Avoiding injury this spring

Spring is around the corner, and with spring comes anticipation of more outdoor activity — golf, soccer, running, biking, cycling and more — as well as the potential for injury as we gear up.

The most common injury sites are the ankle, knee and shoulder. Necks, elbows and backs also get their fair share of insults too. Here are some recommendations that can help you reduce the incidence or severity of these injuries for your clients.

General guidelines to avoid injury

First and foremost, tell your clients to build up slowly! Going from zero to 100 right off the bat is a prescription for trouble.

If your clients have been relatively inactive all winter, help them get into shape with some conditioning exercises before they head outdoors. A strong foundation offers support for any type of activity.

Specific exercise recommendations

At Body Harmonics, we promote good conditioning and biomechanics by focusing on key parts of the body and what they need.

Mobilize and strengthen ankles

Ankles often get restricted. Ungluing and strengthening feet, ankles and calves provides a great foundation for everything else higher up in the body. Try the following exercises with your clients:

Pointing and flexing the ankle/foot: Add a band for resistance to strengthen the muscles and mobilize the joints. Clients can do this exercise lying on their back, seated or standing.

Ankle circles: Tell clients to try these in both directions. These can be done with or without a band and in a variety of positions, as in the first exercise.

Heel lifts/calf raises: Have clients stand on the balls of their feet and lift their heels up. They can do this on the floor or off the edge of a stair or yoga block. They can stand next to a wall for help with balance. For a real challenge, get them to try lifting the heel on only one foot.

Stabilize knees

Knees need stability. One of the best ways to stabilize the knees is to strengthen the ankles and calves. Heel lifts strengthen the feet, ankles, and calves and stabilize the knees at the same time!

Mobilize and strengthen hips

Tight hips can be restrictive, but they affect more than just the hip joint — they often affect movement elsewhere in the body too. Think of mobilizing the hips as oiling the joint so other parts of the body work better.

Pelvic glides and more: Tell clients to stand with feet about hip distance apart. Instruct them to move their pelvis around their thigh bone by shifting the pelvis from side to side. Drawing figure 8’s or making circles with the hips gets all the muscles around the hips working. Because the clients are standing and bearing weight, these exercises help strengthen at the same time as they release the hips.

Strengthening hip muscles at the sides and back is another exercise strategy for hips, and can also free tight hips at the front. In addition to the pelvic glides, figure 8’s and hip circles, try the following to strengthen the side bum and buttock muscles:

Shoulder bridge: This exercise mobilizes the hips, knees and ankles and strengthens the bum muscles at the same time. A standing squat moves the same joints but adds more work because the client is standing and bearing weight.

Standing tick tock: Tell clients to stand with their feet about shoulder width apart and tip their axis from side to side. They should feel for the weight shift from one foot to the other, and the work in their torso and side bum muscles to keep the body stable.

Single leg lift to the side: Clients can do this standing or lying on one side.

Inner thigh lift: Tell clients to assume a side lying position and lift the bottom leg toward the ceiling.

Side bridge: One of the best all round exercises, side bridge, strengthens the torso and side bum as well as the shoulder. Ask clients to assume the side bridge position. Knees are bent, hips and shoulders are stacked. Make sure the support elbow is right under the shoulder above it. Tell the clients to press into their forearm and knees to lift their waist and bottom hip up off the ground.

A great way to stabilize the pelvis is by strengthening the top of the hamstrings at the base of the buttocks (the bum crease). Try this exercise with clients to activate those muscles:

Lunge and lean: From a lunge position, tell clients to hinge forward at the hips with a flat back so that the weight comes into their front foot. Have them press strongly into that front foot, especially the heel, to stand tall. This helps turn on the muscles at the top of the thigh and base of the bum.

Strengthen core muscles

A strong core adds support to any movement by stabilizing the pelvis and supporting the lower back. Help clients strengthen their deep core muscles with the following exercises:

All 4’s, knees hover: Tell your clients to assume an all 4’s position and curl their toes under. Instruct them to press into their hands and feet to hover their knees about two inches off the floor.

All 4’s, opposite arm and leg reach: From the all 4s position, tell clients to press their weight into their left hand and right knee and glide their opposite limbs along the floor away from centre. Ask them to lift the free limbs to body height and lower them back down. Have them repeat the same thing on the opposite side.

Mobilize and strengthen the shoulder girdle

For the shoulder girdle, we focus on two main areas: the shoulder blade and the arm bone in the socket. The shoulder blade has to move freely for the shoulder to work properly. Start by mobilizing the shoulder blade with these exercises:

Arm arcs: Tell your clients to arc their arms out in front of them, up to the ceiling, and back down. After a few reps tell them to arc their arms out to the side like a snow angel and then back down to their hips. Ask if they can feel their blades moving on their back as they move their arms.

All 4’s, shoulder blade glides: Tell clients to assume an all 4’s position. From here they should let their breast bone drop toward the floor so their shoulder blades come together. Then tell them to press into their hands to widen them to the side. This moves and strengthens the shoulder blade muscles. Repeat several times.

To strengthen the shoulder itself, we work the muscles around the arm bone, called the rotator cuff muscles. Any exercise that turns the arm bone in the socket strengthens these muscles.

Rotator cuff exercise: Ask your clients to assume a standing or side lying position. Tell them to bend their arm at the elbow. Make sure they keep their elbow tucked directly under their shoulder so the upper arm is vertical. At the same time they should keep their forearm parallel to the floor. Tell them to open the lower arm out to the side and return it to the starting position. Ask if they can feel the arm bone turning in its socket. Add a light weight (two to three pounds maximum) for a bit of resistance.

Now your clients are ready to go out and play golf, run, and do all the other activities they love, with a bit more strength and support so they avoid injury.

Question for you:

What outdoor activities do your clients do most often? Which of these exercises will you be trying this week?

Jane Aronovitch

Jane Aronovitch

Jane Aronovitch is a Pilates & Movement teacher. She is also a writer and author. Her book, Get on it: BOSU Balance Trainer, is available at Body Harmonics, Amazon and Chapters Indigo.

“I love making ideas clear so teachers can directly apply what they learn in concrete and practical ways – and people can make connections, feel better, move with ease, and have fun.”

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