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ELITE Runners running in the race

Here at Elite Sports Performance and Physical Therapy in Foxboro and Elite Health and Fitness in Stoughton, we have quite a few weekend warriors, both on our staff and as clients and patients. Many of us would like to think we can still compete like we did when we were 17, but reality has a way of reminding us that things change. Between work, family commitments, and other daily tasks and errands, it’s understandable why weekend warriors cram a lot of their physical activity on Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, this pattern of 5 days of relative inactivity, followed by being extremely active on the weekend, can often lead to injury and frustration when we’re sidelined from the activities we love. So here are a few quick tips to help those dedicated Weekend Warriors stay in the game!

The most common types of injuries seen in weekend warriors are:

Muscle strains, such as hamstring and calf strains
Ligament sprains, most commonly in the ankle and knee
Tendonitis, especially in the Achilles tendon
Low back pain
Shoulder pain

To decrease your chances of injury, there are several things you can do. The biggest step you can take is to avoid going from no activity to full-out competition. Try to maintain a basic level of fitness through general aerobic activity, strengthening, and stretching throughout the week. If you know what type of sport you’ll be participating in, adding some sport-specific conditioning is a good idea. For example, if your sport requires quick bursts of power (i.e. jumping to get a rebound, swinging a bat or club, sprinting to beat out a throw), make sure you’re working power and plyometric exercises into your training program as well.

Plyometric exercises, such as the explosive step up, can help increase your lower body power and help prepare your muscles, tendons and ligaments for the rigors of sport.

In addition to maintaining a basic level of fitness and incorporating sport-specific activities, here are a few other tips specifically for the weekend warrior:

Build your activity level slowly. If you’re returning from a long layoff from a sport or strenuous exercise, it’s important to build back up slowly. Gradually increase your mileage if preparing for the first 5K in quite a few months (increasing your mileage by about 10% per week is a good goal). If you play hockey and haven’t skated in 8 months, try starting with a few skills clinics before throwing yourself into that 4-game weekend tourney!

Give yourself time for a proper warm up. A dynamic warm up is best, including some jogging or other aerobic activity to get your heart rate up and muscles warm. Follow up with some high knees, side shuffles, karaoke drills, butt kicks, bear crawls, or inchworms will help get your body warmed up and ready for more strenuous activity.

Girl doing Knee Hugs
A dynamic warm up, including exercises like a single-knee-to-chest stretch, is more effective than static stretching prior to high level activities.

Stretch when you’re done. Research has shown that static stretching (i.e. 30-60 second holds) before activity probably doesn’t have much benefit, and can even hinder performance in some activities. However, stretching after activity has been shown to reduce soreness and help recovery. Adding some type of soft tissue work, such as foam rolling prior to stretching, can also help you get the most out of your stretching program.

Make sure your technique and equipment are up to par. Poor or faulty equipment can put you at higher risk for injury. Just like it’s a good idea to get your bike tuned up before you attempt that first century ride of the season, make sure your equipment is in good working order. If your technique is off, especially in sports like golf, baseball or tennis, you can be at higher risk for injury due to abnormal or inefficient movement patterns. A visit with a physical therapist or sports performance coach can help identify and correct any issues before they turn into problems. 

Don’t push through pain. Some muscle soreness after an increase in activity is normal, but if it doesn’t go away, gets worse, or is severe, get it checked out.  If you’re having pain, suffered an injury, need help with designing a training program, or just want a movement check up to make sure you’re ready for activity, a visit with one of our experienced physical therapists or certified personal trainers is a good idea. Our expert team here at Elite Health and Fitness in Stoughton and Elite Sports Performance & Physical Therapy in Foxboro can assess your movement quality using tools such as the Functional Movement Screen to help identify any mobility or stability issues, provide you with corrective exercises, and make sure you’re prepared for those active weekends ahead.

So to all you inspiring Weekend Warriors out there…follow these tips, stay healthy and strong, have fun, and keep doing what you love!

Elite’s expert team of physical therapists, personal trainers, and sports performance coaches can assess your movement quality using tools such as the Functional Movement Screen.