March is filled with the anticipation of getting outside and enjoying warmer weather. We’ve been inside for several months running or walking on treadmills, indoor tracks and/or repeating circuits of various cardio machines. It will be nice to compliment our gym routines with the return to outdoor activities.
Many of us do not give much thought to the transition from indoor running or walking to picking up mileage outdoors. We don’t instinctively change our routines or carry out any preparation for the environmental transformation. If we have not been outdoors much this winter, then it could be a shock to our body when we begin again to run or walk on uneven surfaces that give way underneath our feet. This may cause early season soreness or, worse yet, injury.
Frequent stride-to-stride adjustments are necessary to deal with bumps, holes and obstacles in the road. Running or walking on uneven terrain places extra stress on your joints and muscles as you try to maintain your balance and stability during each stride. There is an increased risk of injury when you have not prepared your body for the unexpected terrain of the outdoors such as ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis or back pain. So what can you do to prevent or minimize soreness or injury?
The best way to enhance your return to the outdoors is to maximize your adaptation of the changing ground reaction forces experienced in the outdoors. This can be done through specific ankle-knee-hip strengthening, balance training and challenging your kinesthetic awareness. Your joints and muscles are created with receptors that sense the position of your limbs. These receptors signal your muscles to hold your limb in place when needed. This very precise reaction will grow sluggish and cause joints to become weak if you don’t train them to react in dynamic environments.
March is a great time to prepare yourself for a return to outdoor activities. Include in your workouts the use of unstable surfaces such as wobble boards, balance mats, bosu balls, TRX or dyna discs. Play catch on a single leg or work on quick change of directions on someone else’s cues. Walk on your toes and heels. These kinesthetic skills will help you transition into the outdoor environment, allowing your body to adapt and adjust to the uneven terrain you will experience once the snow melts. Better kinesthetic awareness can decrease injuries and improve performance.
Information provided by Trina Radske-Suchan, PT, CSCS, FMSC, Medical Program Executive, YMCA Healthy Living Center, 12493 University Ave., Clive, 515-645-3342.