Free of Injury

April 13, 2017
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By Men’s Journal

Now that our favorite trails are starting to thaw or the weather is breaking, it’s time to get some exercise in the fresh air. But while we all look forward to “spring training,” many of us will end up with pain or injury by the fall, which may mean missing out on some of your favorite events and races. So as the weather warms up, here are a couple helpful tips for staying healthy (and injury-free) all spring and summer long.

Learn to Self-Release

Before you hit the trails, work out your tight muscles using a lacrosse ball or a foam roller. By releasing the tight muscles in your body, you can achieve efficient posture and regain the ability to use your bigger muscles, like your glutes, lats, quads, and biceps. Releasing before your workout will diminish the compensatory patterns that lead to overuse injuries like tendonitis and allow you to use your body to its fullest potential.

Hip-Flexor Release

  • Lie on your stomach and place a lacrosse ball just below your hipbone.
  • Lean a tolerable amount of weight onto the lacrosse ball.
  • Bend the knee on the side of the release back to a 90-degree angle. Swing your leg side to side in a tolerable range of motion. Repeat in 30-second to two-minute intervals.

Hamstring Release

  • Sit on a surface so that your hips and knees are at 90-degree angles.
  • Be sure to have enough room to be able to kick the foot out and straighten the knee.
  • Place a lacrosse ball behind the knee on one of the hamstring muscles just above the knee.
  • Kick the foot out as to straighten the knee and return to the starting position. Repeat.
  • Move the ball up and down to different parts of the muscle and perform the same motion. Perform the same motion with the ball on the other hamstring muscle as well.

Calf Release

  • Sit with your calf on top of the lacrosse ball. Place your other leg over the one you are releasing and roll yourself up and down over the ball.
  • Once you find a spot that is tender, stop and point your foot up and down for 30 seconds.

Vastus Lateralis Release

  • Lie on the side you wish to release. Place the foam roller under your bottom leg halfway between your hip and knee.
  • Slide your leg up and down along the foam roller, moving it from the top of the knee to the base of the hip. Try to work over the more tender areas.
  • Repeat in 30 second intervals for two minutes.
  • To focus on a specific area of the IT band, locate the most tender area with the foam roller and stop. Bend your knee at a 90-degree angle, and then straighten. Repeat motion of bending and straightening knee for 10 to 15 seconds. You may repeat this with other areas along the vastus lateralis.

Equipment Maintenance Is Key

How old are your running shoes? Because if you’ve had them for six months, or 500 miles, it’s time for a new pair. An old, beat-up pair of sneakers could have poor, worn-down tread, or worn out support systems. A fresh pair of shoes ensures being able to absorb the ground reaction force as your heal strikes down, keeping some of the compression out of your joints and muscles.

Treat Injury Early

If you start to feel some aches and pains, follow up with a physical therapist. Many clinics offer free injury screens. This is an opportunity for a therapist to assess whether your problem needs medical intervention or can be treated with a home exercise program. The sooner you address the issue, the faster you can get back to your favorite outdoor activities.