Summer is full of simple pleasures: the taste of a plum just plucked from the branch; the icy thrill of that first wave crashing over your feet; the spectacle of fireflies and the symphony of crickets that coda each day. With so many temptations, summer often inspires in us all the desire to "make hay while the sun shines." But there can be a price to pay for over indulging our whims if we are not prepared.

If you've ever awoken on Monday morning too sore to get out of bed, you know exactly what I mean. You're a weekend warrior. You sit behind a desk or behind the wheel Monday through Friday and then take on entirely different, often strenuous, activities on days off -- lifting that 30-pound bag of fertilizer and that pick-up game of soccer with your teenage daughter and her friends.

If the muscles called on for these weekend tasks haven't been primed, they can suffer thousands of micro-tears over the course of the weekend. These damages can be recognized by the pain and tenderness they cause.

Weekend warriors crowd the doctor's office most noticeably in the spring and summer months and early autumn as good weather and sporting events spur them to recklessly rush into an activity either for the first time or return to it after doing nothing for months, or, even worse, for years.

Proper stretching, strengthening, and warm-up prior to any activity is an important preventive measure whether you are doing your spring-cleaning or going out to mow the yard. Many people don't take enough time to do a total body stretch -- which should take about 20 minutes. That may seem like a lot of time, but remember, you have to hold each stretch for approximately 15 seconds for each body part that you intend to use in the planned activity.

Aside from stretching prior to heading out, try doing some exercises during the week to strengthen your back, your knees, and your shoulders. Even a few minutes each morning right as you get out of bed can make your weekend activities less of a shock to your system.

Lastly, before you throw yourself into any heavy-duty activity, take a minute to assess your body. Pain is your body's emergency siren. If something's hurting, don't use it at that point in time. You'll only make it worse.

We learn as children that summer is woefully short. Stay healthy so that you can make the most out of every minute.

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Text by Brent Ridge, MD


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