You’ve probably met the type. Maybe you are the type. The ‘weekend warrior’—that ‘person of a certain age’ who seeks to regain some measure of youthfulness by proving that he or she can still power through intense sports or exercise. However, due to the complexities and demands of work, kids, social engagements, etc., these enthusiastic and motivated people find that time is limited, so mountain-climbing or running marathons has to be reserved for weekends.
Exercise is great, but we have to remember that as we age, it may not be realistic—or even safe— to try to maintain our 20-something activities. Dr. Michael Milne, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist and surgeon with The Orthopedic Center of St. Louis and former team physician for several professional sports teams, says sprains, strains and tendonitis are among the injuries most often sustained by weekend warriors.
To help avoid injury, “it’s important for people to start slowly, stretch and get a lot of hydration. And, given a choice, lower-impact activity is better than higher-impact,” he says. “Remember, a lot of people stop being highly active when they’re, say, 19 years old; and now that they’re 40, they want to run a marathon. They think they can start back up where they left off, but their body has changed.”
Casey Breslin, a fitness coach and physical therapist at 20 Minutes to Fitness, agrees that weekend warriors should be aware of their physical condition. “It’s very easy to develop tendonitis when your body isn’t conditioned, and if you’re doing something that your muscles aren’t used to, you can get overuse injuries,” she says. “As we age, it’s a lot harder to heal from those injuries, and they can become chronic.”
Breslin advocates building strength and stability with resistance training done through low-impact, slow movements that work the muscles to the point of exhaustion. “The slow speed is really important because that allows the muscle to control the weight and do all the work rather than putting a strain on the cartilage or the joints or ligaments.”
For those seeking a faster-paced or higher-impact workout, warming up is key, says Heath Norton, owner and GM of Title Boxing Club in Rock Hill. He takes participants through a 15- minute warm-up session that includes stretching, plyometric movements and cardio in order to gradually increase heart rate and loosen muscles prior to the most intense phase of the workout. Norton’s advice to weekend warriors is to remember, “the race is a marathon, not a sprint. Take incremental steps on your fitness journey. You’re not going to be able to accomplish all your fitness goals in one weekend.”
Milne agrees and confirms that stretching, developing flexibility and staying well hydrated are all important parts of a safe workout. “People don’t get out of shape in two weeks, and they won’t get back in shape in two weeks,” he says. “Really, just make sure your level of play is age-appropriate. It’s the 45-year-olds who try to keep up with the 25-year-year-olds who end up getting hurt. Be realistic.”