By Dr. Scott Colasanti
Even though it doesn’t really feel like it yet in Windsor and Essex County, spring is finally here. As the days get longer and the weather warms up, we are all anxious to get out there and clean our yards and get things ready for the warm months ahead. After being ‘cooped up’ all winter we are more than ready to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
For many of us, we are more sedentary in the winter months, and in the excitement to ‘get out there’ when the weather breaks, we end up injuring ourselves. I tell my patients to treat yard work just like you would any other exercise. For example, after 5 months of basically no exercise, it wouldn’t be smart to suddenly do a 10 km run. Our bodies are simply not ready for it.
Here are a few tips to help enjoy the spring weather by preventing injuries.
- Warm up – As with exercise, we should condition our bodies to be prepared for the workload that we impose on them. In terms of spring yard work, do a warm up before you get out there and dig in. This is especially important if it’s still chilly outside. The muscles need that much more warming up. The warm up doesn’t have to be too complicated; a brisk walk for 5 to 10 minutes, or some sort of callisthenic exercise like jumping–jacks or jogging on the spot are more than sufficient.
- Stretch – With stretching you should concentrate on the main muscles that you will use with the activity. Most often this means the legs, back and shoulders. When you stretch, bring your muscles to a comfortable position and hold for about the count of 10. Make sure that you breathe through the stretch. On the next repetition, go a little farther into the stretch. Two or three repetitions is usually enough.
- Pace yourself – Once you get out and start to work, remember to pace yourself. Take frequent breaks, especially the first time out. It may feel like you can do a lot more, but often the repercussions of doing too much won’t be felt until the next day or even the day after.
- Drink water – As we work, we generally sweat and require more hydration. If you become thirsty, then you are already starting to become dehydrated, so it is best to avoid this.
- Wear protective clothing – The proper clothing can protect you from the sun and also help prevent injury. For example, wear good working shoes for traction, wear knee pads if you will be doing a lot of kneeling.
- Work smarter – Practice good body biomechanics when lifting and when performing repetitive motions. For example, center yourself to what you are lifting and avoid twisting while lifting and try not to overextend yourself. Bend your knees and engage your core muscles.
The nice weather will fly by before we know it so ‘spring into it!’ (But gently at first!)