As the weather warms up, avoid letting these pre-activity oversights sideline you cold Lauren Alpert-Zeunik, PT, DPT, CSCS, USATF-L1, CMTPT Cabin fever – we’ve all had a taste of the “itching to move,”, have all had some experience with the desire for sun in some degree through the long ChiTown winter. With the return of the glorious longer days and temperatures above freezing (because in Chicago, 45 is considered a heat wave….), the vast majority of locals are dusting off their running shoes and their bikes, their fitness equipment and their sporting goods, and heading out of doors to catch up on some much needed and deserved “D” absorption.
Caveat: to start activity after time away, your body needs more than just that desire to move, my friends! Springtime is the heaviest traffic season for the advent of new injuries, nagging
recurrences of old injuries, and accidents galore that we never saw coming. What brings on the spike in requests for orthopedic help? The cobwebs. The sedentary to active overnight. The
(near) complete disregard for the little aches your body has been sharing with you all winter.
Our cars need tune-ups, our pets get tune-ups at the vet, our houses get improvements made to them…. Why are our bodies (one of, if not THE most important thing) not showered with that
So pause at the door for just a few more minutes, folks, here are four key mistakes we make as sun becomes more prevalent that land us in trouble with our bodies now or later on… and the
simplest ways prevent them!
1. Shoes – The average pair of running shoes lasts approximately 300-500 miles, but that number varies based on a plethora of factors: surface you tread on, body size, muscle force, quality of the shoe… the list goes on. Too often in our office, I see patients who have last replaced their shoes… NEVER. (Cue facepalm). Your feet are the first line of defense against the forces of gravity and ground, so treat them well! You do get what you pay for in your shoes (unfortunately). Whether running/walking, no pair of shoes is built to last more than one calendar year if worn regularly (more than 3 days per week) for any activity, and less if you’re active in them. I recommend dating the bottom of your shoes with a permanent marker when you start wearing them and replacing based on wear patterns (if you can no longer see the bottom design on the shoes, they’re trashed), or if not, based on 9 months to a year from that date. Get fitted for a shoe by a professional (running stores do a great job here), and purchase a shoe based on what works for YOUR foot, not what works for your family, your best friend, a word of mouth, etc. Brands that specialize in runners/walkers will always make a better shoe than generic athletic brands. Having two pairs of shoes to rotate in use is a great idea to prolong having to buy new ones (half the wear does not, however, equal double the time to destruction!)
2. Hydration – This should be a no brainer. If you’re thirsty, fun fact… you’re already dehydrated. The average human adult needs a minimum of 64 oz per day of water for BASIC functions to be performed – digestion, blood pressure maintenance, skincare… after all, we are made up of around 75% water. Not so fun fact – the average human consumes less than 20 oz per day of H20.
Dehydration, with regards to your musculoskeletal system, leads to poor tendon lubrication, poor fluid clearance, increased fluid retention (IE SWELLING), inability to maintain muscle contraction, viscous (thick) blood flow, increased heart rate… the most accurate recommendations show need for 10, 8oz glasses of water, WITHOUT activity, each 24h period, and 8-16 oz additional for every 30 minutes of exercise performed. If you sweat more, you need more. When the temperature rises, the demand increases. To prepare for the sweat – add sugarless electrolytes (Nuun tablets are great for this) to your water to improve hydration, and start checking urine color – anything darker than lemon yellow is dehydrated. Wear light-colored clothing when you do go out, and avoid the strongest heat of the mid-day hours (10a-4p) to preserve your precious fluids inside.
3. Stretching – We all at one point in our lives may have been able to jump couch to court or bed to run without a second thought, but for the bulk of us, that simply is not the case anymore. As we add years to our lives, our bodies, while still capable of amazing feats, simply take longer for recovery processes to kick in and complete their jobs. Combine that with sedentary, techno-lifestyles that have made for some very interesting chronic postures, and we’ve got a recipe for orthopedic disaster. Our muscles need a nice wake-up before we use them for any extended period of time. Any physical activity should be preceded by some form of warm-up, 5-10 minutes in length, to raise heart rate and create warmth and blood flow to those muscles that will be most active. Activity-specific warm-ups are best (not necessary to swim laps for warm up if you plan to hike 10 miles.)
All major active muscle groups should be stretched – for the lower body, that means hip flexors/hamstrings/calves/quads/back/abs and adductors; for the upper body that means lats, pecs, neck, biceps/triceps and shoulder rotators. Dynamic stretches, known as “moving through your available range of motion” are preferred over static ones (standing still) prior to activity, and static over dynamic for cool down. Each stretch should be held at least 30 seconds, if not more, if static, and dynamic stretches should be performed for the same amount of time. Cooling down post activity (5-10 minutes, bringing heart rate down) and another round of stretches after is, yes, worthy of our time.
4. AVOIDING BODILY WARNING SIGNS – this is the most important oversight and the one that we, too, as therapists, have trouble with adhering to. Your body is a great indicator of your health, and can be very vocal if you know what to look for. Pain is NOT a normal part of activity. Stiffness is normal from sedentary life, but not post exercise. Swelling can happen in our joints with higher heat, but should not be prominent with any regular bouts of activity. As the adage goes, “see something, say something,” or in this case, “feel something, say something.” Anything beyond the normal soreness of moving – pops, clicks, and catches, of course, but also pain, swelling, redness, loss of movement, loss of strength, numbness, tingling, and really anything that decreases your body’s ability to tolerate daily activity (sit, stand, chores, work, recreation) lasting more than 72h can be considered a sign of bodily distress. If this happens, stop or modify the activity until you can reach out to a professional for help.
As always, we here at CHPT are here to help you address and troubleshoot those issues!! Call us today if your body is asking for a much needed tune-up! 773 282 6648 Lauren is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with CHPT and has been practicing for 5 years. She is a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a certified USA Track & Field level 1 Coach, a Graston Technique/trigger point dry needling practitioner, and her expertise is in running – injury and prevention.