Like many of us, you may be opting for more local outdoor activities this summer. Whether you are camping, fishing, hiking or paddling, how you move your body during these activities matters. Here are some ergonomics and movement considerations to help keep you healthy while making the most of your summer!
The Road Trip
A large part of enjoying the outdoors starts with a drive there! Whether it’s a short or long commute, it is important we take the time to ensure we are set up well in the vehicle whether we are the driver or passenger. Prolonged static postures, awkward postures, and contact stress are often the main risk factors when driving. An optimal set-up can help to reduce fatigue and chronic discomfort concerns. Take a browse through our free Vehicle Set-Up Guide if you haven’t done so already. The guide will help walk you through how to incorporate ergonomic principles towards your vehicle set-up.
Some of my personal tips in addition to the guide:
Plan for rest stops when you plan your drive. Rest stops are not just to empty your bladder or fill the gas tank! Give your body a quick refresh with a stretch or walk to get circulation through the body and get the joints moving. It’s even better when the rest stop coincides with a nice view or snack!
For long drives, I like to stay moving with upper body stretches such as Shoulder Rolls, Chin Tucks, Wrist Circles, etc. These are ones I can easily do while driving safely.
Another trick I use is to bring a floor hockey ball with me that I can use for trigger point massage against my back (the ball goes between your back and the car seat). You can hit the lower back, upper back, around the shoulder blades, etc. If you’re new to trying this, a tennis ball that is softer and will compress more can be a better option to try.
Packing your gear, filling the coolers, squeezing it all into your vehicle, then doing it all over again at your destination can come with a lot of bending and lifting movements! How we bend and move can make the difference between building a healthier body or bringing us closer to injury.
For optimal bending and lifting mechanics during packing/unpacking:
Assess your load: How heavy is the load? Are there handles that can be used? Is it awkward or distributed unevenly? Do you need assistance?
Assess your surroundings: Is there uneven ground or slippery surfaces? Where are you picking up the load and where are you dropping it off? Do you have a clear path?
Executing the lift: How are your mechanics? Do you have a stable base that allows the body to lift and/or transfer your weight? Are you hinging through the hips and keeping a neutral spine? Are you keeping the shoulder blades anchored back against the ribcage? Can you use an alternate-style lift technique, such as a golfer’s lift, lunge, or kneeling position?
Pack smart: Food items that have to be put away every night or every time you are away from the campsite should be packed in an easy to access location. Heavy or awkward items should also be easier to access.
Setting Up Camp
The cooler can be an item we access frequently throughout the day. Check how your bending mechanics are when accessing it from the ground level! Or better yet, is there a way to elevate the height of the cooler to eliminate/reduce the bending risk?
Let’s face it though, we can’t always bring things up to a better height and sometimes we have to move ourselves closer to the ground to get things done! Remember to keep a neutral spine when bending during ground-level activities such as setting-up your tent and sleeping arrangements. A neutral spine posture means you have the head, shoulders, and hips all in alignment. A wide stable base will assist you in maintaining a neutral spine when working close to the ground, consider kneeling on one knee while pitching your tent.
Lastly, consider giving your body what it needs before, during and after enjoying your activities! Going for a hike? Some lower body stretching of the calves, hip flexors, and hamstrings afterwards may help you recover before your next hike. Paddleboarding? Do a good warm-up focusing on your shoulders and engaging your core before heading out on the water. You will especially need the shoulder warm-up if you have an inflatable SUP! Fishing? Take a few seconds in between all the (many) fish you catch to stand up and interrupt those seated postures!
We hope these tips help you stay healthy and active while you enjoy the summer and outdoors. Have fun and let us know how you did!