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Avoid injury and have fun exercising

From the kids’ summer break to road trips and making it to work on Monday, sometimes it seems impossible to find time for a workout this time of year. 

Though we’re typically busier in warmer months, it’s still important to maintain a healthy routine during BBQ season’s dietary woes—even if that means an abbreviated version of your usual regimen. 

“The summer is a perfect time to try a new sport or continue working toward your fitness goals without being confined to the gym,” said Dr. Kevin Colleran, an orthopaedic surgeon at Geisinger Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine in Scranton. “But it’s important to pay attention to your body when the weather heats up.”

Here’s how to stay safe while working out this summer.

Protect yourself 
Summertime brings more opportunity for outdoor activities and the chance to see something other than the walls of your gym while working out. But with the great outdoors come new hazards to keep an eye on. 

“Regardless of the sport, if you’re running outside you’ll likely encounter uneven terrain,” said Dr. Colleran. “Wear shoes that protect the ankle and arch, so you can keep moving all summer long, whether it’s rounding the bases during a softball game or running on a trail.”

Sunscreen and clothing with UV protection are also a vital part of any outdoor workout—and don’t forget sunglasses!

Keep the water handy
Water is a vital part of every workout, but with increased temperatures and humidity, your body will need more fluids to stay healthy and stave off dehydration. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to grab a drink.

“Dehydration happens when your body is using more fluid than it’s taking in,” said Dr. Colleran. “Because we require those fluids for normal organ and muscle function, you might start to feel dizzy, nauseous or fatigued if there’s a deficiency.”

Dehydrated bodies are also more likely to experience cramps, which will force you to stop or stall your workout until the pain subsides. 

Burning calories in the great outdoors
The best part of outdoor workouts is their versatility. If you’re trying to juggle a workout and a day spent with friends or running errands, you can have the best of both worlds! 

Whether hiking a mountain, swimming in the ocean or canoeing up a river, many outdoor recreational activities have all of the benefits of a gym workout with the added fun of a social experience.

“A 175-pound man can burn around 350 calories in an hour of canoeing,” said Dr. Colleran. “And skipping the automatic car wash for an at-home one or riding your bike into town for daily errands will help you burn hundreds of calories without having to go to a gym.”

Don’t forget to stretch and warm up
Stretching can seem like a chore, especially if you’re strapped for time. However, a quick stretch improves range of motion in the joints, increases performance and decreases the risk of injury, making it the smartest thing you can do for your workout. But don’t confuse stretching for a warm-up.

Stretching should be done at the end of a workout when muscles are warm to ensure the best results and reduce the risk of tears,” said Dr. Colleran. “If you’re about to begin a competition—say a 5k—you should consider beginning with a dynamic warm-up instead, starting with a slow walk and working your way up to a short sprint to get the muscles fired up and heart pumping.”

Stretching also increases muscle strength which can prevent fractures and improves balance; perfect if you’re planning to take up surfing on your summer vacation. 

Kevin Colleran, MD, is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in hip, knees and shoulder care. He sees patients at Geisinger Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics in Scranton. To schedule an appointment, call 800-275-6401.