Phew, that was a slippery winter. It feels especially exciting this year to see that spring has sprung. Many of us were inactive and house-bound this winter, getting weaker, and maybe crankier, as the weeks went on and on and on. Hurrah, it’s over. Now it is time to open the cottage, plant the garden, get out the patio furniture, hang the flower baskets, start the renovations and repairs, stain the deck and …. SLOW DOWN. Slow down and breathe.
Yes, we are all eager to leave winter behind and get a fresh start on our gardens and summer activities. We know how invigorating it is to work in the garden for the day, to tackle a big weekend project at the cottage, to play golf on 4 consecutive days ….until after the fact!! Our bodies are not necessarily ready for the sudden increase in activity. Our muscles and soft tissues weaken over the slower days of winter and need time to come out of hibernation. Our ligaments, muscles, bones and cartilage all have a remarkable ability to adapt to increased activity, if given a chance. Herein lies the difficulty – patience and moderation do not come easily to us. Being moderate doesn’t have to be synonymous with being boring or not being able to do what you love to do. Here are some tips that can help and still allow you to be active, to get your garden planted and your cottage projects underway.
Vary Your Outdoor Tasks To Protect Your Joints
Frequently changing your joint position is one of the key aspects of avoiding muscle and joint pain (‘Frequently’ equals every 20 minutes on a given day but also day-to-day variation matters). It reduces muscle fatigue and alters the load on the joint surfaces, both of which help to maintain the health of your joints. In reality this means that you can spend the day gardening but it can’t be a day of only one gardening task like turning soil or only planting on your hands and knees or only trimming hedges. The right combination of these tasks may not leave its mark at all or just a little if it does and still allows you to spend the day gardening.
Plan Your Activities To Balance Your Body
Plan your day of activity based on the position and needs of your body – yes, we know that may sound ridiculous but it’s not! Doing too much of the same thing on a given day or from day-to-day does not serve us well. The balance between sitting and standing, movement and rest, bending over and straightening up, being busy and just being, getting stronger and staying flexible…… is critical to maintaining the health of our body. Today, this applies to all generations (It always applied to 40+ year olds, now even 20 year olds need to practice this principle as their bodies are not as balanced after a more inactive childhood).
Count your coupons
At Life Force Physiotherapy, we often use the coupon analogy as a means of raising awareness of what our joints can tolerate and how you challenge that limit on a regular basis. You have a restricted number of coupons that can be used each day or week; you can’t borrow coupons and for the most part you can’t transfer them to another day or week. A coupon can be the length of time you are on your feet, how much sitting you can do, how much overhead reaching your shoulder will tolerate, how many consecutive rounds of golf you can play each week or your allowed cumulative time of being active/ inactive. Ask your physiotherapist what coupons you need to be aware of for your body and how many you have available to you each day/ week. Also ask what tasks use up your coupons. This allows you to measure the value to you of how you use your coupons. We are often asked questions like “Can I go for 10km run?” to which we answer “yes, but it will use up 3 of your coupons – do you love running that much?”. For some people the answer will be yes and for others it will be no. Both answers work, as long as you don’t exceed your coupon count!
If life happens and you exceed your coupon allowance – give your body more support.
We strongly discourage an elective breach of your coupon count but we recognize that sometimes life does not always perfectly align with our coupon allowance. As a short-term safety measure you can increase your body’s tolerance by supporting your body. Support may look different for different people. It can be physical (using ice, heat, a brace or support or getting more rest as soon as possible), chemical (being more conscious of what you are eating and drinking, using supplements as recommended and using medication if required) or mental emotional (meditating, going for a walk in the park, adding some fun to your day). Our body gives us a little wiggle room on its tolerance but not a lot so don’t push your luck and think that these supports can compensate for regularly exceeding your coupon count.
Being able to do what is meaningful to you throughout your life is the ultimate goal, looking after your body is the critical first step to being able to achieve it. Start now – it is never too early nor too late! If you have any questions on this please don’t hesitate to ask us. The Life Force Physiotherapy team is always here for you.
Summer Giveaway – Answer This!
What is harder to catch the faster you run?
Submit your answer in writing/ by email before July 15th, 2019 and enter a draw for a Life Force Physiotherapy hot pack.
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