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Preventing Pain and Strains continued...

"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."

And next spring? That exercise program will be second nature.

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