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How to Avoid Exercise Injury

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Updated April 20, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Avoid Weekend Warrior Syndrome
For some people, the weekend is the only time they have to (or want to) exercise and, once warm weather hits, spending all day at an amusement park, hiking up mountains or going on long bike rides can cause unexpected overload injuries. Sprained ankles, shin splints, tennis elbow and foot pain are just a few injuries that can happen when you go from the couch to the golf course or mountain without any preparation.

To avoid weekend warrior injuries:

  • Start Slowly: Instead of going straight for that 14,000 foot mountain or 18-hole golf course, start with short, easy hikes or a few days at the driving range to get a sense of where you are and what your body can handle.
  • Prepare Ahead of Time: A little light training and preparation can give your body a strong foundation and help you avoid hurting yourself:
  • Add Intensity Gradually: If you're not much of an exerciser but want to work towards a coming event, say hiking up a mountain or a 5K race, start with what you can handle and only increase the intensity (whether it's mileage or time) by about 10% each week to avoid injury.
  • Take Lots of Breaks: If you do decide to head out for that 3-hour tennis match, take plenty of breaks to recover and stay hydrated. Fatigue and dehydration can sneak up on you, putting you at risk for hurting yourself.

Sources:

Kerr Z, Collins C, Comstock D. Epidemiology of Weight Training-Related Injuries Presenting to United States Emergency Departments, 1990 to 2007. Am J Sports Med April 2010;38(4) 765-771.

Maes J, Kravitz L. Treating and Preventing DOMS. IDEA Personal Trainer. July 2003;2004(7).

Safran M, Garrett W, Seaber A, et al. The role of warmup in muscular injury prevention. Am J Sports Med. March 1988;16(2) 123-129.

Sklar, R. Protecting Weekend Warriors. Rehab Management, 2006. Accessed April 20, 2010.

Szymanski, D.J. Recommendations for the avoidance of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 2001;23 (4), 7-13.

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