Here in the Midwest, when we FINALLY get a glimmer of hope that winter is ending, we get sometimes TOO excited to get back into the game.  For many in Elmhurst, this means running -- for some kids, just running around as well as soccer.  The very last thing any of us wants at this time is to suffer an injury that could cause a hiccup in our fitness goals.  Check out this checklist to make sure you are doing everything you can to avoid injury this Spring!

1. Look at your shoes.  Make sure that your running shoes are in good condition.  They should have minimal wear to the heel and forefoot. Did you keep track of how many miles you were at when you put them away last year? As shoes wear out, they lose some of their ability to absorb shock. This is also critical in soccer players. The ground underneath the prairie path and in the soccer fields is likely very hard from the long winter months of freezing temperatures. The impact can jar your feet and cause anything from growth plate pain to stress fractures.

...and your orthotics? Make sure you didn't end last season with a worn out pair of orthotics.  We still (sadly) have a few colder weeks to go, so it may just be the perfect time for you to get fitted for your new orthotics!

2. Remember your stretches! When you haven't run as much (or even if you have, but on different terrain), stretching helps our tendons and ligaments to prepare for the impact of exercise again.  It helps our tissues to recover better after exercise, so that we can get back to running again sooner after your first post-winter run on the path.  If you need some guidance on stretches, look here - our recommended stretches target a few of the most important spots to avoid foot and ankle pain.

3. Don't get TOO excited.  Even if you have great shoes and are diligent with stretching, doing a 10 mile run when you haven't run as much recently will put excessive wear on your joints, tendons and ligaments.  If you overwork them with the first few runs outside, you may find yourself on the couch for a few days before you're up to going out again.

4. Don't get discouraged.  When you haven't run for the season -- or even if you've been stuck on the treadmill -- getting back into the swing of things can take a while.  Running on a treadmill is very different from running outside on the sidewalk or Prairie Path.  If you feel beat up and more fatigued than usual after your workout, give yourself the time and patience you need to recover.  If you can't run the same distance you could on the treadmill, walk or lunge the rest of the workout.

5. Mix it up and keep it fun!  There are SO many things we can do now that the weather is turning around.  Don't limit yourself to running. Include your friends and family. Whether going for a walk or throwing a ball or frisbee around, you will burn extra calories and feel happier from the variety of activities!