Back On Track for Summer Activities
July 13, 2023 | Member Submitted
Author: Greg Burkard, Jr. DO
During colder months, it can be challenging to maintain normal workouts, and most people regress even if they’ve stuck to a regular fitness routine. To complicate this reality, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the back can tighten and become less flexible, making them more injury-prone.
Before you spring into activity, take extra care by easing into your workouts and adopting healthy habits — your back and spine with thank you.
When first starting out, follow a few best practices:
- Ease In. By easing into your activities, you reduce the risk of injury that could sideline you for weeks. Your first workouts may also result in muscle soreness, and though you may not feel the pain immediately after a tough workout, about two days later the soreness may be so intense that you can’t lift your arm above your head — resulting in more missed workouts.
- Start small. Slow, gentle exercises, such as walking or stretching, are low impact and enough to wake up your body. Start with 10 minutes every day or every other day for a week. Then increase to 15 minutes the following week. Add five minutes to your workout each week until you’re walking for 30 to 45 minutes at a time. If you’ve been sedentary for weeks, check in with your health care provider before ramping up your activity.
- Gently progress. A good rule of thumb: Aim to increase your weight, time, speed or intensity no more than 10% per week. 10% of 10 pounds of weight is 1 pound, so safely increase strength training workouts by adding 1 pound per week. Similarly, if you’re running 5 miles per hour, a healthy increase would be 5.5 miles per hour next week. Also, keep in mind that running on hard ground is higher impact than running on a treadmill — which can cause extra strain on your joints and back. Make sure your body is ready before you progress to harder running surfaces.
- Stretch it out. Supple, well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury, and the large muscles in your back — responsible for much of our movement — are no exception. Properly stretch the muscles that will be used in your activity — practicing the twisting motions of golf or the explosive motions of tennis — before you begin.
- Patience is key. The longer your break, the more time you’ll need to get back on track. So, if you worked out three to four times per week prior to your fitness vacation, it will take about four to eight weeks to get back up to speed.
Whether you plan to hike, tee up for a round of golf, or hit the trails on your bike, use these tips to protect your back and safely prepare for an active summer.
Dr. Greg Burkard Jr. is an interventional pain and sports medicine physiatrist with Tahoe Orthopedics & Sports Medicine (TOSM), offering non-surgical solutions for back pain at the Center for Orthopedics & Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and the TOSM office in Carson City, Nevada. To learn more, call 530.543.5554 or visit BartonOrthopedicsandWellness.com