Keys for a Successful Return to Spring Sports
By Dr. Molly Casey
Time flies. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, it’s springtime again. This means that there’s a whole new slew of sports and activities for many of you. Maybe you’ve taken the winter off from significant physical activity or maybe you’re simply switching gears from one activity to the next; either way, you want your mind and body to be prepared and functioning optimally to withstand the springtime fun.
Hopefully regular chiropractic adjustments are a part of your health and wellness routine because you’re simply and profoundly trying to increase the quality of your life. If you don’t participate in regular chiropractic adjustments or if it’s been awhile since you’ve seen your chiropractor, you should definitely get in and get cared for. The chiropractic adjustment, beyond improving nervous (communication) system functioning, restores joint range of motion. Improved nervous system function and optimal joint range of motion are going to give your muscles and tendons the best possible advantage for tip-top functioning whether it’s running up and down a field, stopping abruptly and pivoting, or withstanding potential injuries or traumas.
Give yourself some time. Instead of knowing that the shift in physical activity is coming and doing nothing until that first practice, get up, get out, and get moving. Make sure that you’re physically active in some way on a consistent basis four weeks prior to the first meeting. Tailor the frequency of any physical activity based on intensity of the practice and game schedule to come. If you’re headed into a once weekly practice and once weekly game, you can lighten the schedule of the intensity of prep period compared to three practices and/or two or three games per week. Keep the prep period and the practice/game schedule balanced.
Warm Up and Ease Out
No matter how many springs sports seasons you’ve been through, folks remain true to patterns. Patients consistently come in and say they’ve overdone it but then jumped right back into the swing of things at full tilt. We live in a society of immediate results and people don’t want to wait for, or ease, into anything. That doesn’t serve you or your body when you bring this way of being into switching sports seasons or activities.
Warm up 15-20 minutes prior to each practice and game. Think of the actual movements of the activity you’re participating in and move the body as a warm-up accordingly. So if it’s soccer, you’re going to pay more attention to a lower body warm-up or activity than you are with softball. It doesn’t mean you ignore the upper body, but the warm-ups would simply be concentrated more heavily on the lower body. Whereas with softball, you may spend a few more minutes concentrating on upper body motions, arm circles, and simulated throwing. Basics such as jumping jacks, walking at brisk pace, light jogging, and air squats are helpful in any pre-activity warm-up.
Cool Down and Stretch
You’re not done as soon as the practice or game is done. Remember that. Your body has been ramped up for a period of time and you’ve been asking it to perform at a higher level than normal. Don’t simply stop abruptly. Spend five to eight minutes cooling down. You can even simply repeat your warm-up exercises. Spend a minimum of 10 minutes stretching the major muscle groups, quadriceps, hamstrings, pectoral muscles (chest) and trapezius muscles (upper middle back): think legs, chest, and upper back. If you don’t feel like you have the time or energy right after the game for the stretching, do it that evening.
Bottom line is this: don’t jump into a new sport or activity as quickly and unprepared as so many folks do in this world in many parts of life. Your body needs time to acclimate in and exit out, gracefully. Check in with your chiropractor to see how they can guide you along this process. The nervous system, optimal health, and functioning is our main focus, and that will help you be the best athlete you can be. Let us help you help yourself. And if it makes you a better player, so be it.
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