By David Buice
Keeping active is great for both your physical and mental health. Texas has plenty to offer, from walking, jogging, or biking on city trails to basking in the sun on South Texas beaches and hiking in remote wilderness areas, to name just a few.
The downside, however, is that injuries can quickly spoil your summertime fun if you fail to use the right amount of caution. To help you enjoy all your favorite outdoor activities, here are five tips to help prevent injuries during the months ahead.
1. Begin by Stretching
When you go to a sporting event, one of the first things you see is the athletes getting ready for the competition by stretching and warming up. To avoid tomorrow’s aches and pains, you should do the same. Before hitting the trail, the court, or the diamond, take some time to stretch and warm up with a few twists, lunges, squats, and jumping jacks.
2. Get the Right Gear
If you’re planning on jogging or walking, don’t buy the cheapest pair of shoes at a general, big-box retailer. Get the proper footwear at a sporting goods store specializing in athletic gear. The extra dollars you spend will be well worth it to avoid pain in your feet, knees, and hips.
If hiking is your thing, leather boots are more durable and provide better support than those made of non-leather materials. To prevent painful blisters, get them stretched a bit and well broken in before hitting the trail.
3. Ease into your Activities
After long months of being cooped up, it’s tempting to “go hard” once you’re outdoors, but that’s when many injuries occur. Instead, whatever your favorite outdoor activity, ease into it and gradually rebuild your skills, allowing your body to adjust to the renewed activity. Also, it’s OK to take an occasional break to avoid overtraining.
4. Stay Hydrated
It’s always important to remain hydrated, especially during the year’s hottest months. If you plan to be outdoors for a prolonged period, bring water in a reusable bottle, preferably more than you think you’ll need in case of an emergency. Hydration keeps your energy level steady, helping you avoid the missteps that can lead to injury.
5. Use Plenty of Sunscreen
Up to a point, sunshine is good for us, helping our bodies produce Vitamin D. But to avoid a painful sunburn and the eventual possibility of skin cancer, always apply ample amounts of sunscreen. A t-shirt isn’t enough and provides an SPF of only about five. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. And if you get in the water, reapply after you get out.
First Aid, What to Pack
Texas provides an abundance of opportunities for demanding outdoor activities. For example, according to one count, there are over 2,000 hiking and mountain biking trails in the state. If your outings will take you to some of the state’s more remote and challenging areas, it’s always good to carry a first aid kit for emergencies.
The contents of your kit depend on what you’ll be doing and for how long, but emergency medicine specialists at Yale University’s School of Medicine recommend the following basics for wilderness adventures:
- Bandages, tape, and antibiotic ointment for wound management
- An EpiPen, crucial to saving a life in case of an anaphylactic reaction
- Lightweight AlumaFoam splints for injuries to extremities, like wrists and ankles
- Warm clothing to protect against hypothermia if stranded overnight
- Water and purification tablets to make water drinkable if necessary
With a few precautions like these, hopefully, your summer will be injury-free.