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1) Know your limitations. These days we are inundated with an explosion of workout techniques in which pushing yourself to the absolute maximum is the name of the game. P90X, Insanity, CrossFit, and other equally intense programs have flooded the market. These may be excellent if you’re not at risk for any orthopedic injuries, but going from sedentary to intensely active can be a recipe for landing yourself in the ER on a Saturday afternoon. Don’t let the fear of injury keep you from being active, but it’s important to remember that you aren’t 18 anymore. Your doctor can help you decide what is within healthy limits for you.
2) Change it up. Many weekend warriors engage in one type of activity. Racquetball, cycling, water skiing. No matter your choice in activity, they all have something in common: The repetitive use of and stress on the same muscle groups. Vary your activity throughout the week as well as keeping your weekend wars diversified. As we age, our ability to recover quickly from bodily stress is reduced. A mix of activities will not only allow your body to recover more easily but will also provide a greater health benefit than engaging in only one type of exercise. This includes not only varying each individual activity, but also engaging in activities which involve both strength or resistance training as well as cardiovascular training.
3) Increase your weekly activity. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that we should all be engaging in vigorous exercise 3-4 times a week, but aside from the health benefits of regular exercise, staying more active during the week decreases our chance of sustaining orthopedic injuries when we hit the weekend hard. Even simple activities such as walking 30 minutes a few times a week can keep our joints lubricated, muscles supple, and our bodies more prepared to enjoy a busy weekend.
4) Warm up and cool down properly. While you may have been able to run for miles without warming up in your teenage years, jumping into the same activities in your later years can cause you undue pain and even injury. Stretch and warm up with walking or light jogging for 10 minutes before diving headfirst into the activity of choice. Similarly, cool down with 10 minutes of light walking and stretching after finishing. If you are so exhausted that all you can do is plop yourself onto the couch, you’ve pushed yourself too hard. Budget cool-down time into your workouts and activities.
5) When it doubt, check it out. If an orthopedic injury isn’t addressed in a timely manner, it can cause serious negative side-effects in the future. Injuries which are allowed to heal improperly can lead to chronic pain and further muscle dysfunction as well as a greater future risk for re-injury. Signs you should see the doc include:
If, despite your best efforts to prepare, you end up with a minor injury, just remember P.R.I.C.E.
For more information about preventing and treating some of the most commonly sustained weekend warrior injuries, check out this US News article.