Between the warm weather and sunshine, Spring gets a lot of people out of winter hibernation mode back onto the path to fitness. March and April is when many runners get back on track, cyclists tune up their bikes and start riding again, and athletes get back into training for their sport of choice. It’s also a time when chiropractor Dr. Stephanie Louie sees an increase in patients with lower back pain or other ailments after overdoing it on their first few runs, rides or practices of the season.
“I tell patients that the body changes like the seasons, so make slow, consistent changes as you gear up to where you were before,” Dr. Louie says. “If you haven’t been to the gym for a long time or played a sport since last season, don’t expect to immediately be able to do things as well as you did previously.”
The trick to getting back into shape without suffering injuries is to start slow and be patient. Give yourself time to warm up your muscles and joints before each workout.
From a neurological perspective, the brain forms pathways when we practice certain skills, like throwing a fast pitch, for example. This is done slowly and through consistent practice, but once you stop exercising that skill, your abilities can drop-off considerably.
“Respect your body,” says Dr. Louie. “You need to perform upkeep for it to be at its optimal level.”
Poor posture is a common problem when people start up a new activity or return to old ones. Pushing one’s head too far forward, for example, can strain muscles, stretch the spinal cord, and injure joints and ligaments. Additionally, working out with your neck turned, looking over your shoulder, when looking at yourself in the mirror to the side may cause a neck or upper back injury.
“It is important to do all exercises in a neutral position, with your body in complete alignment,” says Dr. Louie at her Chiropractic clinic Mind Body Spine.
In order to ensure you are perfectly aligned while exercising, Dr. Louie suggests either working out with a partner or asking a staff member at the gym to look at your posture while exercising. She also suggests working out with a mirror directly in front of you.
Two other key tips for an enjoyable workout is to warm up before exercising and cool down afterward. A good warm up gets everything limber and gets the blood flowing. When practicing a high-impact activity like running, it is especially important to cool down through lightly jogging or brisk walking after a run because lactic acid is a by-product of exertion. To maintain a healthy body, ensure you clear lactic acid out of the muscles before doing an intense activity again.
Dr. Louie warns against only focusing on aerobic or cardio activities, as they can cause muscle wasting. She strongly recommends working out with weights, which helps to strengthen bones.
DISCLAIMER: The suggestions and advice provided by Dr. Louie should not be relied upon in place of a chiropractor professional assessment.