If you are ready to break out of your winter slumber and get active, Christopher Kim, MD, a SLUCare orthopedic surgeon at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, has helpful advice for achieving your goals and preventing injuries.
Step 1: Don’t jump into your end goal. There is a fine line between challenging yourself and overdoing it. Everybody is different. Listen to your body and modify as needed. If your goal is to run five miles, start by running one mile per day. If that was easy, increase your distance the next day.
Step 2: Warm up to prevent injuries. Did you know that professional athletes warm up for at least 30 minutes, and often longer, before games? Warm ups can include stretching, drills and light aerobic activity -- anything to get your heart rate up and body warm and ready to perform.
Step 3: Incorporate weight training into your exercise plan. Strengthening the proper muscle groups is very important in terms of preventing injury. For example, many people do not realize that having weak hips and core muscles can contribute to anterior knee pain, which is very common in active people. Depending on the sport, weight training can also help you with your mechanics (how you move).
Weight training is only effective, though, if you use proper form and technique. Work with a personal trainer to ensure you’re doing the exercises properly and reaching the intended muscle groups. Trainers can also push you just enough to take your performance to the next level without risking injury.
Step 4: Step up your stretching: Tight muscles are more prone to injury. Stretching keeps muscles long, lean and flexible. Like weight training, it’s important to get your form right. Generally speaking, you do not want to stretch so hard that you are in pain. You should also avoid lunging or bouncing motions while stretching. The best thing to do is hold the stretch for a long period of time so you give your muscles and tendons time to respond. You will find that your joints and muscles move better and your performance improves with regular stretching.
Step 5: Plan rest days: Rest days are especially important when you’re starting a new regimen. Your body may need a few days to recover after a hard workout or run. While recovering, make sure to stay well hydrated. If you are worried about losing momentum, try cross training and focusing on different muscle groups.
Step 6: Eat like a champ. Food is your body’s fuel. If you want to perform at the top of your game, you will need to get plenty of nutrients (especially protein and electrolytes) and stay well hydrated. A proper diet can boost your energy, performance, and ability to recover from a workout. Proper nutrition is also crucial when recovering from an injury. Be careful if you are trying to diet while training, too. A common example of this is an athlete who diets while training for a marathon. Without proper calorie intake, they are at risk of injuries such as stress fractures.
Step 7: Don’t play through the pain. Forget the “no pain, no gain” mentality. It may be good to push yourself, but playing through pain can lead to serious injuries. For regular pain, take anti-inflammatories, like ibuprofen. Depending on where the pain is, light stretching, ice, compression and elevating also can help. If the pain is extreme or persists for longer than normal, talk with your doctor. Even minor sprains can take two or more weeks to heal. It’s important to give your body the time to recover before returning to your sport. Physical therapy or working with a trainer can help you learn methods of preventing injuries.
The SLUCare Sports Medicine team is comprised of fellowship-trained sports medicine orthopedic surgeons, primary care physicians, and a sports medicine-trained physician assistant. They treat both traumatic athletic injuries and chronic problems caused by overuse in adults and children. They offer a range of services including state-of-the-art diagnostic imaging, minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery and comprehensive rehabilitation services. They are also the team physicians for the Saint Louis University Billikens.
The SLUCare Sports Medicine team sees patients at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital, Saint Louis University Hospital, Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital-Lake St. Louis. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 314-977-4440 or visit slu.edu/sportsmedicine.