Between work, kids, and errands, it’s understandable that plenty of people wait until the weekend to engage in physical activity. And since they’re making up for the previous 5 days of inactivity, many of these “weekend warriors” push themselves to the point of injury.
Luckily, there are ways you can do most of your exercising on the weekends without raising your risk for the pain and recovery down time that comes with sports injuries.
Types of injuries that affect weekend warriors
Anyone who concentrates all their exercise into 1 or 2 intense bouts a week could be considered a weekend warrior. But physicians agree that weekend warriors tend to be men older than 30, especially former competitive athletes who expect their bodies to adapt to—and recover from—activity the same way it did when they were teenagers.
But even people who are not super athletes can suffer injuries if they do intense activities over the course of a day or two, such as a weekend of yard work or cleaning gutters.
The types of injuries that frequently occur for weekend warriors are:
- Muscle strains, such as hamstring injuries
- Ligament sprains, particularly ankle sprains
- Tendonitis in the Achilles tendon and elsewhere
- Shin splints
- Shoulder or rotator cuff injuries
- Low back pain
Nearly all of these types of injuries can be resolved by following the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevate) protocol. If pain lasts longer than a few weeks or doesn’t improve, make an appointment to see your doctor.
Prevent injuries before they occur
The main trigger for weekend warrior injuries is the abrupt transition from little or no activity to intense bouts of it. Muscles and soft tissues need gradual conditioning to perform at their best.
To prevent this, it’s important to exercise more regularly, if possible. Even if your main period of activity is on the weekends, try to fit in at least 1 or 2 periods of exercise on weekdays.
In addition, these tips can help you head off weekend injuries:
- Build up activity slowly.
If you’ve been inactive for most of the winter or you’re starting training for a marathon in the fall, gradually increase your exercise time and intensity each week.
- Warm up.
Before you jump into activity, warm up your muscles with 10 minutes of moderately paced activity like jogging, for example.
After doing a few minutes of light exercise, stretch your major muscle groups, such as your quads and hamstrings, as well as any muscles that will be heavily used during your chosen activity. You can also benefit from using a foam roller before you stretch, which has been shown to increase flexibility and lessen post-exercise pain.
Don’t forget to stretch after you finish exercising too. The findings about the benefits of pre-exercise stretching are mixed, but stretching after exercise has clear benefits for decreasing soreness and helping muscle tissue return to its normal state.
- Use proper technique and proper equipment.
It may help to consult a coach, trainer, or physical therapist if you’re new to a sport or piece of equipment.
- Find an exercise program.
A class or race training group can help you set a good pace for working toward your exercise goals.
- Don’t push through serious pain.
Mild muscle soreness is normal after a workout, but stop exercising if you experience sudden, piercing pain or if you have pain that’s getting steadily worse.