Enjoying the Outdoors: Hiking Safety and Fitness

Summer is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy all the great sites that nature has to offer. For those seeking adventure, state or national parks offer an ideal location for hiking. Before planning a hiking trip, though, it is important to be prepared. A hiker’s fitness level, knowledge of safety considerations, proper equipment, and nutrition are just a few of the things to consider before hitting the trail.

The length and difficulty of any hike should be based on your fitness and skill level. If you are just beginning, you should begin with day hikes and work up to longer overnight hikes, and even week-long trips. Remember that it’s always important to consult your physician before beginning a new exercise routine.

Being aware of safety measures can help save a life if something unexpected happens during a hike. Some important tips to remember are:

  • Always hike in a group of two or more. One person can go to get help if it is needed, and hikers in groups are able to assist each other over difficult terrain. Keep in mind that Pennsylvania has varying terrains, so you may want to get a topographic map with marked trails ahead of time.
  • Always put the slowest person at the front and move at their pace.
  • Inform a responsible person of your travel plans and when to expect you to return.
  • Know what type of weather to expect.
  • Take proper apparel and dress in layers in order to adapt to temperature changes and avoid hypothermia. Be sure to bring fleece clothing, since it has the ability to provide warmth even if it becomes wet.
  • Know and respect the wildlife and plant life in the area that you will be hiking. When hiking, be somewhat noisy so that wildlife will clear the area before it is even seen. Poison ivy and poison oak should be identifiable to a hiker and avoided.

Be sure to drink plenty of fluids while hiking in order to avoid dehydration. Modern water filters allow consumption from a creek or stream. Treatment tablets are also viable options, but can cause an unpleasant taste in the water.

If you are backpacking, it is important to have the correct equipment. Know how much a loaded backpack weighs, and only take what you need. Some important items to take on a trip are a lightweight tent, a lightweight sleeping bag that can accommodate nightly low temperatures, and a lightweight ground pad. You should also take lightweight rain gear and a flashlight in case of bad weather. Remember to bring proper footwear. A solid, comfortable hiking boot will help to keep feel dry, warm, and blister free.

Whether you are interested in starting a hiking regime, would like to increase your strength or endurance, or if an injury or pain is keeping you from your favorite activity, UPMC Sports Medicine has the experts and services to help. Contact us to find out how we can make a dynamic difference in your orthopaedic care.

Back to top^

Tendonitis and Bursitis: Avoiding Overhead Injuries

Sports that use overhead motion such as tennis, volleyball, softball, or baseball put athletes at risk for repetitive motion injuries. Even everyday activities such as brushing your hair, scrubbing the floor, or throwing a ball can lead to repetitive motion injuries. “Shoulder bursitis and tendonitis are common overuse injuries in sports where the arm is used in an overhead motion,” says, David Stone, MD, UPMC Center for Sports Medicine.
Tendonitis can occur when too much overhead activity is done at one time, without proper conditioning and preparation. Common areas for tendonitis are the shoulder, biceps, and elbow. The most common bursitis injuries occur in the shoulder, knee, and hip. Bursitis occurs when a tendon rubs over the bursa during repetitive overhead activities, causing inflammation.

“Repetitive motion activities can cause micro tears in the tendon, and if the body is unable to repair the tears as quickly as they are occurring, then inflammation can occur,” says Dr. Stone.

Pain associated with both tendonitis and bursitis is usually located at the area of injury, and may cause a decreased range of motion in the affected joint. You should contact a physician if the pain begins to interfere with your daily activities.

There are many simple ways to prevent repetitive overhead injuries. When participating in activity, remember to warm up and cool down. Maintaining strong muscles, including biceps, upper and middle back muscles, and pectoral muscles, also helps to prevent injury. If you feel pain in your shoulder during activity, stop activity for that day and apply ice to the affected area. Do not return to activity until the pain has subsided.

Back to top^

Preseason Conditioning: A Start to a Winning Season

Whether preparing for a fall sport or looking ahead to the winter sport season, preseason conditioning is an important aspect of an athlete’s training schedule. Preseason conditioning should start between eight and twelve weeks before the beginning of your season.. If you play multiple sports, or have multiple seasons, you may need to choose a primary sport and begin training before the beginning of that season. The components of a comprehensive training program should consist of:

  • general preparation – which should include flexibility, and dynamic warm-ups. Conditioning should be aerobic in the earliest phases to establish a level of fitness and eventually transition to anaerobic conditioning specific to your sport.
  • strength training — should be done three to four times per week starting with high volume, lower intensity programs, and progressing to low volume, high intensity
  • jump or plyometric training — which should begin with a low degree of difficulty and progresse to a higher degree depending on the experience level of the athlete. Jump training should only be done after you complete initial strength training, in order to develop a good base strength. Speed and agility training should be practiced two to three times per week, starting with basic exercises and advancing to more advanced sport-specific movements.
  • lower intensity recreational activities — called “active recovery,” this will allow you to remain active, while allowing your muscles to rest. Remember, it is important to cool down after each work out.

The experts at UPMC Sports Medicine recommend that a weeklong exercise plan should consist of daily flexibility training; strength exercises four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; plyometric, speed, and agility training on Tuesday and Thursday; active recovery on Wednesday and Saturday; and total rest on Sunday.

Our experts provide athletes with a range of programs and services that can help prevent and treat injuries and increase performance during pre-season conditioning and all year long. One of those programs is UPMC Sports Performance which offers athletes the tools and techniques they need to reach their peak performance, including customized strength and conditioning programs designed to fit each individual’s needs.

