REHAB IN MOTION: Getting fit for the golf green
The first day of spring has passed, and it is starting to get warm enough for average mortals to start returning to the golf course. Making the transition back to golfing after a long winter of inactivity can often be harder on your body than you might think, but a few simple steps can help to ease the transition into a new season.
The first thing to consider when starting the new golf season is that most full size 18 hole courses average between 6,500 and 7,300 yards, or somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 kilometres. This doesn’t include the distance walked between the holes.
If you haven’t done any walking before you start golfing, you can be pretty stiff and sore after your first day.
To prevent these symptoms, start a gradual walking program for aerobic fitness one to two months before you start golfing. Work up to walking five kilometres several times per week by increasing you walking distance slowly. Of course, using a golf cart also works to decrease the distance you have to walk, but it isn’t nearly as good for you.
Flexibility is the second most important factor to consider at the start of the golf season. Swinging a club properly requires a significant amount of flexibility in the shoulders, spine, and hips. Tightness in any of these muscle groups can not only change golfing technique, but also increase the chances of sprains and strains.
Gentle stretches should be done for several weeks before starting to golf. Stretching for five minutes before golfing does not significantly increase the flexibility of the muscles, and will not help to prevent injury. Strengthening is also a very important component of a pre-season conditioning program. Simple exercises, using elastic tubing or hand weights, can help to prevent muscle sprains and strains and improve your golf game.
Exercises are a good way to prepare for the season, but there is no substitute for actually swinging a club. It is always best, however, to start slowly. Go to the driving range and start with a pitching wedge, then work up to irons and finally drivers. Don’t try and hit three buckets of balls, and don’t try for a 300 yard drive on your first day back. Starting slowly gives your muscles some time to adapt to the stresses of swinging a club and reduces the chances of an injury that can delay the start of your season.
There is a significant amount of information on the Internet about fitness training for golf.
The trick, of course, is to find the exercises that are appropriate for your fitness and golfing skill level. If you are unsure of how to put together a proper conditioning program get some help at your local gym, or talk to a physiotherapist to ensure that you are able to fully enjoy golfing without any of the aches, sprains or strains that can come along with it.
Ben Chatterson is a physiotherapist at Rehabilitation in Motion which has four Island locations including two in Campbell River: Willow Point, 923-3773; Quinsam (across from SaveOn Foods), 286-9670; Comox Valley, 334-9670; Port Alberni; 723-9675. Ben Chatterson works at the Comox Valley Clinic. Visit www.rehabinmotion.com