A weekend warrior is someone who, due to the hectic nature of a typical workweek, opts to cram most of her or his exercise into weekend workouts, activities, games and/or competitions.
And while Shoreline physical therapist Bruk Ballenger says he’ll never fault anyone for getting exercise, he added that weekend warriors should be particularly cautious as the sporadic nature of their workout schedule puts them at a greater risk of getting injured.
“Days of downtime followed by sudden bursts of activity over a day or two isn’t ideal,” said Ballenger, owner of Prevail Physical Therapy in Shoreline. “By putting greater stress on the body over a shorter period of time, weekend warriors should be aware that they’re putting themselves at greater risk of acute injuries, such as strains, sprains or worse.”
That’s because inactivity throughout the week can lead to a general deconditioning of the body that may include muscle tightness and imbalances, along with reduced endurance and cardiovascular fitness. This can be even more pronounced when one is sitting at a desk job all week where muscles are in a relaxed and shortened position, come the weekend those shortened muscles are asked to open up and perform! Ballenger advises that a more consistent workout schedule, including strengthening, stretching, and sport specific training can combat such deconditioning and create resilience.
But if one truly does struggle to find time to achieve the US recommended MINIMUM 150 minutes of exercise each week without cramming them into just a couple of days, Ballenger offers to follow tips for avoiding injury.
Space It Out – Rather than packing your weekly exercise minutes into two back-to-back days at the end of the week, consider spacing these days out. This can help you avoid some of the deconditioning effects mentioned above. Better yet, add in a few shorter sessions during the week to help develop resilience in your sport. This will prep your body for longer sessions or competition on the weekends.
Warm-Up, Cool-Down – When the weekend arrives and it comes time to hit the road or trails, take the field, or tee off, always warm up first. Take a good 10-15 minutes for some dynamic mobility to open up joints, and lighter cardio versions of the activity you plan to tackle to get the blood flowing. Warm-Up is not a time for static stretching, save that for the cool down.
Temper Your Intensity – When you’re packing your workouts into just a couple days a week, don’t overdo it. As you’re not exercising as consistently, stay on the safe side by pulling back slightly on your intensity. Avoid getting caught up in keeping up with peers or competitors if you are not ready.
Strengthen Up! – Finding a way to incorporate some strength training specific to your sport(s) is essential for not only staving off an injury but will improve overall performance. Just a few minutes of the right exercises executed with proper form can make a huge difference. It is also important to have a consistent routine in order to accommodate any past or present injuries, strength deficits, or other physical limitations. Try incorporating at least two 15-30-minute strength sessions into your week, and make it fun! You can also incorporate a few minutes of strength into your warm-up routine before your weekend hammer-fests! If you are unsure of which exercises are right for you, want to save time with a more focused routine, or address injury or limitations, visit Prevail Physical Therapy for an individualized strength program.
Stay Active During the Week – Even if you don’t have time to hit the gym during the week, don’t use that as an excuse to be completely sedentary. Capitalize on brief moments during the week to move around, stretch, and maybe even do some exercising. Take the stairs, stretch during your breaks, squat 10x before sitting in a chair, walk during meetings or after work, It is important to move more if you have a desk job. This does not mean simply switching from a sitting desk to a standing desk, but frequently changing positions to prevent stiffening and shortening muscles and increasing blood flow.
Listen to Your Body – Always know your limits. And, if you feel aches and pains or suspect possible injury, stop exercising immediately and see a medical professional, such as a physical therapist. Don’t try to power through discomfort just so you can get through the weekend.
Stay Hydrated – Hydration is very important for tissue health, resilience and extensibility. A dehydrated body is more prone to injury and could also diminish exercise performance. Your hydration should be maintained daily by drinking frequently throughout the day, all week long. During exercise, hydration should be maintained with water, and depending on duration, temperature, intensity, and individual factors, electrolytes and/or carbohydrates may be beneficial.