Spring Back Into Your Exercise Program
After a long, lazy winter, the key is to start off slow.
Ready for Round One? continued...
Davis, who is also head team doctor for the Cleveland Barons Hockey Club, recommends that golfers start practicing at the driving range with slow and easy swings, and work their way up to a faster swing. Golfers, he says, should also incorporate stretching and strengthening into their exercise program to target the lower back, trunk, and arms, and should prepare for walking on uneven ground.
Tennis players, meanwhile, should concentrate their exercise program on the upper body -- work on stretching and strengthening the shoulders and arms, and should prepare their bodies for the stop-and-go pivoting and sprinting actions of tennis.
"People sometimes go out and serve the ball 100 times on the first nice day of the season, and then they come in with an injured rotator cuff or elbow tendon," he tells WebMD. "It is doing too much, too soon."
If you're a jogger, he says, you should start your exercise program with a walking regimen and from there, try to improve either your speed or mileage by about 10% a week. "Jogging 10% faster every week, or increasing your mileage by 10% a week, is usually a safe way to go," he says.
Preventing Pain and Strains
This all sounds like a lot of work before you even start the spring sports season. But without the right exercise program and plenty of preparation, you're at risk for injury.
"The most common injury we see is muscle soreness," Crites says. "A person will come in and say, 'I hurt here,' and it's usually their muscles being sore from too much activity, too fast."
If you do overdo it, RICE -- Rest, Ice, Compression (with an elastic bandage) and Elevation -- will usually help lessen the damage, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. In all but very mild cases, a doctor should evaluate your injury and establish a treatment and rehabilitation plan, if necessary.
"If muscle pain lingers on for more than two weeks, or gets progressively worse, then they should have it checked out," Crites says.
There's a lesson here: After you prepare your body for spring sports, then spend the warm-weather months healthy and active, don't let it all go to waste by hibernating next winter. Stay strong for the next warm-weather sports season, so you don't have to start that exercise program all over again.
"First, you have to accept the fact that it is better to exercise on a daily basis every day of the year -- no matter how cold it is outside," Davis says. "The body can maintain a good level of conditioning year round if you practice a reasonable level of exercise. If you really don't want to go outside during winter, a stretching program is a good idea, or try a stationary bike or some form of home equipment, or join a health club."