Summer Fun: 6 Tips to Keep Your Muscles in Top Shape

 
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Summer is the time for fun and fitness. It is also the time of year I treat the most sports related injuries -- hamstring pulls, rotator cuff issues, plantar fasciitis, QL spasms etc. Whether you are a runner, or a cycler, or a golfer, or a surfer, the best way to play hard (or train hard) and keep playing is to take care of your body before there is a problem. Some tips!

  1. If it hurts, stop doing it. Training for an event like a marathon or a triathlon takes a certain amount of willpower. But unless you are on mile 21, powering through the pain is not the best option. If it hurts when you run, stop running. If it hurts when you swim, stop swimming. Stop whatever you are doing that is causing you pain, and go see a sports medicine doctor, massage therapist, chiropractor or acupuncturist. The faster you address the issue, the faster it will heal, and the faster you can get back to your workouts.
  2. Get acupuncture or massage regularly. If you are training for an event like a marathon or a triathlon, make body work a part of your training. It speeds recovery time, improves performance, and solves problems before they become injuries. Plan for it the same way you plan your workouts.
  3. Do not ice. I don’t care what anyone else tells you, ice is for broken bones and severe sprains and that’s it. If something is hot, red and swollen and you can’t move it, ice it and go immediately to see a doctor. If it is not hot, red and swollen and you can move do not put ice on it. Most muscular aches and pains are just that -- MUSCULAR aches and pains. Ice makes a tight muscle tighter, and it creates trigger points which will cause more discomfort long term. Heat is a better option. If your muscles are tight and sore after a workout get some heat on them later in the day -- heating pad, hot epsom salt bath, steam room, sauna, hot tub...any which way you like. It will improve circulation, loosen the muscle, and alleviate pain.
  4. Try Yoga. Work at least one day of yoga or stretching into your routine. I always tell my runners that 1-2 days on yoga a week will prolong their running careers, but I think that is true for any active person. Most workouts are designed to tighten muscles, and there needs to be something opening them and lengthening them as well, or you are setting yourself up for injury. Yoga is a great option, but if that is not your thing try one of the new assisted stretch classes, or just plan a stretching day with your trainer.
  5. Hydrate Hydrate Hydrate! Your muscles are 70% water. I can tell the minute I put my hands on someone if they are dehydrated -- the muscles feel hard and stuck together. Drink plenty of water before and after working out and add some natural electrolytes if possible (NOT Gatorade).
  6.  Mix it up. Most injuries are from repetitive stress -- using the same muscles in the same way, repeating the same motions over and over and over. Mix up your workouts to avoid repetitive stress issues. You will use other muscles groups and improve overall strength and flexibility.