Published: Oct. 25, 2017
Runner stretches on pedestrian bridge

Whether it’s a sport, an instrument, lifting weights or going on a hike, being in tune with your body can help you perform better. Annie Sirotniak, a physical therapist at Wardenburg Health Services, gives tips on how to make sure you’re performing at your best and what to do if an injury gets in the way. 

Getting in tune with your body

A good skill to practice is being mindful of what our bodies are telling us. By tuning in to how we feel, we can be more aware of when we might be pushing too hard or when we need a break. Is something feeling off when you’re on the track? Take a few minutes to stretch and see if that helps. Do you feel a twinge while lifting weights? Try having a friend look at your form and help you adjust if needed.

Practicing mindfulness isn’t reserved for when we’re being active, either. Even something as simple as being mindful of sitting up straight, doing breathing exercises or stretching our necks can be helpful to prevent neck and back pain.

Before, during and after

There are steps we can take before, during and after an activity to make sure we’re primed for optimal performance.

  • Incorporate dynamic warmup exercises before playing intensive sports like soccer.
  • Always warm up and stretch the muscles you’ll be using. This allows the muscles to function better during the activity.
  • Gradually increase how much work your muscles are doing. Pushing too hard too fast can result in injury and set you back in your progress. 
  • Cool down with slow, steady stretching while the muscles are still warm.

Dealing with setbacks

In general, if you have a strain or pain, resting and taking pressure off of the area is a good first step. The PRICE/RICE (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) technique works well for a swollen ankle or knee.

If the pain isn't getting better, the swelling continues or you’re struggling with returning to the activity, it's time to consult with a medical provider or physical therapist to figure out what's really going on. Taking time off and resting is a good start, but getting to the “why” is important to prevent an injury in the future.

Resources

Wardenburg Health Services offers a Musculoskeletal Injury “MSK” Clinic, which is free for CU Boulder students. There, a physical therapist provides screenings for minor injuries involving muscles and joints and gives recommendations for injury prevention and self-care. MSK is available at Wardenburg Health Center and at the Rec Center on a walk-in basis during designated hours.

There is also an athletic trainer that works at The Rec who can help students learn safe ways to exercise and prevent injuries.

About the expert

Sirotniak has been working at Wardenburg Physical Therapy and Integrative Care for 23 years. She got her master’s and doctoral degree in physical therapy from CU Denver and became an orthopedic clinical specialist in 2010. Prior to her career in physical therapy, she was a professional bike racer and former CU Women’s Cycling Team coach.

Sirotniak enjoys working with students of all ages and all backgrounds—from musician to graduate student/lab worker to club sport athlete. She is an avid musician and multi-instrumentalist in bluegrass and traditional Irish music genres and is involved in music promotion and production in Lyons, Colorado.

The Healthy Buffs series is brought to you by Wardenburg Health Services. Visit us online at www.colorado.edu/health.