I am possibly the best and worst person to write about this topic. Since turning 40 I have broken my collarbone AND my back mountain biking, broken my tibia skiing, torn the cartilage in my knee on vacation last year, and recently injured my hamstring so badly I begged ski patrol to take me down the mountain in the “Sled of Shame”.
I am an uncoordinated, overweight, 53-year-old weekend warrior. But I am trying to be active, trying to eat right, trying to lose weight, and trying to get outdoors.
In the last 13 years, I have backpacked all over Utah, slept on rocks everywhere from the Escalante drainage to the high Uinta mountains, canoed down the Colorado, and biked over 100 miles on the White Rim trail in Canyonlands National Park.
I have thought a lot recently about what I want to be doing when I am 63, 73, and 83, and how I achieve those goals.
I have learned the hard way that physical activity is good, but “catching air”, and setting speed records is bad.
Obviously, that is an oversimplification.
How can we stay active, have fun, and still stay safe?
Preventing injuries starts with proper conditioning. In addition to regular aerobic training, working on strength training and flexibility is key to preventing future injuries. Mixing it up helps; cross-training, or participating in a variety of activities, helps keep you out of the ER or my office. When I stretch and do those boring exercises, I end up staying upright and away from surgeons.
Warming up before hitting it hard helps. It does take a few more minutes, but that time can save months of rehab after surgery.
THE RIGHT GEAR
Wearing the correct gear is essential. I have learned the hard way that helmets, gloves, elbow, and knee pads are just as important as my bike when I ride trails. Borrowing someone else’s poorly fitting gear can lead to disaster.
Sunscreen and SPF protective hats and clothing are also “the right gear.” Sunburn not only ruins your vacation but can lead to melanoma that can be deadly.
KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING
Learn proper technique, know correct form, know and obey the rules. Taking a few classes is never a bad idea, and is often money well spent.
FEED AND WATER YOURSELF
Hydration is extremely important, particularly as June turns to July and August. Make sure you have enough fuel; if you are exercising for long periods of time make sure your body’s fuel tank is full.
DO WHAT I SAY, NOT WHAT I HAVE DONE….
Avoid playing while tired or in pain. Most of my injuries have been on the “last run” or trying to get in “one more mile.” When you are tired, your muscles are just not reliable.
Avoid trying extreme, YouTube-worthy activities or stunts. I see too many injuries in patients of all ages who were trying to copy something they saw on the internet.
If you have questions about how to stay safe, talk to your provider. We can give you information and arrange for referrals to physical therapists and nutritionists who can help you get ready for a lifetime of safe activity!
80 year-olds ski free at Alta, and my personal goal is to get that free season pass in 2047. See you on the lift or on the trails!
John Taylor, MD
Canyon View Medical Group