Staying safe, active and injury-free this summer

We are well into our summer activities now-morning walks on the waterfront, inline-skating at the park and perfecting our golf swing.

But have you thought about your personal safety while exercising? This is the time of year we should all be concerned and conscious of our efforts to get and stay healthy.

People should check their exercise equipment for defects and wear the proper clothing, shoes and protective gear for the activity. Additionally, good old common sense comes in handy about when and where you exercise.

Cyclists and joggers should obey traffic signals and avoid busy streets that have narrow shoulders. In areas where there are no sidewalks, you should walk or jog facing traffic on the shoulder of the road as far from the driving lane as possible.

Cyclists should always ride in the same direction as other traffic and ride as close to the right edge of road as practical.

Engaging in physical activity outdoors at night is especially dangerous. People should wear clothing with reflective strips to become more visible.

Although engaging in regular physical activity is essential for optimal health, some activities are likely to result in an injury. Suddenly raising the intensity level or duration of a physical activity or using sudden, awkward movements may damage muscles or supportive tissues or aggravate existing injuries.

Physically active people can use some general precautions to minimize their risk of injury.

Common injuries, such as sprains and strains, are often seen with active lifestyles, during a weekend sporting event or even on a leisurely walk. A sprain is simply the tearing of ligament tissue. Ligaments connect bone to bone. When you "sprain" your ankle, you have torn some of the ligament tissue in your ankle.

A strain is the tearing of muscle or tendonous tissue. Muscles provide us with a means of movement and stabilization of our joints. Tendons connect muscles to bones. A strain is the same as a "pulled" muscle. Although these two types of injuries often occur together, a sprain tends to be more serious than a strain.

RICE, the acronym for "rest, ice, compression and elevation," is often effective for treating strains and sprains.


Painful activities that may extend the injury or prevent full recovery should be avoided.


Ice (cold therapy) is applied to reduce the amount of swelling and relieve the pain. An ice pack or a frozen bag of peas can mold nicely to an injury. To avoid skin damage, stop when the skin begins to feel numb and use a protective layer (dry paper towel or wet towel) between the ice and skin. The length of time you apply cold will vary depending on method and location of injury. Areas with less body fat do not tolerate cold as long as fatty areas. Never apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.


Compression of an injured ankle, knee or wrist may help reduce the swelling. These include bandages such as elastic wraps, special boots, air casts and splints.


Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

With RICE and over-the-counter pain medications, muscle soreness usually disappears within a day or two. If an injured area does not improve with RICE and the pain persists, consult a physician.

I asked Larry Maurer, DPM from the Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine PLLC in Kirkland about the common running injuries he sees during this season. He says: "There are a large number of runners who flood into my office to overload my schedule with spring overuse injuries. Three of the most common running injuries I see in the spring are plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and shin splints."

Plantar fasciitis, which may cause the heel to hurt, feel hot or swell, is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a thin layer of tough tissue supporting the arch of the foot. It is usually worse in the morning or after sitting, and then decreases as one begins to walk around.

A stress fracture is a hairline crack in the bone that develops because of repeated or prolonged forces against the bone.

Shin splints create pain along the front of the lower leg. The pain is a result of small tears in the area the lower leg muscles' attachment to the tibia.

Dr. Maurer's advice for runners is managing the training volume. "The first concept is that of managing your volume not only on a weekly, but on a monthly basis," he explains. "I think it's important to outline because I see many runners who have never thought about their training from this perspective. As you increase your mileage, it's important to manage that increase on a weekly basis by increasing by only 10-20 percent per week.

Whatever activities you decide to participate in, be aware of your surroundings, don't ignore the pain, and consider your training. Stay safe, active and injury-free.

Certified personal trainer and educator Joy Shultz can be reached at Weekly fitness tips at[[In-content Ad]]