Your body has myriad painful ways of reminding you that you are no longer that young sports hero you once thought you were.
It’s a sad fact that weekend warriors can’t play a doubleheader on Saturday and wake up Sunday ready to do their best LeBron James impersonation on the basketball court. Those cranky joints and tender tendons can’t rebound that quickly without proper preparation. And maybe a few aspirin.
Staying hydrated and stretching are the two pieces of advice medical and fitness experts give the weekend warrior. Cheryl Nelson, owner of She Fit in Dyer, said warriors without any medical conditions that need special attention need to drink about half their body weight in ounces of water each day. That means, if you weigh 200 pounds, you need to drink 100 ounces of water.
Being hydrated helps prevent the muscles from tightening or becoming stiff, which can cause a pull. The same with stretching. Nelson said warriors need to stretch every muscle starting from the neck and working down.
Stretching should be done every morning and evening, but not on “cold” muscles, she said: “Walk around the house for a few minutes to warm them up and then stretch.” And don’t overwork one muscle group.
“For instance, it’s a bad idea to do arm exercises every day,” Nelson said. “Do them every other day and change muscle groups each day. The only muscle group you can do every day is your core (abdominal area). That’s the central point of the body, and it can handle it.”
Nate Lewis, an exercise specialist at Purdue University Northwest Fitness Center in Hammond, has a three-pronged plan for weekend warriors to maintain performance and reduce injuries, and it starts with planning.
“Someone competing in weekend events should try to improve or maintain the abilities and conditioning during the offseason,” Lewis said. “They should maintain some basic strength, cardio and mobility exercises while taking care of injuries immediately as they come up.”
The offseason also is the time to address problem areas, he said.
“If you know you have a shoulder that is injury-prone, you might do extra strengthening and mobility work to try to prevent future injuries. Do maintenance workouts during the week because you don’t want to ‘de-train’ and only exercise when you are competing. That would be the No. 1 way to get injured.”
Lewis’s second tip is to help the body recover with proper nutrition. That differs depending on the activity and fitness level, but a person should avoid processed foods and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Stretching and foam-rolling the muscles also helps keep them limber.
Finally, a thorough warm-up is necessary on the day of the activity, paying special attention to known trouble areas. Lewis added: “Know your limits and what intensity you are prepared for.”
Dr. Joseen Bryant, a sports medicine specialist with the Community Care Network at Community Healthcare System, said warmer weather motivates many people to be active, but echoes the advice on proper preparation.
Bryant says to start with stretching and warm-up exercises to prime those muscles. She also urged eating a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated to give the body the proper fuel and prevent fatigue and injury.
Working out consistently also helps. Bryant recommends 60 minutes a day for children and adults, with 150 minutes a week of activities that elevate the heart rate and two days of weight training.
“Regular exercise helps reduce injury by increasing endurance, reducing fatigue and improving the body’s resilience from exercise activity and minor injuries,” she said.
But if you have an existing medical condition or are pregnant, you need to discuss your exercise needs with your doctor.