Summer is often a time when many of us – and our kids – take advantage of opportunities for sports activities, whether it is joining an adult sports league, taking golf or tennis lessons, or heading off to day camp.
An active lifestyle is a great way to stay healthy and fit, and we are big advocates of being involved in a sport (or two). But jumping into a more rigorous routine without preparing correctly can leave you, or your kids, at higher risk for injury. Here are a few things to keep in mind before starting your summer athletic experience.
Start from the bottom up, with the proper athletic shoes or cleats for the activity. This is especially important for kids. If your child has worn their athletic shoes all year long, be sure to check the wear. Those little tootsies grow fast (a fact we’re sure you’re keenly aware of!) so it’s probably worth investing in a new pair before the intense experience of camp – when they’re running around playing sports all day for a week (or two, or three) straight. Don’t wait until the last minute though; make sure there’s plenty of time for your child to break in those new shoes first.
Three words: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Hydration actually starts several days out. Load up on water, plus a healthy diet, before camp starts. Sports drinks can be calorie and sugar-heavy, so look for low sugar options without added color (Organic Gatorade is one example). And don’t forget to pack plenty of healthy snacks to provide sustained energy throughout the day.
Prep your body for the extra activity. A strengthening and conditioning routine launched several weeks prior to starting will lower your risk of injury, beef up your endurance, and give you the flexibility and “oomph” you need to jump right in and really enjoy yourself. Although good core stability is crucial no matter what sport you’re starting, focusing on specific areas depending on what you’ll be doing is easy, and equally important. Shoulder flexibility and rotator cuff strength should be targeted for tennis and baseball/softball players, and swimmers. Golf players will need to work on shoulder flexibility along with good back and hip range of motion. Runners often focus on strengthening leg muscles but neglect their hips. Regardless of your sport, if you step onto the field without preparation you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and out of your element – and that’s a setup for a less-than-stellar experience.
Don’t overdo it the first few days. Ease into the activity level; gauge the “commitment” factor of your fellow players. Some adult sports leagues are notorious for an all-out, win-at-all-cost mentality that leads to dirty play and more bumps, bruises and injuries than a team of rodeo clowns after a weekend of championship bull-riding. If you put time and effort into conditioning, you’ll probably find that you’re ready to jump right in, rodeo clowns notwithstanding!
Always warm up at the start of the day. Five to ten minutes of a dynamic activity is a good minimum, and ramping up the intensity throughout the warm up period will prepare your body for the main activity while decreasing your risk of injury.
One more thought: Even with the proper preparation, jumping into the more intense experience of summer sports and camps can result in soreness, and sometimes even an injury. It’s important to pay attention to your body and to know the difference between pain and soreness. Soreness is your body’s natural reaction to a higher level of activity and can be worked through, but pain is a clear signal that something is wrong. Be sure to get evaluated by a medical professional in the case of pain. Sitting out the whole summer due to an injury is the last thing you want, for yourself or for your child.
Would you like more information on what strengthening/conditioning routine is best for you or your child? We offer complimentary consultations, and we would love to be a part of your family’s active summer. Call us! 561-278-6055
The Miller PT Team
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