When Trying New Sports, Take It Slow

Ask anyone who has ever been a runner or played another sport (competitively or recreationally, at any age or ability level), and they’ll probably tell you there’s nothing like it. We encourage you to get outside and be active, whether that means going for a morning run before work, playing pickup basketball on the weekends, finding a tennis partner, joining a recreational soccer league, gym or athletic club, or finding any other creative, fun way to you to get moving and exercise both your body and your mind.

One word of caution though: while we know you’re excited, don’t throw yourself into new sports (or start up old sports again after a long break) with reckless abandon—especially if you’ve reached middle age and beyond.

The truth is, your body (including your feet) needs time to adjust to new activities, particularly those that will be putting regular stress on your feet, legs, knees, and hips. Doing too much, too soon, without enough time to rest and recover is the surest way to pick up a sports injury. This can occur from overuse (such as plantar fasciitis, shin splints, or stress fractures) or from a traumatic incident (such as a rupture of the Achilles tendon).

Just as it takes time and training for a beginning runner to work her way up to longer distances—1 mile, then a 5k, then a half marathon, etc.—you can’t expect to jump right into a new activity at full speed, even if you’re already a conditioned athlete used to playing other types of sports.

In general, a good rule of thumb is to start with what your body is comfortable with. Obviously you’ll face a little bit of fatigue or discomfort with any form of exercise, but you shouldn’t push your body to the point of pain. Listen to yourself, know your limits, and start out at a level you know you can handle.

Then, only increase your intensity (whether that means speed, mileage, duration, effort, or some combination) by about 10% each week. This allows your body to gradually adjust to new activities and build the strength, coordination, and durability necessary for higher levels of effort in the future. Don’t play every day, either—your body needs rest days to recover from high-impact exercise. Cross training with low-impact cardio (like cycling) or weight training in the gym is a great way to keep improving all-around fitness and athletic ability without putting any one area of your body under too much stress.

Unfortunately, even if you take all the necessary precautions, there’s no 100% effective way to prevent injury. If you do notice any pain or problems with your feet or ankles as a result of athletic endeavors, reach out to the specialists at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute. We are passionate about getting you back in the game. You can request an appointment online, or call 512-593-2949.

Posted on April 26, 2016 .