Anyone who skis, snowboards, ice skates or plays ice hockey, knows that winter sports can be brutal on your body. The cold, wet conditions and frequent falling often result in aches and pains, if not serious injuries. Here is some advice for taking care of your body during the winter months.
1. Warm Up, Break a Sweat! A proper warm-up is a must regardless of the season, but is extra essential when it is cold outside. Cold makes the muscles and joints stiffer, which makes warming up more difficult, and injuries more likely. Gradually build up to vigorous activity, allowing your body to heat up and blood to flow first. A light sweat indicates that your body is warmed to the point where it can safely handle higher demands. It could take 5 to 10 minutes, or it could take longer, depending on your weight, size, and conditioning level. Just remember to warm up until you sweat.
2. Train Ahead – Significant injuries occur when your muscles fatigue. If you’re out of shape and don’t have a strong abdominal core, you might rely too much on your legs, tire your muscles out, and end up injured after a couple days in the snow. If you’re serious about hitting the slopes, prepare ahead of time with strength and endurance training. Pilates and Yoga are great for core strengthening. You might also invest in the popular exercise balls. Start training as early as possible for maximum endurance during your vacation.
3. Listen to your body. Spinal injuries occur when there’s an overload of spinal tissues; muscles, disks or joints, resulting in an associated spasm. Prevent a back injury by resting when you’re fatigued, and letting your muscles recover. If you’re sore from the previous day, it means your muscles are still healing. During this time, alter your activity, or lighten/avoid exercising. Make sure not to push too hard when your body is telling you to rest—that’s when most injuries occur.
4. Rest and Relax –To care for injured muscles, take anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce the pain, and try icing to directly reduce inflammation and soreness. Muscle relaxants can be helpful for acute muscle spasms of the neck and back. If you suspect you’ll end up tired and sore during your vacation, think ahead and pack hot and cold therapy, a Tempur-Pedic pillow for better rest or a hand held massager for comfort and stress relief.
5. Take your workout to go. If your winter sport of choice is sitting curled up in a cabin, watching TV, you don’t have to miss your workout routine (sigh of relief, right?). Stay fit while traveling with portable fitness gear, such as Michael Sena’s Traveling Training, or a soft weighted ball . These tools are also useful if you plan on lounging for a few days or a week before starting your sport, and want to make sure your endurance and strength are up to par.
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This holiday season, you can avoid back pain and prevent injury by taking some proactive steps for preserving your health. Here are some of our top tips for keeping your back healthy this holiday season.