If you enjoyed our blog about the health benefits of tennis, keep reading as we ‘serve’ up some more summer sport suggestions!
It’s a great time of year to be inspired by our tennis, cricket and cycling heroes, with the weather (usually!) proving an incentive to get outside and try a new activity. But with this motivation, not to mention the popularity of fitness apps such as Couch to 5K and Map My Fitness, comes a rise in injuries as new enthusiasts do too much, too soon.
We caught up with physiotherapist Nathan Thomas, of à Bloc Physiotherapy, on his return from working with Team Ineos during the Tour de France, to find out how to take up a new sport safely. Read on!
What are the most popular summer sports you see people taking up?
I have found that the trend in summer sports are endurance events, such as triathlons, running – both road and trail – and mountain biking and road cycling, as well as fitness camps such as British Military Fitness.
What are the most common injuries you see as a result?
I see a lot of overloading injuries, which is when an athlete starts to increase the duration or intensity of their sport too quickly and the joints and/or muscles get over-strained, causing pain. I am seeing this more and more often with triathletes or people training for Ironman, particularly the upcoming Ironman Wales Tenby, which is notoriously one of the hardest Ironman routes.
Also, as a physiotherapist working in elite cycling, a lot of injuries I see are linked to the lower back and sacro-illiac joint, due to the high volume of riding done in the saddle. It’s my job to fix and correct!
What would you advise is the best activity for those who have done no exercise for a long time?
Good question! Exercise and activity are of benefit whatever your goal or age, with huge health benefits. I’d recommend starting with low-weight bearing activity, such as cycling, cross-training or swimming. The initial impact on your joints is not as great as high-weight bearing, such as running.
By using low-weight bearing you can gradually build up your cardiovascular fitness without too much of the dreaded muscle aches people have when they’ve not exercised for a while. When the base level of fitness is built up, progressing to more high-intensity exercise, such as circuit training, CrossFit-type and team sports, is much easier.
For people over 50, exercise is vital to maintain your general health. As the body gets older, your joints and skeletal system start to ‘degenerate’, meaning they become a little weaker. One of the main issues with this age group is a lack of joint mobility, so try exercises that promote good joint range, such as yoga, pilates and swimming. Whatever your sport or passion is, if you’re doing it over the age of 50, you’re doing a good job, so keep it up!
How important are warming up and cooling down – and what are your tips?
I would say this, being a physio, but yes, it’s important! A warm-up is a way to prepare your body for the exercise routine that is to come. Within elite cycling, we focus on activation, which means firing up the muscles that are going to be used that day; not too intensely otherwise it will cause fatigue, but just switching them on. It’s exactly the same if you’re going to do a circuits class or a swim in your local leisure centre pool. If you can prepare your body even with gentle mobility before exercising, it will help.
Are there any friendly groups you’d recommend newbies join?
A lot of communities now have newbie running groups such as ‘Couch to 5K’, which are an excellent way to introduce you to exercise and gradually increase from brisk walking up to 5K pace. Another highly recommended entry to fitness would be local cycling groups such as Let’s Ride, which tailors for all ages and abilities and emphasises the social aspect of fitness!
Other groups such as British Military Fitness are a great way to enjoy the outdoors, introduce you to new people and work up a sweat at your own pace. A lot of independent gyms offer a wide range of classes these days, and in my experience the welcome and experience you receive makes you want to keep going!
Is there a better time of day to exercise?
Any time of the day is better than none! A lot of journal articles and research have stated that exercising in the mornings, in a ‘fasted’ state, is best as it has the biggest influence on accelerating your metabolism, which is particularly good if your goal is to lose weight. Also, early morning exercise can mean fewer distractions and less chance of work or social commitments taking priority!
However, exercising at any time of the day releases endorphins, which undoubtedly give you health benefits compared to sitting watching your TV. The time of day really is a personal preference, depending on your lifestyle.
When should people see a physio?
A lot of people will tend to see a physio when a problem has occurred and they are in pain, looking to get it fixed. In this instance, the sooner you can get to see someone if you feel something isn’t right the better, as it can make the difference between being an acute problem, which can be solved with advice and education, or sometimes a more lengthy process to correct things.
However, the emphasis should be on maintenance and, if you’re a keen fitness enthusiast, whatever your sport, I would advise seeing a physiotherapist for a screening assessment. The emphasis should not only be on injury treatment but injury prevention, and the physiotherapist should be able to tailor a programme to your specific needs, depending on your activity and own body.