What can you do at home? First, have a balanced workout routine. One thing I found is that working out only certain muscles – let’s say your biceps and triceps – can make you more likely to pull a muscle that you aren’t using. So you’re really strong and you can lift a lot. But get a job throwing hay bales around and you might notice that it uses this little muscle here a lot, and that will end up getting pulled.
So in the skateboarding world, you’re getting a solid workout from skating, but it’s your calf muscles, your ankles, quads and glutes. If you bail and you have to catch yourself, you might end up using a muscle that you don’t train a lot, and that’s the one that could get pulled.
So having a regular workout, focusing on lower body for skating, could go a long way.
Another thing I found is vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin. Most people, around 77% in the US, don’t get enough vitamin D. It’s been found that vitamin D plays an important role in balancing electrolytes and synthesizing new protein. That can lead to an easier failure of your muscle tissue, and a slower recovery too.
As a skater, you probably get more vitamin D than most people, just from being outside more. But the amount of skin that’s exposed to the sun, and the amount of pigment blocking that sun can make a big difference. A lot of doctors recommend a vitamin D supplement. So that’s something to consider if you have this happen a lot.
But what about when you’re actually skating?
The first step, unlike what you might have learned in gym class, is to do a little cardio. Get your heart pumping and your muscles warmed up. You might have learned to start with stretching, like we did in my school, but that’s actually not the best way to go. You don’t see anyone recommending doing things that way anymore. Stretching is important though, and we’ll get to it.
But the first thing is to warm up. If you skated, walked or biked to the spot you’re going to skate, you’re off to a good start. But from starting cold to skating at maximum should take about 20 minutes. Skate to the spot, do some manuals and shove its and stuff, and slowly build up. It’s important to warm up the muscles so that they move a little better.
Chances are, you’re doing this already, but you might have been surprised to hear it’s supposed to be 20 minutes. So don’t make a habit of doing First Try Fridays. Make sure you’re warmed up and loose.
Next is stretching. Wait until your body is loose and warmed up.
There are a lot of different ideas about the best kinds of stretches to do.
Touching your toes might help loosen you up, but getting too aggressive with it can cause muscle damage and decrease performance. Your goal is to get your muscles ready to skate, not to just make them as long as you can by yanking on them.
What kind of stretches should you do exactly? Good question. Read 15 articles about it and you’ll get 20 answers. But one thing I found that was eccentric exercises can be best, like a nordic hamstring curl. That looks like this.
The idea is that you’re actually actively fighting the stretch. But let’s be honest, you’re not going to be doing this move in the grass next to the spot with your butt in your friend’s face or anything, so I might save this one in case you have a ton of problems.
I’m not going to tell you exactly what stretches to do. A lot of sources encourage dynamic stretching. But I’ll tell you this. As part of my physical therapy when I had knee problems, I had to do a lot of lower body exercises. And I got a lot of different videos to do. They all did different stretches, and they all took potshots at each other as doing stuff wrong. But one thing they all agree on is not to force it. Don’t grab your leg and pull on it to force it to stretch. Don’t swing back and forth and have your momentum carry you too far. Just try to be smart about it.
But whatever you come up with, do some stretches of your choice, and keep them up throughout the session. Take a break every now and then and hit those stretches again. While you’re skating, you might only be using certain muscles, so keep stretching to keep everything loose.
OK, you’ve done everything right, or maybe you didn’t. But you strained a muscle. What do you do now?
The first thing you do is get off of it! It might be your instinct to try to walk it off and maybe stretch it and massage it… But that’s the last thing you should do. You just overstretched it! You don’t need to stretch it even further.
According to the Mayo clinic, you should use the RICE system. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
You need to rest your sprained muscle by trying not to use it. Don’t be a hero. Take a break and don’t push yourself for a few days at least.
Next, apply ice for 20 minutes at a time, every hour on the first day, and every 4 hours on the second day. Then as needed after that. You’ll see this advice a lot, but you’ll also see people strongly arguing that you should never ice a strained muscle ever. So take that with a grain of salt. My chiropractor recommends ice still. Seems like most people do.
Next is compression. Wrap the muscle in an elastic band. Some compression will help with swelling. Too much will cut off circulation, so be careful with that.
Last is elevation – try to keep it raised over the heart if possible.
Aside from that, try anti-inflammatories. And when it starts to feel better, switch to heat and start to get back into light stretching.
Hopefully that helps.