Unfortunately, for most recreational athletes, a few extra notches in the belt and perhaps a touch of gray have tapped your physical resources, but not the desire to compete. Make sure to stay ahead of the game and finish strong in your weekend warrior battles by avoiding strains, sprains and the subsequent bruised ego.
“It’s important to prepare yourself for competition to avoid unnecessary injuries,” says Dr. Aaron Young DC. “A simple ankle sprain or bout of tendinitis from overexertion could have you riding the bench or even end your season prematurely.”
Dr. Young suggests 3 techniques to maintain your competitive edge and reduce the probability of injury.
Core Strengthening Exercises– Adding a few core strengthening and stability exercises will boost your body’s foundation and allow for stronger, more efficient arms and legs. Simply put, a stronger core will help you run faster, jump higher and throw further. Front and side plank exercises, squats (especially on an unstable surface such as a BOSU ball), and bird dog exercises allow you to strengthen your core without placing undue stress on your spine.
Proprioceptive (Balance) Exercise– Exercises that challenge the body’s ability to stay balanced also strengthen the connection between the brain and the muscles of your feet and lower legs. This will help you stay upright and prevent dreaded ankle sprains. Begin by first, practicing standing on one foot with your eyes open and then again with your eyes closed. Once you can stand for 30 seconds with your eyes closed on one foot, try performing your normal gym exercises on one foot to take it to the next level.
Adequate Warm Up– Warming up cold muscles increases the viscoelasticity (ability to stretch without tearing) of muscle and surrounding supportive tissue. It also increases blood flow and energy supply to the working muscles. A proper warm up only takes 5-10 minutes and incorporates simple activities such as jogging, stretching and other sport specific movements (usually performed at half speed or less). A good rule of thumb is to warm up until the onset of sweating. Once you feel those first beads of sweat on your forehead, you know its generally safe to move into your activity.
No matter what sport you choose, there will always be some risk of injury. Following these guidelines will help reduce that risk and keep you in the game no matter the season of life you are in. And remember, if you have not been active for several months, please consult your family physician or chiropractor prior to beginning an exercise or sports regimen.