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The start of baseball season is upon us. In college and high school sports, basketball, swimming, water polo and gymnastics are winding down, while baseball and others are ramping up. Here in San Diego, as the days get longer there is more time for after work activity like running, cycling, climbing and surfing. As the days get sunnier and warmer, more people are out playing tennis, gold and weekend pick-up games of football, Frisbee and basketball.

Weekend warrior syndrome is what happens when relatively sedentary people suddenly get an urge to rapidly get back into shape in order to fit back into that awesome swim suit. Rapid increases in activity can lead to strains, sprains, and over use injuries which will slow you down in a hurry.

Here are some simple strategies to help you pick up the pace without injury…

Stretch, stretch and stretch some more! Before getting on the bike or trail, make sure you have done 15-20 minutes of stretching. Move into the stretch gradually, until you can feel the muscle resisting without pain. Hold that position for 30-60 seconds without bouncing, then gradually release and repeat. It takes at least 30 seconds for large muscles to lengthen when they are stretched!

Build up your activity level gradually. Don’t make a marathon your first run of the season. If you are training for a long endurance event, start small and gradually increase your activity. For example, last summer I trained for a bicycle tour which was to be just shy of 500 miles ridden over 7 days. I started with 25 mile rides which I had been doing occasionally all winter, and added 5 miles per week until I was comfortably riding 65 miles at a time. I was able to do the entire tour and have fun with it, keeping this training pace.

Pay attention to your diet. When you increase your activity level, you will need to increase your protein intake. Building muscles requires extra protein. Working out in warm weather can deplete critical electrolytes. Make sure you are staying adequately hydrated, and either supplement electrolytes or use a low-sugar sports drink with electrolyte replacement while you are exercising. After your workout, make sure you have a protein-based snack within 30-60 minutes to aid in recovery. Don’t assume you will immediately lose weight when you start working out – many people gain 5 or more pounds before they begin to lose weight. Muscle tissue weighs more than fat, so as you change your body composition you may gain pounds while you lose inches. I can help you with a diet appropriate to your increased physical activity.

If you do wake up with aches and pains after a workout, get a treatment! Acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation, relieve muscle spasms, improve circulation, and decrease pain, helping you to heal quicker and get back to doing what you love.