Are you a weekend warrior? Do you sit at your desk during the workweek and then head to the ball field or jogging trail only on Saturdays?
Exercise is good for you. But by doing it intermittently, you run the risk of a sports injury. You could be risking a sprained ankle or a pulled hamstring. An overuse injury, such as plantar fasciitis or shin splints, also could take you out of commission.
“The reality is, many people with demanding jobs and busy lifestyles only have large blocks of time to exercise on the weekends, making the ‘weekend warrior syndrome’ a hard one to avoid,” says Cathy Moxley, M.A., a wellness coach and personal trainer. “The problem is, people who play 18 holes of golf or three sets of tennis on a Saturday without doing any exercise throughout the week run a higher risk for joint and muscle injuries than folks who squeeze in two or three midweek workouts as well.”
With a little planning, you can reduce your risk for pain and improve your overall fitness. You won't have to give up your Saturday softball game or long Sunday bike ride.
Before and after
Always warm up before and cool down after working out or playing a sport, Moxley says.
It's something you shouldn't skip, says Moxley. “Probably the most important thing you can do for short- and long-term injury prevention is to gradually ease in and ease out of your main exercise activity,” she says.
A basic warm-up should include at least five minutes of walking or light jogging. Follow that with sport-specific stretches to loosen up the muscles you’ll be using for your sport.
If you’re a golfer, for instance, warm up with a short walk, then take a club and do some light swings and spinal rotations.
“Just remember, cold muscles don’t like being called into action suddenly and are more likely to be pulled or torn if they are,” Moxley says.
Likewise, your cool-down should help you gradually shift your heart rate back to normal. It should also include some stretches to help prevent muscle soreness the next day.
“As we age, the cool-down becomes more and more essential,” she says. “Research shows heart attacks are more likely after than during strenuous exercise, mostly due to people not slowing down their heart rates gradually.”
Variety of exercise
Cross-train by doing various types of exercise during the week. By not working the same muscle groups continuously, you can improve your all-around fitness and prevent overuse injuries.
If you like to do long cross-country runs on the weekend, try swimming laps on Tuesday and taking a Pilates class on Thursday.
One way to prevent injuries is to schedule a few sessions with a personal trainer. A trainer can give you a short but specific set of stretches and strength-training exercises you can do several times during the week. These quick, extra workouts can prep your muscles for your weekend activities. They help you maintain your strength and flexibility for all your daily activities, including yard work and running for the bus.
“The fact is, most weekend warriors can avoid many of their injuries, aches and pains by committing to a brief 15- to 20-minute stretch and strengthening session every other day,” says Moxley. “Doing so will create a muscle memory that will boost performance and have a protective effect.”