When most people think of a weekend warrior, they imagine someone running a marathon or hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, marathon runners and trail hikers typically put a lot of planning and training in to these events. They train daily to achieve the activities and events they enjoy. The term weekend warrior refers to the rest of us that attack the increase in activity associated with warmer weather with a little or no training and planning. Unfortunately, this can lead to pain and injury.
If you have ever woken in the morning feeling like you may have pushed a little too far the previous day, you probably had weekend warrior syndrome. It is very easy to let this happen. We spend all winter stuck inside. When the weather breaks, we head outside with energy and excitement to enjoy the warmer weather. Whether it’s 18 holes of golf, an all-day shopping trip or getting your garden in to shape, you can end up in pain or with an injury if you jump in too quickly.
You may not realize it until it is too late, but trying to attack your entire lawn and flower beds or explore a new city over the weekend may be more activity than your body is ready to handle. You wouldn’t head to the gym and walk on a treadmill for hours without training, so it makes sense that you need to get yourself ready for the all walking you will be doing on your upcoming vacation in the same manner.
Follow this advice from Donald Novak, PT, DPT to avoid muscle soreness and injury from weekend activities.
• Stay active all week long: A regular exercise program including aerobic and resistance exercise will keep you strong and conditioned enough to enjoy your favorite activities over the weekend. If you are not already exercising regularly, check with your physician prior to beginning an exercise program.
• Warm-up and cool-down stretching: This is often overlooked because you don’t consider these activities exercise. It is important to stretch before and after activity to warm-up and cool-down your muscles.
• Stay hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the activity. It can also be helpful to slightly increase your water intake the day before as well to prevent dehydration.
• Eat well: Many of us skip meals or make poor food choices when we have a busy weekend. Regularly spaced, balanced meals will provide the energy you need to keep you going and prevent muscle breakdown which can lead to muscle aches the following day or two.
• Take breaks: It is important to take frequent breaks to give your muscles, joints and heart plenty of time to rest and recover.
• Start slow and spread it out: Try not to attack everything at once. Start with the driving range or 9 holes of golf. If you are working around the house or garden, set a time limit for yourself. When you reach that limit, leave the rest of the work for tomorrow or next weekend.
If you have already overdone it, your physician or physical therapist can help you determine if your symptoms are due to delayed onset muscle soreness or injury and subsequently advise you on the best way to treat your symptoms. If your pain is due to muscle soreness, it should be mild and resolve with rest and proper nutrition. If pain persists or is constant, it is important to seek and follow the advice of your healthcare practitioner to properly treat your condition and prevent further injury.