Summer is the perfect time of year for engaging in sports that you don't get to enjoy the rest of the year. You can spend every weekend out on the lake, swimming and boating; you can hike through the mountains; you can even take a vacation dedicated to camping, rock climbing, biking, and more. There's just one problem: with all of those activities that your body isn't used to, you can significantly increase your chances of injury. While you don't want to curtail your fun, you'll find that following a few simple tips can help decrease your odds of many common summer injuries and make your vacation happier, less stressful, and more fun.
Know the Rules of the Area
If you aren't usually an ocean swimmer, you might not be familiar with many of the hazards of ocean swimming. Likewise, if you're running through a completely new geographic area, you don't know about the local hazards or the things you need to do in order to keep up with the climate. Before embarking on a new summer adventure, make sure you do your research! Improve your understanding of the area, make sure you know what you're getting into, and plan ahead to avoid hazards that might prevent you from getting the most out of your stay.
If you have the advantage of a guide, whether you're participating in a new sport (scuba diving, skydiving, etc) or simply checking out the area, it's important to follow their instructions. When in doubt, ask questions! If you don't have that benefit, taking the time to do a little research before embarking on your adventure can be the difference between one that ends with an incredible high as you acknowledge what you've accomplished and one that ends in disaster.
If you know that you're going to be engaging in vigorous activity on unfamiliar terrain, go in prepared. Take your medical kit along with you. Even if you don't think you'll be running as usual when you're on vacation, tuck that knee brace in your bag "just in case." Embrace the Boy Scout motto and make sure that you've prepared everything you need for your vacation. The last thing you want is to end up with an injury simply because you chose to leave something important behind!
It's also important to pack your bag with the right fitness equipment. If you aren't planning to spend the bulk of your vacation exercising, you might not be thinking about your fitness attire, your running shoes, or even your fitness band. Taking them with you, however, will ensure that you're prepared for whatever comes your way while you're on vacation--and that means that you won't be caught off-guard, in the wrong shoes, or wearing uncomfortable clothing as you head out on your adventure.
You're used to drinking plenty of water when you're exercising. When you head out on vacation, however, you won't be in a familiar environment, and that means you might not recognize how quickly you're dehydrating. From swimming in the hot sun, when you're surrounded by water but hopefully drinking little to none of it, to enjoying a run in a hot, dry climate that feels as though it's sucking the water from your body, you'll need to drink more water than usual. This is particularly important if you're flying, staying in a hotel room, or engaging in extreme sports that push your body harder than normal. Drink extra water, especially when you're actively traveling. It's well worth the extra stops to purchase water or check out the rest area when you reach your destination well-hydrated and healthy instead of dehydrated, cranky, and unable to give it your all. A good water bottle makes hydration easy and reminds you to keep drinking even when that's not the focus of your attention.
If you know that you're going to be doing a new extreme sport on your vacation, don't assume that you're going to be able to dive straight into it. Even an individual in peak shape will struggle with a new activity. Instead, train for it ahead of time. If you're going to be hiking or mountain climbing for extended periods of time, take some shorter trips to test your skills. Heading out on a scuba diving adventure? Spend plenty of time in the pool practicing so that by the time you go out on your trip, you'll be ready to test your body to its limits. Look for ways to test your body before embarking on an extreme sports adventure.
Even if you've taken this type of adventure before and know what you're capable of, working on your skills ahead of time will ensure that your body is in peak shape. You want to test yourself and enjoy the experience, not push so hard that you end up with an injury.
During the summer, you're at a higher risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. Unfortunately, you're also more likely to participate in outdoor sports--including extreme ones! You need to prepare for the heat and make sure that you're taking the necessary steps to stay cool, including:
- Dressing appropriately
- Choosing the right time of day for exercise (the middle of the day in a hot, dry climate might not be your best choice)
- Training to take the heat by spending gradually more time outside over the summer instead of spending most of the summer indoors, only to undertake a long outdoor adventure
- Warm up properly to prepare your body for exercise and the heat instead of assuming that you can dive straight in
- Take breaks when you need them
- Know the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and stop exercise immediately any time you begin to feel them coming on
- Watch the electrolytes: summer is the perfect time of year to add a sports drink to your recovery process instead of drinking straight water
Maintain Full Body Awareness
You know how important a good night's sleep and proper nutrition are for your exercise routine. When you're on vacation, however, many of those tips go straight out the window as you check out fast food restaurants on the road, hit the local buffet for dinner, and crawl into bed way too late after enjoying the night life in your vacation location. Unfortunately, these habits are setting you up for failure. You can:
- Prepare your own meals on the road to ensure you're eating right
- Aim for at least eight hours of sleep a night, even when it makes you feel like you're missing out on something, before embarking on any athletic adventures
- Choose healthy alternatives at local restaurants
- Pack your own snacks so that you aren't hitting up gas stations or checking out vending machines in the middle of the night
A few sore muscles and a little bit of a sunburn are great markers of a summer vacation done right. Coming home with an injury, on the other hand, will put a real damper on your summer training routine. By following these summer fitness tips, you can help increase the odds that you'll come back from your vacation with some awesome stories, feeling hugely accomplished--and that you'll be able to get right back to your normal training regime. Looking for more information about staying in shape over the summer or avoiding common injuries? Contact us today.