Spending time outdoors on the weekends is a great way to improve your overall health. But if you’re jumping into a high intensity physical activity after a week of relative relaxation, you could be putting yourself at-risk for injury. Whether you’re going for a long hike, bike ride, or game of pickup basketball, it’s important to make sure your body is ready for a burst of activity by stretching before and afterwards.
Low back pain, Achilles tendonitis, and hamstring strains are common conditions affecting weekend warriors and other active individuals. But the good news is that stretching before and after your preferred activity can greatly reduce the likelihood of injury and help the body recover.
Stretches and easy exercises to do before your weekend warrior activity
Dynamic stretching is a great way to warm your body up before any intense physical activity. If you commit 15 – 20 minutes to stretching beforehand, you can properly warm up your muscles and tendons which helps prevent strains.
A pre-workout stretch also activates your spine and core, which aid in stabilizing the rest of your body. Let’s look at some dynamic stretches for a proper warm up routine.
Cat Cow Stretch
If you spend hours on a computer or a cell phone each day, your back can benefit from this stretch that takes your spine through its full range of motion. Go through it for a few rounds to help strengthen the spine and increase mobility.
Sitting all week in an office chair weakens the hip flexors and glutes. Hip flexors and glutes help stabilize the pelvis and lower back, which can become subject to injury if not given proper attention. The bridge is a great way to strengthen these groups. Hold for about five seconds and repeat three times.
The forearm plank pose targets and helps strengthen all core muscles but hits the transverse abdominis well. These muscles are often overlooked in other core-strengthening exercise, but they shouldn’t be. By building muscle in the transverse abdominis, you help stabilize the low back and promote proper alignment. Start with three repetitions of 10 seconds and build up to one 60-second hold. Don’t let your hips or lower back sag.
These are three great exercises to help warm your body up before you hit the trail or the field. After your activity is over, it’s time for some post-workout stretches to help your body recover.
Post-workout static stretches
Too many weekend warriors skip a proper cool-down, but performing a few static stretches while your heart rate returns to normal is a great way to maintain overall health while avoiding injury. Spend at least 10 minutes cooling down with the following stretches to help prevent injury. Each stretch should be held for about 30 seconds and repeated 3 times to ensure each muscle group has time to release and elongate.
Standing Forward Bend Stretch
The hamstrings are a notorious group for injury and can be difficult to properly stretch after a workout. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and bend as far forward as you can, bending slightly in your knees. Remember to breathe as you hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds.
Reclining Half Pigeon Stretch (Piriformis Stretch)
The half pigeon is typically performed by folding over the front leg while keeping both palms or forearms on the ground. But by lying on your back, you can allow the muscles in your back to relax. Try to gently pull the area under your knee towards you as you keep your face and neck relaxed.
These are two great stretches but feel free to incorporate others that hit the primary muscle groups used in your activity.
See how Physical Therapy can Improve Your Performance
If you’re an active weekend warrior but suffer from recurring or nagging muscle, joint, or bone pain, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist. With Agile Virtual PT, you can schedule an appointment with a licensed physical therapist and perform the routines from the comfort of your own home! They’ll walk you through each session and develop a plan specific to your needs. Schedule an appointment today to improve your performance.