As we gear up for summer sports, outdoor activities and tank top weather, let’s keep these points in mind to keep our bodies injury free. Arm slings and knee braces don’t go well with shorts.
1. Get in shape before you play the sport. Work up to it.
Instead of shocking your body in an out-of-the-blue, strenuous physical activity, prepare your body by following a conditioning program designed for that kind of exercise. Ease into it and don’t do too much too soon. Gradually increase the intensity and amount of time you exercise. Be patient with yourself.
2. Get informed.
Research the sport or activity you want to pursue. Learn proper form. What are some of the common injuries experienced in your particular sport and how do they happen? What can you do to lower your risk? Learn from a personal instructor or someone who’s been doing the activity for a long time and knows what’s what. Consult your physician to identify potential problem areas specific to you.
3. Warm up and Stretch!
Take a light 5-10 minute jog to increase blood flow to your muscles. Then stretch your muscles, especially those that tend to be tight or that you will be using a lot of in the particular sport or activity you’re about to do. Cool down and stretch afterwards as well. We’re often tempted to skip these steps, but once you’re injured, you understand all too well their importance.
4. Take at least one rest day a week.
Our bodies need time to recuperate and repair itself. You may need more than one day a week to rest. It all depends on what your body is telling you, where you’re at fitness wise, what activities you’ve been doing, and how you’ve been doing them.
5. Wear safety gear and the right shoes.
More extreme sports are best done wearing proper safety gear – helmets, pads, goggles, mouth guards. Also, make sure you’re wearing appropriate shoes that give you the right support, stability, shock absorption; protection for your activity and that fit your feet and gait. Sometimes these things can get expensive, but it’s important to invest in your physical safety and health – if you lose those, it can make it more difficult or impossible to enjoy the activities you love.
6. Keep hydrated.
While drinking enough water is important on a daily basis for our overall health, it is especially critical before, during and after intense activities when we’re sweating. If you’re going to be playing hard outside in the heat for more than an hour, you should supplement your water with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and 6 to 8% carbohydrates, such as Reliv Innergize!®
7. Give your body the nutritional support it needs to stay active and perform well.
Getting proper nutrition is always important, but when you’re pushing your body’s limits you need to make sure you’re ingesting the right foods and nutrients for energy and recovery. ProVantage® with LunaRich® is an excellent supplement for athletes as it contains CoQ10, creatine, L-Glutamine and many other nutrients for improved endurance and muscle repair. Also, experts recommend getting 70% of your calories from carbohydrates – breads, cereals, pasta, vegetables and fruit. Make sure you get enough protein, but not too much. The average person needs 1.2 to 1.4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. That would come to about 88 grams for a 150-pound person. A serious strength athlete may need up to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight.
8. If you feel pain, STOP!
Listen to your body. If you’re in pain, your body is telling you something is wrong and you need to stop it. Don’t try to work through the pain. This can cause injuries that put you on the bench for months and set you way back in your fitness goals. I learned this one the hard way and I definitely do not recommend it.
(Side note: Do not run on the treadmill at the same speed for long periods of time and ignore that pain in your knee. It’s an embarrassing way to injure yourself and your knee may never be the same.)
9. If you do get injured, see a doctor right away if…
- The injury causes severe pain, swelling or numbness
- You can’t put weight on the injured area
- An old injury hurts or aches
- An old injury swells
- The joint doesn’t feel normal or feels unstable
- There are changes in skin color beyond mild bruising
If you do not experience any of the above symptoms when you get injured, it may be fine to treat yourself at home with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) for at least 48 hours. If your injury doesn’t get better after a few days of RICE, you should go see a doctor. It’s important to completely rehabilitate your injury or it could turn into a chronic problem.
Hopefully, taking the proper precautions, we can all stay injury free this summer. Enjoy all the benefits of sports in the great outdoors!
- University of Rochester Medical Center, Health Encyclopedia – How to Avoid Sports Injuries http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4026
- Active Orthopedics and Sports Medicine http://www.activeorthopedic.com/blog/category/top-10-ways-to-avoid-a-sports-injury
- Live Science – 13 Ways for Staying Hydrated in the Summer Heat http://www.livescience.com/38553-staying-hydrated-in-the-heat.html
- Stop Sports Injuries www.stopsportsinjuries.org
- WebMD – Top Nutrition Tips for Athletes http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/nutrition-tips-athletes