By Marylene Vestergom
The days are getting longer and warmer signaling the start of outdoor summer sports. Before you dust off your tennis racquet, golf clubs or garden shears for that matter, now’s the time to get your body ready for these activities.
Too often our excitement to get back into the game can bring on nagging pains of past injuries and even bring on new aches, impacting our quality of life. By no means should this hold you back; in fact, Toronto’s Dr. Greg Wells, assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Toronto, says “being active and exercising regularly is key to reducing the impact of chronological age. There is growing consensus that the physical deterioration thought to occur in aging is largely a result of physical inactivity. By being active, we can prevent the physiological effects of chronological age, which is the time clicking on the clock, not biological age, which is how old we actually are.”
At The Centre for Fitness, Health and Performance in Toronto, owner and chiropractor Chris Oswald has seen his share of exuberant athletes forgetting to prep their bodies. “Spring is a busy time a year in our offices, from neck and shoulder stiffness to upper and low back pain. One culprit, gardening, with its repetitive movement and being hunched over for long periods without a break, can take its toll. We recommend our gardening enthusiast take frequent breaks to stretch and straighten up, and to open up the chest by reversing a forward flexed or hunched posture.” Oswald says patients forget the importance of having proper postural alignment. “We spend a great deal of our day sitting, hunched over desks and computers, further impacting our spine, hip flexors and glutes. Now imagine taking this stiff body on the tennis courts or golf course?”
Colby Bucci, the lead physiotherapist at the clinic, agrees. “Both tennis and golf require a great deal of twisting, and for the spine that isn’t ready for all that rotation, the discs between the vertebras, the bones of the spine can become pinched and irritated, causing muscle spasm and low back pain.” Bucci is a huge proponent of stretching; when done properly, it can help warm up the body.
“Stretching must be done slowly and gently and often. And don’t force the stretch — those muscles are tight for a reason; they could react negatively if you try to force them out of that position, and you may be worse off. It’s something we teach our clients with proper stretching techniques.”
Both Oswald and Bucci are on the same page when it comes to stretching. You should always make time for dynamic and static stretches, and don’t forget to strengthen your core.
Dynamic stretching is your warm-up, and it helps to activate the muscles in your body and mind for the task ahead, giving you the range of motion you’ll need to hit that overhead slam or to strike your golf ball off the tee with your driver. And before you rush off for that celebratory cheer in the clubhouse, include a cool down with some static stretches