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Be a summer warrior and stay injury-free

Posted on Jun 19, 2014 ( comments)

We know that warm summer weather can inspire even the most reluctant exerciser to get active outside and set new fitness goals.

To get you ready to sign up for that half marathon, invest in a brand new racing bike, or set out for the peak of Mount Rainier, we asked Fred Thompson, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with MultiCare Orthopedics & Sports Medicine – Mountain, for his advice on how to safely ramp up your summertime workouts.

A better workout?

Aside from helping you enjoy the fresh air, an outdoor workout may be better for you. According to Dr. Thompson, some studies have shown that running outdoors burns more calories and provides a better aerobic workout than running on a treadmill.

"People run differently on a treadmill," Dr. Thompson said. "Their gait is somewhat unnatural."

But exercising outdoors can pose some risks that an indoor workout doesn't.

"If you're running or cycling on public roads, extra precautions need to be taken in order to protect yourself from distracted drivers," he said. "Staying on low traffic streets [or] designated running trails and wearing bright colored clothing are excellent ways of trying to keep yourself as safe as possible."

Too much, too soon

If you're trying to take your exercise schedule from 0 to 60 in a couple of weeks, you're setting yourself up for disappointment—and for injury. Dr. Thompson said many summer warrior injuries occur because people try to do too much, too soon.

"I think the most common problem is when people take on too much activity in a very rapid manner. That is a setup for their inactive bodies to start hurting! People tend to overtrain. They’re not pacing themselves," he said.

A better approach when you're starting a new fitness routine, or intensifying your level of exercise, is to increase your activity slowly. This is good for both your body and your mind. Setting realistic, achievable goals helps you stick with exercise in the long run and avoid the frustration and burnout that can come with unrealistic expectations.

Don't be single-minded

Another common cause of injury, said Dr. Thompson, is a lack of cross-training. 

"People need to proceed with a balanced training program," he said. 

Balance means incorporating the three areas of fitness — cardio, strength and core training. So don't just run or hike or ride your bike. Vary your exercise, incorporate moves that improve balance and flexibility, and make sure you hit those three areas of fitness regularly.

Listen to your body

No matter what you heard, pain does not always add up to gain. A little soreness a day or two after a workout is normal — what's called delayed onset of muscle soreness.

But it could be something more. Ignoring those pains, or not modifying your workout when you feel pain, could lead to more serious problems down the road.

"Pain beyond 48 hours could be an injury. That's the time to seek advice from a professional," Dr. Thompson said.

About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is our senior content editor. She writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. You can reach her at maura.hallam@multicare.org.

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