It’s been a long winter, and spring is finally in the air! For many, that means tackling projects at home, clearing out the garden, or getting back to outdoor adventures like running, hiking or biking. I lovingly call it being a weekend warrior – squeezing every last bit of sunshine, energy and outdoor time out of the weekend before Monday morning starts the work week again.
The downside to being a weekend warrior? Going from zero to yard work hero without the proper prep and strategy can lead to injuries – from strains and sprains to serious pain. So before you put yourself at risk, take a look at 4 Tips for Warming Up for Spring:
Watch the Temperature and Your Timing
Spring brings us some wildly variable weather conditions! Things can change from a brisk morning, to a hot afternoon, back to a chilly evening in no time! Plan your outdoor activities accordingly. Morning and evening will offer sun protection and less extreme heat, which is ideal for spending long hours out in the yard or enjoying outdoor active time. If you are out during the midday hours, be sure to dress accordingly, plan out your meals, and drink plenty of water!
Protect your skin with a natural sunscreen and/or hat and sleeves. The spring sunshine can be deceiving. It may not be as hot as the summer months, but it will be much easier to get burned, especially for fair-skinned folks, coming out of the sunless winter months. Going from no sun for months to spending hours out with unprotected skin can lead to some painful burns the next day.
Make sure you plan out your activity and include breaks for food and water (more detail on this in Tip #4). It can be easy to get dehydrated if you start your day in the cool morning and don’t adjust your water intake accordingly as the day gets warmer.
Dress in layers. Yes, you want to protect your skin from the sun, but the cool mornings and evenings may require heavier layers than midday activities. Wearing easy layers for adding/removing will help prevent overheating during the warmer parts of the day.
Mind Your Position
Tedious or repetitive activities, like weeding the garden or biking on a long trail, may require you to be in an awkward position for long stretches of time. Be mindful of your posture during these activities and know that there is a right way and a wrong way to position yourself. Try to keep your head back and not bent too far forward. Alternate between squatting and kneeling when you can to engage different muscles and relax others.
When changing position isn’t an option, make sure that you are taking periodic breaks so that you don’t become stiff or tight. Take a movement toad motion back into your legs if you are sitting or kneeling. Stretch your arms out when you are raking or shoveling. Another option is to change activities all together if there are different parts of a project that you can work on simultaneously.
Before you attempt to move a large rock or pull a big weed out of the ground, test the force that you’ll need to be successful. Over or underestimating the weight or strength of something that you’re trying to more is another way that you can seriously injure yourself. Misjudging the strength and position you’ll need can leave you off balance and ill-prepared. Take the moment to test and save yourself possible injury.
Stretch for Success
You are about the work muscles that may have been dormant for the winter. Stretching before and after your planned activities is the best way to make sure those muscles are ready to work today and tomorrow.
Two specific areas that I suggest addressing are the shoulders and the hips/low back.
A great shoulder stretch is to bring your arm across your body just under your chin. Use your opposite hand to supply a small amount of tension by placing your arm above your elbow and pulling your arm into your body. Repeat that on your opposite arm to get a well-rounded stretch.
You can also do a door jamb stretch to hit both your shoulder and chest muscles. Start by finding a sturdy door jamb. Place your hand and forearm on the frame of the door with your elbow making a right angle to your shoulder. Lean into the doorway lightly until you feel the stretch. Switch sides and repeat.
To focus on your hips and low back, you have a wide range of options. My favorites are the simple lunge, quad stretch and calf stretch.
The lunge is not an exercise here, but a simple stretch. Get into lung positon with one leg in front of you and the other behind. Bend your forward knee slightly so that you are lunging, making sure your knee does not stretch past your toes. You can add to this by twisting your body slightly, moving the side of your body with the leg back forward to feel the stretch through your hip. Swap leg positions and get both sides fully stretched.
The quad stretch and calf stretch are relatively standard. To stretch your quad, reach behind you and take one of your feet in your hands, bending your knee and stretching out your quad. Hold for several seconds and switch to the other side. Make sure you have something to hold onto if you don’t trust your balance. To stretch your calf, find a sturdy wall and place your toes on it so that your heel is resting on the floor and your foot is making a V shape compared to the wall. Now simply lean towards the wall to feel the stretch. Repeat on the other side and you’re all set.
Replenish What You Lose
When you are working hard –whether at work or at play – your body is losing fuel. If you replenish it regularly with the right foods and fluids, you’ll stay hydrated and ready to go. If you neglect to break to fill your tank, you run the risk of dehydration and bingeing when you do stop for food. Running on an empty tank has no benefits!
My number one rule for outdoor adventures is to stay hydrated. Keep a water bottle with you throughout your day. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy water break; just take a moment to have a swig. If you’re working up a sweat (and that’s good!) be sure to drink extra water to replenish what you’re losing through your pores. Skip the sugary sports drinks and opt for regular old water. If you need some flavor, add some citrus like lemon, lime or orange. Watermelon is also a great addition to water and a great snack (because it is 90% water).
My ideal outdoor snack is a handful of hearty trail mix full of nuts, dried fruit, and maybe even a little dark chocolate. An apple or banana is also a great grab-and-go snack. Remember to plan a well-rounded meal for yourself prior to starting your adventure. Preparation will keep you from unnecessary snacking or being overly hungry when you sit down to eat.
With the weekend right around the corner, keep these tips in mind to keep yourself warrior-ready! And of course, keeping up with your chiropractic adjustments will ensure you are in the best shape to keep healthy and active all spring and summer long!