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MARCH 30, 2009
Preventing Weekend Warrior Woes

If you're like most Americans, you try to cram a week's worth of exercise into two short weekend days, and, as a result, run the risk of joint and muscle injuries. Weekend warriors tend to do too much, too soon, particularly in the Spring after a Winter of inactivity. And group activities, from a few hours of doubles tennis to a day-long golf game to a Saturday soccer or basketball league, can become quite competitive. The more you push your bodies past their limits, the higher the risk of injuries.

To prepare your body for a weekend of sports activity, Kevin Plancher, MD, a New York-area sports medicine expert, offers the following tips:

- Prepare during the week. Take a 20-30 minute jog at lunch each day, lift a set of light weights in the office for a brief morning workout, or use a bath towel as a resistance band to stretch shoulders and back muscles during a telephone call. These activities engage your joints and muscles and help get you ready for more intense activity on the weekend.

- Warm-up and stretch. A 5-10 minute warm-up is the key to protecting joints before high amounts of exercise. Jog, walk briskly, or do some calisthenics long enough to work up a sweat. Then hit some ground strokes with your tennis partner or hit some golf balls on the practice range with your wedges and short irons and progress to middle irons and woods. Now take 5-10 minutes to stretch your muscles before you start your tennis game or your round of golf.

- Take a break. Take breaks at regular intervals to relax and to hydrate your body because muscles need rest and water to function properly.

- Don't be a hero. Learn to recognize when you are overworking your body and immediately stop your activity. "Many sports-related joint and muscle injuries require immediate medical attention in order to heal as quickly and painlessly as possible," he says. If in doubt, call a time-out.

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