Healthy Manhattan: Take It Easy, Weekend Warriors

Written by Lisa Elaine Held on . Posted in Healthy Manhattan, Posts.


Ed Gemdjian, a personal trainer at Equinox’s 17th Street location, ran track and cross-country in high school until a series of injuries ended his running career.

Years later, he still gets the urge to run whenever the weather warms up.

"The problem is that I never learned to go jogging," he said. "When I go for a run, I go for a hard run. And it’s amazing how quickly those injuries come back."

Gemdjian uses his personal experience to inform his work with clients, many of whom, like him, engage in "weekend warrior" behavior, diving head first into intense physical activity after a long time away or without ever having tried it.

Whether getting suddenly seriously physical is the result of the changing seasons, the desire to return to a missed sport or weekend workouts that attempt to make up for weeknights dedicated to happy hour, a common result is likely: injury.

Statistics related to sports injuries,

especially confined to
weekend warriors, are difficult to quantify, but Gemdjian estimated that
about 70 to 80 percent of his clients have had a sports-related injury
at some point in their past.

Some
of the most common include impact injuries like shin splints and knee
pain, ankle sprains, back pain, shoulder injuries, rotator cuff
tendonitis and hip pain.

And
certain sports are associated with particular injuries based on the
movements required, said Stephanie C. Petterson, a physical therapist
and the regional clinical director for Sports Physical Therapy of New
York
, which has 10 offices throughout Manhattan. For example, runners
often get plantar fasciitis, golfers may experience lower back pain and
rotator cuff strain and swimmers usually suffer from shoulder
impingement.

While all athletes and casual exercisers are susceptible to injury, weekend warriors are particularly vulnerable.

Carol
Otis, a physician who specializes in sports medicine and is a Fellow of
the American College of Sports Medicine, said that ideally, an
individual should be consistently increasing the intensity of a workout
by about 10 percent per week. Weekend warriors go from zero to 100 all
at once.

"There’s
a learning curve with getting back into the groove of any activity,"
said Matt McCulloch, the director of Kinected, a downtown Pilates studio
that specializes in injury prevention. "For example, if you only play
tennis in the summer, the muscles that you use in tennis you don’t use
during the rest of the year. So it takes a while to get your technique
back up to where it was the season before."

McCulloch
explained that because of this, a weekend warrior will operate with a
faulty technique or mechanics. They may also lack the flexibility,
strength and stamina necessary for the activity or use equipment with
faulty ergonomics, which can affect movement patterns.

"These things seem small, but when you’re not working out regularly, they add up quickly and set you up for injury," he said.

McCulloch
created a workshop called "Anatomy of a Weekend Warrior," giving New
Yorkers the chance to come in at the beginning of the summer to learn
how to practice preventive maintenance before jumping back into their
Central Park softball league. It’s like their spring training.

In
addition to education, McCulloch uses Pilates techniques to help
prevent injury. "Pilates focuses on increasing the stability of joints
and at the same time balancing out the muscles that support the joints,
so you don’t have overuse injuries," he explained. It also helps people
understand how their body moves, allowing them to isolate and focus on
one part of their body.

For
weekend warriors who aren’t quite ready to book a Pilates session,
Gemdjian said there are many ways to prevent injuries while working out
at the gym or with a trainer. "Warming muscles up is absolutely key," he
said. A 10 to 15 minute warm-up should not be about static stretching,
but should consist of a gradual build-up to the movements you’re about
to make, like a relaxed volley in tennis or slow strides leading up to a
run.

During the
workout, pay attention to your body, do active stretches between sets
and drink lots of water to prevent cramping up. When you’re finished,
cool down properly and stretch, but avoid overstretching already
flexible muscles. "If it’s tight, stretch it," said Gemdjian. "If not,
leave it alone."

Finally,
correct potentially dangerous movement patterns by working with
someone, like a trainer, prior to jumping into the activity. If you do
experience pain, it may be time to see a physical therapist.

In the end, weekend warriors, just take it easy.

"A
lot of these guys think they’re still as athletic as they were when
they were 20, and, to put it lightly, they’re not," said McCulloch.

Replace that dream of the major leagues with a Central Park diamond and focus on fun rather than glory.

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