[ read time ~ 4 minutes ]
Spring Training started a few weeks ago for Major League Baseball.
And while the players had not been competing during the previous few months, they were definitely exercising during the off season.
But perhaps you don’t play baseball.
Instead, maybe warmer weather tempts you to spend a weekend in your yard or garden-- mowing, weeding, digging, and planting.
Or maybe enjoyable weather entices you to go for a long run or spend hours at the driving range.
Regardless of the activity you enjoy, this season can result in aches and pains if you've taken the past few months off. If you haven’t used certain areas of your body with similar intensity, frequency, and movements, those areas become weaker, less resilient, and prone to injury.
Instead of dealing with a spring season of discomfort, try two strategies to return to your desired activities without aggravation.
The first strategy for successful spring training is to accelerate safely.
If you’re driving on a side road and you want to get somewhere quickly, you will need to be on a highway. The on-ramp is the place you can safely increase your speed until you’re traveling at your desired rate.
Think of your spring training as the on-ramp to resume your desired activities.
The physical requirements of your specific spring training are likely different than what you were doing in your off season.
For example, yard work involves different tasks compared to those completed on a typical day indoors, or even compared to most exercises completed at the gym. And running on a trail or in a hilly neighborhood involves more stress and strain on your body compared to jogging on a treadmill during inclement weather.
If you haven’t been exercising in either way for the past few months, your body may not be strong enough to complete these tasks for an extended period. Your muscles, tendons, and cartilage may have weakened from not being conditioned over the previous months.
If you're a gardener-- especially if you’ve already noticed any mild pain in your back or hip or knee-- begin by starting with a very short duration of yard work (well under half of what you estimate will be safe for you). Then, observe how your body feels over the next day or two. If that didn’t cause you pain or problems, then do so again for a slightly longer duration. Gradually progress to the duration required to efficiently complete your yard work.
If you're a runner, decrease your running duration by half when you transition from a treadmill to an outdoor surface that is uneven or includes elevation changes. And observe how your body feels over the next day or two. If you don’t experience an increase in aches or pains, then run outside again at a slightly longer duration.
The second strategy for a successful spring training season is to superset your activities.
Supersetting exercises is a common technique of alternating exercises, rather than performing one exercise all at once. Someone may choose to superset squats and push ups by completing 10 squats followed by 10 push ups and repeating this order five times. This allows one part of the body to rest and recover without taking a complete rest break.
Allow your body to recover in a similar way when you’re running or gardening. If you haven’t run hills recently, alternate running up a hill with holding a forearm plank position for 30 - 60 seconds.
And if you haven’t been in your garden for several weeks, plan to alternate tasks. For example, squat down and pick up twigs or debris 10 times before completing another task-- like standing to trim a few tree branches-- prior to squatting to pull weeds. (Click here to learn how to determine if squatting is safe for you.)
Supersetting your exercise or activities requires more planning, but it allows your muscles, tendons, and cartilage to rest and recover, reduces fatigue, and prevents pain.
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