Has the warmer weather motivated you to resume your outdoor workout routine? Remember to exercise caution when starting or resuming a routine to avoid injuries, says Thomas Komor, a board certified orthopedic physical therapist at Physical Therapy at St. Luke’s in Stroudsburg.
“It is important to consider your level of physical fitness post-winter hibernation and to adjust your routine’s intensity accordingly,” Komor says. “You should build your way back up by starting slowly.” For example, he says, if you enjoy jogging, you might start out by running three times a week and increasing the distance by 10 percent each week until you have achieved your fitness goals. “It may take a few weeks to get there,” he says, “be patient.”
Komor also recommends making sure that you have the proper shoes for your workout. The ideal shoe will fit well, which may require consulting a shoe representative, he says. Folks at local running shops can perform a running analysis to help you find the proper shoe for your running type, he says. Komor also advises changing your shoes regularly. “After three to four months of use, they can become worn and lose their structure, so they won’t be as supportive as they were,” he says.
Another way to avoid injury is to warm-up properly, Komor says. Research shows that the best warmup for aerobic activities include stretches that are dynamic rather than static, he says. Dynamic stretches are motions similar to those you will do in your activity. For example, before your run, you might want to walk at a brisk pace or do leg lifts and lunges. Komor recommends devoting the first five to 10 minutes of your workout to dynamic activity and, when you return, devoting five to 10 minutes to cooling down. Static stretches, reaching and holding for a period of time, are best for cool down, Komor says.
How to treat a sprain, strain
If you do suffer a minor sprain or strain, Komor advises the following:
Apply ice, not heat, to the area. “I know people like to use heat as it is relaxing, but cold is best,” Komor says. Swelling is part of the healing process and cold temperatures help reduce it. Apply ice for about 15 minutes at a time.
Elevate your limb above your heart. Elevation, too, will reduce swelling.
Rest. Give your body time to heal. During a sprain/strain ligaments and tendons are over-stretched, and resting will allow these structures to tighten up, Komor says. However, he says, “you don’t want to be totally non-active either. Your body’s swelling system requires muscle movement to pump the swelling out.”
The inflammation should go down in three to five days, Komor says. However, he recommends seeking immediate medical attention from a qualified practitioner such as a physical therapist. “They will ensure that you are able to reduce symptoms and promote a good healing environment,” he says. “This professional also can recommend further diagnostic tests if necessary.”
If you are unable to place any weight on your foot or unable to walk following the injury, it is important that you go to an emergency room or urgent care center promptly to rule out the possibility of a fracture of the foot or ankle, Komor says.