Spring and fall are one of the busier times of year for rehab professionals because people start their new seasonal activities and get hurt more often as their bodies are not ready for the change. Things like skiing, mountain biking, kayaking, running, gardening, and hiking are some of the seasonal activities that are prone to injuries unless people prepare ahead of time. Keep reading to learn how you can prevent your own seasonal injuries.
The three chief things that are considered when looking to prevent injuries are flexibility, strength and stability. While they are all related to each other, they are distinct.
Flexibility is about the joints, muscles, and connective tissues having the mobility to do the task. For example, walking takes less knee flexibility than using stairs.
Strength is your muscle’s ability to move the way you are asking and for the number of times needed. As an example, I have the strength to do five pushups, but not enough for one hundred pushups.
Stability includes both muscle coordination and balance. A good example is the coordination and balance required to walk on flat ground is less than walking across boulders.
By considering and preparing for changes in each of these categories, injuries can be prevented when starting a new activity. To illustrate this, let's consider someone who primarily uses a stationary bike for exercise in the winter and is an outdoor runner in the summer.
The biggest flexibility differences between biking and running are in the back, hips, and thighs. On a well fit bike, the back is straight and does not move much, the hips never go beyond straight, and the hamstrings do not get into a fully stretched position. In a runner, the back twists and bends with each step, the hip opens more to push off at each step, and long hamstrings are needed to reach the foot forward with each step. To prepare for running, this person would benefit from stretching of the back, hips, and hamstrings.
With consistent biking, the quads and calves get strong. This is beneficial for running as it also uses these major muscle groups. However, running also requires strength in feet, glutes, spine, and abdominals. Biking will not strengthen these muscles sufficiently for running. If these muscles are not strong enough when switching to running, the risk of injury is much higher.
Stability is often forgotten when preparing for a new activity. On a stationary bike, no stability changes are needed from one revolution to the next, nor one day to the next. In running, each step requires the body to stabilize every joint and muscle from the toes, hips, back, neck, to arms. This is especially true when running outside where the surface can be uneven. There are several things that can be done to improve stability, most consist of exercises involving multiple joints. For example, early in the training program, this person would do single leg squats to get the back and hips ready. Over time, the activity would get progressively harder to include all the other joints and muscles needed for running.
It is exciting and fun to start a new activity. To make sure you can keep doing it without injury, it is important to get your body ready by addressing flexibility, strength, and stability. If you are not sure how to go about this, check with one of our athletic trainers or schedule for the Injury Prevention program. Enjoy your spring!
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