Dear Greenbelt Walkers, Joggers, and Cyclists,
Each Wednesday, my son, Paxton, and I run on the Greenbelt. It is a peaceful time where he gets to sit in the Bob stroller and watch learning videos and sing the ABC’s while I melt in the hot summer sun with a smile on my face because I am free to run at that moment. On my runs, sometimes I see the same people, and sometimes I see new faces. We smile and wave and keep going on about our ways, but really I have a lot to say.
I am thrilled to see you out enjoying the outdoors and getting some exercise, and the PT in me wants to help you enjoy these things for many years to come. So, here are a 5 tips to keep your Greenbelt outings healthy and happy.
Tip #1: Look Up
At times, I see you on your phone looking, gazing at the ground, or watching your cute little dog trot along. However, what you may not know is that looking down while you exercise is not ideal for your neck and shoulders. It contributes to a forward head, rounded shoulders posture, which can cause many issues later in life. We already sit for prolonged periods of time on our computer, so let’s look up when we are away. Stand tall!
Tip #2: Stride it Out
Taking short steps can decrease your hip extension, which decreases your gluteal muscle activation. What does this mean? If your glutes are not firing appropriately, then you are getting excessive compression at your knees and even in your low back. Think about pushing the ground away behind you. You may even find that this helps you pick up the pace (which can aid in weight loss).
Tip #3: Check Your Bike Seat Height
Many times, I notice that people are riding their bikes with the seat too low. If the seat remains low, it puts the hips at a disadvantage and can cause pinching in the front of the hips. Getting this right can improve your comfort and your efficiency. The quickest method is to put your heel on your pedal and pedal backwards to the 6 o’clock position. Your knees should be pretty straight when you get there. If not, I would try raising the seat up. There are a lot of factors that may go into obtaining the correct height, so if you are in pain, visit your local bike shop.
Tip #4: Warm Up and Cool Down
We are all in a hurry. However, performing a few dynamic warm up exercises before your run and slow static stretching following your workout may help you avoid injury long-term and keep movement patterns well. I recommend toe touches, leg swings, lunges, and rotational movements of the spine to start. It doesn’t take long, but it can make a large impact in your performance.
Tip #5: Smile at People (It’s Contagious!)
Wellness does not have to do with just our physical bodies. Mental strength is also cultivated by allowing yourself to connect with others. In our culture of technology, it is easy to shut people out. However, you may find that your feet are a little bit lighter when you smile at someone you pass and they return the favor. Walking with a friend and throwing in a good laugh can even have double the benefits, relaxing your muscles and releasing good chemicals throughout your workout and for hours following. These things may help change your perspective and help you relax your mind and decrease stress.
So, my friends of the Greenbelt, I hope this helps you assess if you are getting the most out of your workouts. Enjoy your day!
Shelly (The Lady with the Yellow Stroller)