Play It Safe, Start Slow With Spring Activities

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Spring is less than two weeks away and with it will come warmer weather and the lure of all kinds of activities -- from spring cleaning and yard work, to getting out and about walking or running, hiking and having fun.

With some pre-planning and precautions you can avoid common injuries that might take the spring out of your step.

Whether it is spring cleaning or yard work you are tackling, you need to think about keeping your back healthy.

Approximately eight out of 10 Americans experience back injuries during their lives, most of them resulting from improper lifting. For every back injury that occurs on the job, more than twice as many happen at home or in recreational activities, according to information from the University of California at San Diego.

Try to avoid lifting heavy objects, and don't bend over to lift anything heavy. Instead, bend your legs and use your strong leg muscles to help lift the weight. That takes the stress off your back. You should also avoid twisting motions when lifting heavy weights.

Preventing back injuries is as simple as:

  • Learning and practicing proper lifting techniques
  • Exercising and strengthening back muscles
  • Practicing good posture
  • Eliminating excess body weight

The trainers at Payson Athletic Club, Victor Peyton and Nic Mendoza said a good exercise for reducing the risk to your back is doing some twisting exercises. Put your hands on your hips and slowly twist from side to side at the waist. This will help loosen the back muscles.

Another stretch for the lower back requires a partner, Mendoza said. Lie on your back and have your partner pull on your ankles.

Leg stretches can also be beneficial for cleaning and yard work, as well as for warming up before walking.

"Stretching is very important to prevent injuries," Peyton said.

He and Mendoza recommended the following stretches:

  • To stretch the hamstring, the back of the thighs, do simple toe touches.
  • For the quadriceps, the front of the thighs, do a heel to butt stretch -- bend your leg at the knee and try to touch the lower part of your buttocks with your heel. Hold onto something for balance.
  • To stretch the calf muscles, put your hands against the wall, move your feet back and lean into the wall and then raise yourself on your toes.

"Hold each move for 10 to 20 seconds and do five to six repetitions of each," Mendoza said.

"Add more time and repetitions about every two weeks," Peyton said. He added it is important to listen to your body and gear your activities to your level of flexibility and stamina.

An additional way to get in shape for spring is to start light cardiovascular exercises, Peyton said.

Mendoza invited Rim residents to come in and take a look around Payson Athletic Club to see what's offered.

"We have child care and a great atmosphere," he said.

Rim residents have a variety of options for structured fitness routines. In addition to Payson Athletic Club, there is Club USA and Curves for Women. Gila Community College also has a circuit system available to the public for $15 a month or $40 from now until July 1.

Another way to help ensure the success of your spring activities is to lay a solid foundation with the right equipment.

From the Ground Up

While runners and walkers need very little equipment for their sport, the right shoes make all the difference. That's why seasoned runners recommend buying shoes at a store that specializes in athletic wear, rather than a department or discount store. Footwear experts at specialty stores can determine special features you may need based on your foot type and the conditions where you will be running or walking.

Remember, your feet will be hitting the ground with a lot of force, and that force will expand your foot during the run. Make sure your shoes will fit properly at the end of a run by shopping for shoes late in the day, as there will be a slight increase in foot size from the morning.

Experts agree that running shoes should be replaced every 400 miles or so, even sooner for heavy runners. It's important to use shoes with proper cushioning, so begin to monitor the wear at around the 300-mile mark.

Breathe Easy

Without the proper clothing, a run can turn from an exhilarating workout into a miserable chore. Keeping yourself at the right temperature is a top priority, and this is just not possible with those old cotton T-shirts in the back of the closet. While temperatures are warming up, as the sun sets on spring afternoons, things can cool off rapidly. Working up a sweat can be downright dangerous if your clothing holds the moisture to your body. Wet clothing robs heat from your body 20 times faster than dry clothing, so it's important to layer on the right fabrics for the conditions.

Fortunately, new technical fabrics have made running more comfortable, no matter the weather. Modern polyesters, sold under a variety of brand names, are a far cry from the leisure suits of the 1970s and feel great against the skin. This modern running attire moves moisture away from the body to keep you from feeling cold and clammy, and their lightweight, close-fitting design makes it easier to layer pieces on chilly mornings and afternoons.

With the right tools, each run will be an enjoyable journey from beginning to end.

Tools information Courtesy of ARA Content

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