Keep limber

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It’s that golfing, hiking, gardening, slo-pitching, biking wonderful time of the year, but as you swing into spring, consider starting off with a few warm up exercises first.

When the urge to play takes over, the first impulse is to jump right in, but most people, who lead inactive lives during the day, may find their game is better if they give their muscles a stretch first. More important, they may reduce the risk of injury.

“The purpose of a warm-up stretch is to increase your heart rate and breathing rate along with your body temperature. You should warm-up enough to sweat a bit and as you do that, as your joints get warmer, they become more lubricated and that decreases the risk of injury,” said fitness centre supervisor Megan Lauer, from Servus Credit Union Place.

The amount of warm-up required should increase with the amount of physical effort required for the spring activity, she said.

“Lighter work in the garden might require a five to 10-minute warm-up to get joint mobility. If you are doing heavy yard work, like bending and lifting and pushing a wheelbarrow, or even something like cleaning out trees and lifting logs, you should warm up for at least 15 minutes,” Lauer said, adding that even light recreation can lead to injury if the muscles aren’t ready.

“If you are doing light recreation, maybe a pick-up soccer game or a game of slo-pitch, that’s when we see a lot of shoulder injuries and a lot of hamstring pulls or pulled groin injuries,” she said.

Cyclists and swimmers have a slight advantage in the warm-up department, Lauer explained, because the nature of their exercise means they usually start off more slowly.

“If you just hop on a bike, you may be sore afterwards for sure, but your weight is assisted. You aren’t carrying your own weight,” she said.

Lauer demonstrated a series of three warm-up exercises that would work for anyone playing golf but would also benefit those playing slo-pitch or working in the garden because they stretch the torso, including the abdominal and shoulder muscles.

“First you should do some shoulder refinement exercises. Open up the shoulder by circling them around. Do some bigger arm circles, maybe 10 for each arm. Do some wrist circles. And don’t forget hydration. Carry a water bottle and drink lots of water,” she said, adding that the completion of all the stretches together should take five to 10 minutes.

Torso twist

1. Using a golf club, begin to warm up the upper body. Place the club across your shoulders, like a yoke, grab onto it and twist. Ten repetitions is the magic number for most exercises, but the trick is to get your body moving until you feel more flexible.

2. Half-moon circles with your feet together help the knees. With the spine straight, and knees slightly flexed sway around in semi circles. The feet don’t move, just the knees. Make a half rounded semi-circle towards the front of your body with your knees, not a full circle, Lauer warned, because full circles are harder on the meniscus.

3. Grasp the exercise band and holding it behind your back, squeeze your shoulders. Don’t shrug your shoulders forward, but instead squeeze them behind you. One arm holds tension on the band at the mid-back, and while you lift your elbow on the other arm, you stretch your triceps. This exercise helps take the pressure off the lower back as you warm up your shoulder blade or scapular.

Lunges

No equipment is required for this exercise but it is one that gets the whole body moving. Take a giant step forward and as you do so, bend the back leg. The further you can get your back leg down, the more you stretch your leg muscles.

Woodchopper

The woodchopper is a great lateral stretch. Squat and put your golf club down by your left foot. Grasp the club so your hands are spaced about the same distance apart as your shoulders. Now stand up and twist your body so that the golf club, and your arms are pointed horizontally behind your right ear. “Keep a tall spine and reach for the sky as you twist your torso. Push all the way through,” Lauer said. Repeat the exercise several times for each side.

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About Author

Susan Jones has been a freelance writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2009, following a 20-year career at the St. Albert Gazette. Susan writes about homes, gardens, community events and people.