Back to top^

Nutrition: An Important Component to Your Preseason Conditioning Program

A crucial component to any preseason conditioning program is nutrition. Just like aerobic and anaerobic activities help build muscles, endurance, and strength, a proper nutritional component can help keep the body fueled and hydrated to help you reach your training goals.

Leslie Bonci, director of UPMC Sports Medicine’s sports nutrition program, has the following recommendations to help athletes condition for an upcoming sport season.

  1. Eat breakfast within one hour of waking up. Some healthy breakfast options are cereal with low-fat milk and fruit; a scrambled egg burrito or wrap; waffles and scrambled eggs; or a ham and cheese sandwich. Drink at least 20 ounces of water, juice or low fat milk after waking up.
  2. Drink plenty of fluid throughout the day. This will include 11, 8 ounce cups of fluid daily. Fluids can consist of water, juice, milk, or tea; however limit drinks such as Kool Aid, fruit punch, energy drinks, and sodas. Also be sure to drink 20 ounces of fluid before exercise — such as water or sports drinks — and be sure to drink enough fluid while exercising.
  3. In order to determine how much fluid you need to drink each hour while exercising, use this formula to determine your sweat rate: Calculate your pre-exercise weight and your post exercise weight, in ounces. Subtract your pre-exercise weight from your post exercise weight to get the total amount of weight lost. Add that number to the number of ounces of fluid consumed during exercise. Divide this number by the total number of hours you spent in activity. This equals your hourly sweat rate or how much fluid your need to drink every hour.
    • For example: Pre-exercise weight=145 pounds; post exercise weight=142 pounds, three pound weight loss = 48 ounces ( 3 x 16); 48 + 20 ounces of fluid consumed during exercise = 68; 68 ÷ 2 hours of exercise = 34 ounces of fluid needed per hour.
    • After exercise you will need to drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose during exercise. For example, if you lose three pounds, you will need to drink 60 ounces of fluid.
  4. It is important to drink water the right way. While exercising, gulp fluid instead of just taking sips. Do not spit out the fluid or dump it on your head. Choose cool fluids instead of ice cold fluids before and during exercise.
  5. While you are exercising, if your sweat stings your eyes, tastes salty, or if you have a tendency to get muscle cramps while exercising, then you may be a salty sweater. Individuals who are salty sweaters should choose a sports drink instead of water while exercising, and should add a half of a teaspoon of salt to a 32 ounce bottle of Gatorate or Powerade. During the day when you are not exercising, eat more salty foods such as salted nuts, pretzels, crackers, and pickles.
  6. You should always eat both before and after workouts. If you are weightlifting, you will need to eat 12 to 15 grams of protein and 35 grams of carbohydrates 30 to 60 minutes before you begin lifting. If you have sports practice or are doing cardiovascular activities, you should eat at least one hour before in order to give your muscles the energy they need. Remember to eat or drink something with calories within 15 minutes of your workout.
  7. While training, it is important to eat at least five times at day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, pre-exercise, and post exercise. If you need extra calories, you can add in another snack or small meal during the day. At every meal you should eat carbohydrates such a fruit, vegetables, bread, or pasta; protein such as lean meat, chicken, turkey, or fish; and fats such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, nuts, or seeds. Avoid fatty foods such as sausage, pepperoni, bacon and ribs; fried foods such as fried chicken; and pastries such as doughnuts and sweet rolls. In addition, you should avoid ice cream and whole milk.
Back to top^

Avoiding Hidden Summertime Safety Hazards

During the summer months many people are participating in outside activities such as running, biking, swimming, and hiking. In addition to the sprains, broken bones, and other injuries that athletes could sustain, it is important to be aware of additional safety hazards that could affect those seeking outdoor adventure this summer.

Always Wear Sunscreen

While spending time outdoors, it is important to protect against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In order to effectively protect your skin, always use sunscreen. Sunscreen is available in topical lotion, cream, ointment, gel, or spray. A sunscreen’s sun-protection factor (SPF) is a number such as 15, 30, or 50 that indicates the amount of sun protection provided by that sunscreen. People who have sensitive skin or who sunburn easily in the sun should always apply an SPF of 30 or more. If you don’t properly protect your skin, damage such as dry skin, premature wrinkling of the skin, sunburn, and even skin cancer such as melanoma can occur.

Avoiding and Treating Insect and Bee Stings

More time spent outside enjoying the warmer weather means a greater risk of suffering an insect bite or a bee sting. A common way to defend against some of these insects while enjoying outside activities is to use a bug or mosquito repellant spray or a citronella candle. The most common bites or stings in Pennsylvania are bees, wasps, grass spiders, and mosquitoes. Most stings or bits can be treated safely at home with topical ointments or creams. However, if you begin to suffer a severe allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.

Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses

When you are spending time outdoors it is important that you stay hydrated. While it is suggested that you consume 10 to 12 glasses of water on a normal day, you should be consuming and extra glass of water for every half hour of outside activity you do. Consuming enough fluid will help to prevent heat-related illnesses such as dehydration and heat stroke. To avoid any heat-related illnesses, always wear loose, light clothing and drink plenty of fluids. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include disorientation, excessive sweating, nausea, weakness, pale skin, headache, or even loss of consciousness. If you experience any of these symptoms, find a shaded, cool area; apply ice to the body; and seek proper medical treatment.

Back to top^