Now that summer is officially here, the urge to get outside has increased tenfold! For many of us, our activity levels skyrocket because it feels so dang good to be outdoors, warm sun on our skin, after a long cold winter. There are so many different types of summer activities to partake in; from gardening to waterskiing, how could one get bored on a long summers day when the sun doesn’t set until 9p.m. However, a sudden spike in activity can lead to overuse injuries and are common in shoulders, knees, hips and ankles. These joints see a lot more use in the summer months, and we tend to push through more pain and discomfort than normal because the summer season is so short.
Tips for preventing overuse injuries:
- Take It Easy. If you weren’t very physically active during the cold months, don’t expect to come back full force. Doing too much too soon can lead to serious injury. Ease your way back into your beloved summer activities, make sure to take breaks throughout the day and rest days in between. As you become more conditioned, you can then increase your participation.
- Warm Up Properly. Cold muscles can lead to unnecessary injuries. So, before you hit the baseball diamond, the pickleball court, or paddle around the lake, take the time to warm-up. A few light dynamic stretches like squats, lunges, or twists will get you primed for movement. Starting with a good warm-up is a great way to begin any activity, even something as simple as gardening, as it eases your body into activity.
- Be Aware of your Body mechanics/Form. Do your best to position yourself appropriately while performing your summer activities, whether that be more intensive activity like road cycling or more simple activities such as gardening. Proper technique or posture decreases your risk of developing aches and pains. It also allows you to move efficiently and increase your performance.
- Activity Planing Re: Time of Day. Your body can generate 15–20 times the amount of heat it normally would when it is engaging in hard physical activity. Exercising during the hottest part of the day is not recommended. The UV and the temperature are at their highest, which means you’re more likely to lose fluids faster, tire quicker and get burnt easier. Ideally, activities should be planned earlier in the morning (5-8a.m.) or in the evening (6-8p.m.), when the sun is low in the sky and the temperatures lower.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated is more important than ever on those hot summer days. We lose a greater volume of water through sweat during summer exercise, and dehydrated muscles do not work as efficiently as hydrated ones. Staying hydrated helps the heart pump blood more easily to working muscles and also improves muscle efficiency. Hydration will keep your energy levels steady and immune system strong—staving off the fatigue that leads to missteps and injury. Stay hydrated before, during, and after exercise to help prevent dehydration and help you perform at your best this summer.
- Stretch. Whether you’re gardening, running, golfing, hiking, or biking this summer, the right stretching program may set you on a path toward better performance and injury prevention. Stretching aids in reducing muscle soreness and the buildup of lactic acids and helps reduce the severity of your achy muscles in the following days to come. All you have to do is slowly take your muscles to a point where you feel slight resistance, but NOT pain, and hold it there for 30s-1min. This allows for lengthening and improved flexibility in the muscles used.
- Prioritize Rest. With longer days, a short season, and fun outdoor activities, proper rest may get lower on your priority list. Simply put, during sleep, the body heals. In the summer months, you might engage in more (strenuous) outdoor activities with longer days. Unfortunately, sleep isn’t something you can catch up on later, so make sure you’re getting enough Z’s.
Summer is a great time for outdoor activities. Remember to take it slow, listen to your body, and take the proper precautions to stay safe. If an injury does occur, it is recommended that you see either a physical therapist or other health care practitioner to get fast relief and address the underlying issues causing pain. Don’t let a sports or exercise injury keep you on the sidelines this summer.
Stephanie Bourbeau is a bilingual, Registered Physiotherapist with the College of Physiotherapist of Ontario and the Canadian Physiotherapy Association who is committed to providing a hands-on, personalized approach to physiotherapy.
Stephanie, a native to the Huntsville community, developed a passion for health and wellness during her youth while competing in cross-country running, nordic skiing, and track and field. Stephanie has always had a strong caring nature and fell in love with the physiotherapy profession while volunteering at a physiotherapy clinic during high school and university.
Stephanie continued to build on her passion for health care by attending McGill University and completing her Bachelors of Science in Kinesiology. During her Masters in Health Science of Physiotherapy, completed at the University of Ottawa, she completed internships in orthopaedic clinics, hospitals, home care, and neurology centres.