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Weekend Warriors

By Alan Williams, PT, OTR/L, ATC, CSCS

Life is hectic. Somewhere between family, friends, church, school, job, pets, carpools, cooking, cleaning, and yard work, we’re supposed to find time to exercise. I’m the first to admit that during the work week, this can be a real challenge. After a full day of patients and paper work, all I want to do is relax and spend time with my family, not hop on the treadmill. But weekends are full of possibilities! It’s 55 hours or so (counting Friday night) of relative free time – perfect for biking, skiing, hiking, golfing, going to the gym, or any other number of activities. And while it’s wonderful to live your weekends to the fullest, this inconsistent style of exercise can leave you more vulnerable than normal to injuries and other conditions.

In an ideal world, we’d all get 30-60 minutes of exercise every day. “Weekend warrior” (and no, I’m not talking about the Ted Nugent album) is the nickname given to people who try to fit a week’s worth of exercise into one or two days. This exercise is often prolonged and intense, such as a 20 mile hike through hilly terrain or a racquetball tournament with friends. There’s nothing wrong with these activities in and of themselves, but if you spend your weekdays being sedentary and then overload yourself with exercise during the weekend, you’re setting your body up for a breakdown that could be as simple as a sprained ankle or as serious as a heart attack.

Because one or two days of exercise a week is better than no exercise at all, and because the weekends are such a convenient time to engage in the activities we love, it’s important to know how to safely become a weekend warrior. First and most important, see your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Irregular bouts of activity increase your risk of heart attack, so your doctor will want evaluate your cardiovascular system. Discuss your exercise plans with them and get advice for handling any specific conditions you may have.

Once you are cleared for exercise, patience is key. Understand that with only one or two days of activity a week, it will take much, much longer for you to get in shape than it would with a more balanced exercise program. Be realistic about your abilities; you’re not 18 anymore, so don’t be disappointed if you can’t run as fast or bench press as much as you used to do. Understand that you have limitations, and there are consequences for exceeding those limitations. Maybe your old college buddies are in town for the weekend, so you spend Saturday playing tag football when you would normally be surfing the internet. Odds are that you’re going to wake up on Sunday exhausted, sore, and possibly injured. But that doesn’t mean you have to bench yourself from the game. Instead, approach the activity with moderation – take frequent breaks, stay hydrated, and listen to your body for any signs that you’re overdoing it (such as pain, shortness of breath, or unusual fatigue). Always begin your exercise session with a warm-up (such as 5 minutes of jumping jacks or jogging in place) and gentle stretching and end with a cool down (such as 5 minutes of walking) and more stretching.

In the end, the best way to improve your weekend warrior health is to sneak more activity into your weekday life. Walk the dog before work, and ride bikes with the kids after dinner. Sit on an exercise ball rather than a chair when watching TV or working on the computer. Take the stairs whenever possible. Invest in an exercise band and do strengthening exercises while talking on the phone. When added together, these small actions can have a big impact on your overall health.

Weekends are meant to be enjoyed, but do so safely. Become a wise weekend warrior so you can be free to enjoy your weekends to the fullest.

Don’t let aches and pains keep you from the activities you love. Call 463-0022 today for your FREE Pain Assessment!