHLETE
Ease Into It – Don’t try to pick up where you left off last year. If you are a runner, alternating between running and walking or decreasing your speed and distance are both great ideas to gradually return to your ideal run. Your body will thank you later!
Get Your Blood Flowing – Because warm muscles are less prone to injury, it’s important to warm-up before any physical activity, including dynamic stretching. This involves moving your body through specific ranges of motion without holding a stretch for a prolonged period. It can prevent injury by helping you to prepare for your physical activity by increasing blood flow to the specific muscles that will be used later on.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down – Don’t stop moving immediately after your run, hike, walk, or activity is over. Cool down by gradually slowing down your activity; for example, if you are a runner, you can cool down by lightly jogging or brisk walking. Static stretching is an important part of a proper cool down, requiring that you hold a specific stretch for an extended period of time. This type of stretch should only be performed when your muscles are already warm.
Drink, Drink, Drink – Ensure that you drink plenty of fluids before, during and after outdoor activity to help prevent dehydration and muscle cramping.
FOR THE GARDENER
Pace Yourself – You don’t have to tackle the entire yard in one day. Set small, specific daily goals and give yourself frequent breaks between tasks.
Use the Right Technique – Be sure to not stay in one position for too long. Always remember to kneel when planting or weeding and stand with one foot in front of the other when raking; these small modifications can make a large impact on how your body feels after your work is complete.
Lift It Right – When picking up a heavy object, keep your back straight and bend from your knees. When lifting, lift with your legs and hold heavier objects closer to your body.
Protect Yourself – It is easy to lose track of time when gardening, so be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen to help prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays.
FOR THE DIY-ER
It’s Not a Race – As quickly as you may want to finish your task, allow yourself to take breaks. Alternating tasks can help to ensure that you don’t stay in one position for too long, causing tense, sore muscles.
Divvy Up Heavier Loads – Make multiple lighter trips, as opposed to carrying heavier loads all at once. Dividing loads into smaller piles will minimize your risk of injury.
Use the Right Tools – Always make sure that the tools you choose are a comfortable weight and size for you.
It is important to remember that if you do get injured, seeking an appropriate assessment, diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional will help to ensure that your injury heals properly and that you can return to your activity as soon as possible. In the meantime, following the easy-to-use acronym RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression (with an elastic bandage) and Elevation – will usually help to temporarily relieve symptoms and prevent an injury from worsening.
So whether you’re gardening, running or renovating, use these tips to help avoid injuries so that you can enjoy your outdoor activities to the fullest this Spring. Now, get outside and enjoy the sunshine!