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After a long winter indoors, getting out for the first run or first game of the season can be hard on your body. Here's how to prepare for running, paddling, swinging and more so you won't spend your summer days feeling sore.Getting ready to head out for your first run or softball game of the year? If you haven't been active all summer, you could be putting yourself at risk. "Most Canadians end up suffering some type of an injury, mild to severe, within their first four to six weeks of a favourite summer activity," says Maureen Hagan, vice-president of program innovation and fitness development at GoodLife Fitness. Whether you're a runner, golfer, paddler, tennis player or other seasonal athlete, you're bound to feel a little more than sore if you haven't been using those muscles for months. Hagan recommends cross-training for your favourite summer activities all year long to help you keep fit and avoid injuries that can be caused by doing activities for just a couple months a year. Here's how to get started.
If you're a runner, hiker or cyclist…
"If you want to run injury-free, and if you want to be able to run long-term, you've got to have a strong core," says Hagan. In fact, even if you're a hiker or cyclist, having a strong core will help keep you safe. We don't usually think of the core as being integral to these activities, but the abdominal, back and glute muscles that make up the core are key to those movements. Hagan explains that all of those activities involve reciprocal movements, where you're moving one foot forward at a time. You need a strong core to keep your spine stable during these movements, as well as to help transfer each limb's movement so that you can propel your whole body. "It's the core that helps you transfer that force from the leg through the body to create momentum," says Hagan.
How to train: To help strengthen those core muscles to prevent running or cycling injuries and to help you build better endurance into your activity, Hagan recommends a 30-minute core class, like GoodLife's CXWORX. "It's set up very intelligently to target all the core muscles, which is not just your abdominals, but your back, your hip and glute muscles, and even your shoulder girdle muscles that you need to have a strong and consistent stride."
Key moves to try: High plank, side plank, bridge and single-leg bridge will all work your abdominals, back and glutes, while squats and lunges performed with weights will use both your core and leg muscles.
If you're a golfer, baseball player or tennis player…
All of the swinging movements involved in these sports can quickly lead to injuries. You might think that swinging a racket seems simple enough, but your body likely isn't prepared to do it 100 times in a game. Hagan stresses that people playing these sports need to build their arm, shoulder, upper back and core strength. And, if you're playing a particularly active sport, such as tennis, you also need to be agile and mobile. "Being mobile means being strong and flexible, and that means stretching," says Hagan.
How to train: Doing exercises that require pushing or pulling movements (think pushups and pull-ups) can help to prepare your upper body. Yoga can help you stay flexible so you can reach in all directions and turn on a dime. Players of fast-paced team sports, such as soccer players, can also benefit from high-intensity Tabata-style classes that test their agility and build their endurance. Hagan recommends GoodLife's BODYSHRED class to help train for those sports that leave you breathless. "These classes mimic sport, where you get out on the field, you run hard for 90 seconds, then you get 30 seconds to recover and you're out on the field again," says Hagan.
Key moves to try: Pushups, pull-ups, chin-ups and other pulling moves using cables or kettlebells will help build that upper-body strength. And since you need to train for flexibility throughout your whole body, go for a full-body yoga class—no spot-training will suffice.
If you're a kayaker, rower or canoeist….
Paddling also involves some intense upper body movement, but when you're cross-training, don't focus solely on the arms. "The core is what allows the arms to pull the paddle through the water. It's not the arm; it's the shoulder and the core," says Hagan. "You need to have a firm foundation to pull from, so you have to have really strong and firm hips and butt muscles." All of those muscles help to stabilize you in the boat, so you get more power out of each paddle.
How to train: "Basically your upper body needs to push and pull more than your body weight," says Hagan. Hagan points out that all kinds of gym equipment, such as rowing machines, as well as machines that allow you to pull weight from the side or overhead, can be great for people in these sports. She also recommends a core class like CXWORX.
Key moves to try: Variations on bridges and planks can help work the core, while pushups and rows can build upper-body strength in the arms, shoulders and back.
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