I know, I know. Although it is now officially “spring,” it doesn’t feel like it in West Michigan. But spring sports are getting ramped up, regardless. Fields are literally being plowed for soccer tryouts. I’ve seen kids out jogging in slushy streets to get ready for track season. I have already seen some high school kids with injuries that were caused during their first few days of practice. The risk of this happening increases if they didn’t play a winter sport. Here are some tips to help prevent some of these problems from showing up in the first place.
This is crucial, especially when it is literally freezing outside. Start with wearing the right gear. Moisture wicking under garments will help to “wick” away the moisture from your sweat, which is very important. The sweat will freeze in frigid climates, which (if allowed to stick close to your body) will keep you from staying warm. Wear plenty of layers because you can always peel off a layer if you get hot, but if you don’t wear enough, you’re asking for trouble.
Once you have that covered, make sure you warm your muscles up properly before your practice / tryout. Spend 10 minutes jogging, jumping rope, or doing light calisthenics to get blood flowing to the muscles and soft tissues. Do some light ballistic stretching (stretching while moving…arms circles, leg swings, toe touches, etc.). Do NOT stretch cold muscles. Always do your warm up before or you can cause a serious injury to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
In between activity, bounce around to stay warm. Think of a fighter once he gets in the ring. Keep moving or your body will cool down, pushing the blood from your muscles to your core, which can set you up for an injury.
After a vigorous practice or workout, you need to gradually bring down your heart rate, body temp, and breathing rate. Take two or three minutes and do some ballistic stretching (much like your warm up) to help get the lactic acid out of the muscles. Then take five minutes to do some static stretching and deep breathing. This helps the muscles and soft tissues recover after the training, which will help prevent muscle stiffness and pain. Hit the major muscle groups (hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, back, calves, chest, shoulders, and neck). Hold each stretch a minimum of 10 seconds. This helps the muscles and soft tissues recover after the training, which will help prevent muscle stiffness and pain.
After a vigorous practice or training session, you need to replenish lost fluids and feed your muscles properly. First of all, drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after training to prevent dehydration. During a workout, your body breaks down muscle glycogen as well as muscle protein structures. Therefore, following exercise, your body needs to replenish its energy stores and repair muscle tissue. You need to consume some protein and carbohydrates after your workout. Try to avoid fat because it slows digestion (and you want this to get to your muscles ASAP). This will make sure you get the most out of your training and also will help prevent muscle soreness. A tall glass of chocolate milk is a great post-training drink (unless you don’t handle dairy very well). If not, you could do a mix of juice and whey protein (which is derived from dairy but does not contain any lactose or casein so it does not aggravate most dairy-sensitive folks). You can find a good whey protein at any health food store or on amazon.com.
Don’t “Tough it Out”
If you are having persistent aches and pains, you likely have a condition that should be evaluated. “Toughing it out” will most likely just make it worse and lead to bigger problems. Lingering neck pain, back pain, headaches, or muscle pain should be checked by a chiropractor to make sure the spine is healthy. You can’t be at your best if you’re hurting.