The Weekend Warrior Athlete
When talking about the vast majority of athletes, we’re looking at a lot of weekend warriors. These are individuals who are kept inactive during the week due to work and make it up tenfold on the weekends. All too often this leads to Monday mornings full of aches and pains. A large amount of research and time has been put into the care of elite athletes, but the everyday athlete gets left behind. Luckily, a lot of what is done for professionals translates directly to recreational athletes. A key step that is often missed is a proper warm up. A typical warm up at a hockey game is a few laps and some shots on net, while at golf were lucky to get a couple shots in at the range before that first drive. When we go into an activity cold, our muscles are much more prone to minor tears or even full blown strains. A simple way to avoid these issues is an active warm up. With sports like hockey, soccer or softball a great active warm up can be as simple as a 20 meter jog, there and back, followed by 20 meters of high-knees and butt-kicks. This helps to wake up and warm up our quads, hamstrings and glutes. To warm up the hips, flex a hip up and hold it, then rotate your knee out to the side, bring it back to center and step forward. Alternate legs for the full 20 meters. For golf, instead of going straight to the range, instantly pulling out the driver and testing your long ball, try a similar warm up as described above followed by grabbing a short iron. Hold the ends of the club with both hands, straighten your arms into the air and perform some gentle waist rotations, then bend your waist to 90 degrees, let your arms fall in front of you and perform more core rotations in this position. Not only will this warm up the muscles in the low back and shoulders, it can help improve your game. The more rotation we can get in our core, the more power we have the potential to generate. After this try some gentle swings with the short iron without a ball, concentrating on a smooth pendulum motion. Then add in a ball and concentrate more on form then distance. At this point you can increase up to the longer irons and the driver.
A key component that is often missed more than the warm up is a proper cool down. Often we feel great after an activity and then pay for it the next morning. If we skip a cool down the muscles have a tendency to tighten up leading to pains in our low back, legs and between our shoulders. A key stretch to help ward off back pain is a hip-flexor stretch. Perform this by kneeling on one knee with the other leg in front of, almost a lunge position with the back knee resting on the ground. Keeping the upper body in an upright posture, push the back hip forward. You should feel this on the back hip, deep on the front/inside of the muscle. To increase the stretch, raise your arms above your head, and do a combination of leaning away from, and rotating away from the lower hip. This helps decrease tension in the hip flexors that attach to the front of the lower spine and can cause low back pain when tight. A great stretch for the gluts is to lay flat on your back, cross one leg over the other in a figure-4 position, grab the straight leg and pull it to you. You should feel the stretch in the buttocks area of the bent leg. Once again this can aid in preventing low back pain. To help release tension that can build up between the shoulders blades, one of the best stretches is a simple pec stretch. Most of the sports we play involve us leaning forward, shoulders rolled forward and in, putting a lot of strain on the upper back muscles. This also mimics most of what we do in everyday life, sitting at a computer, driving or lifting basically anything. By stretching the pec you can help the shoulders fall back and together, decreasing tension on the mid back. A good stretch is to bring your arm up to 90 degrees and elbow to 90 degrees (making a half “touchdown” sign). From here place your elbow on a doorframe/wall corner/ bookshelf/etc, and lean your chest forward. You should feel this in the pec muscle and can also bring your arm higher to stretch the different fiber directions in the muscles. It’s important not to do this with a straight elbow and push with your hand, as this will place too much stress on the elbow and can lead to further problems. With some short warm ups and cool downs you can make your Monday mornings a little easier, which is something everyone can use.
By Lanny Jamieson D.C. M.Sc
Special thanks to Elissa Slemko of Food.Fitness.Function/Barre Body Studio Edmonton for pictures.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Hip Flexor Stretch