Weekend Warrior Syndrome.

My friend and one-time training partner Gary Valencia used to talk derisively about the concept of the “Weekend Warrior” – the 5 day a week Nine to Fiver who, come the weekend, engages in strenuous physical activity all weekend (as if he were a top-notch athlete in prime competitive condition). Of course, being a Captain in the US National Guard, he came into contact with his fair share of weekend warriors (although they were literal “warriors”).

(Aside: You know, I miss training with ya, Valencia-san. It was fun testing our skills against Sifu Vinny’s students, et al.)

Fast forward years later, I am confronted with “Weekend Warrior Syndrome” each and every Monday, when clients confront me with a host of maladies sustained from their weekend activities. The interesting thing is that they need not have been involved in sports; nearly any strenuous physical activity can be the root cause (i.e., gardening, shoveling, playing with kids, etc.)

Our conversations roughly follow this template:

Me: “So, how was the weekend?”

Client: “Oh man, I tweaked my (insert body part here) in the worst way when (insert activity here)! But it’s ok today, I took a Motrin/Advil/generic NSAID before I came here. Squats?”

At this point, I typically bury my head in my hands and shake it vigorously.

There are several reasons why taking NSAIDs prior to a workout is a bad idea. But the 2 major reasons are:

1) How do I know I’m not making it worse with an exercise we’re doing?
Answer: You don’t. That’s why unless it’s absolutely necessary, refrain from taking the med “just to get the workout in.” It’s definitely ok to delay the workout a day or two to heal.

2) NSAIDs interfere with muscle rebuilding.

Taking NSAIDS prior to working out is akin to drinking a jar of honey before eating a low-carb meal; all the potential benefit of the activity is undermined by what you did prior to it. I quote:

“Pain medicines may make you feel better, but at the cost of interfering with the strength gains you are working to achieve.”

So what can we do to combat this problem?

1) Stay in good condition:
The best advice I can give is to keep strength levels high by strength training. Don’t allow yourself to degenerate. If you want to continue playing tennis well into your 50s, 60s, etc., maintain your muscle strength and conditioning. It will make your performance that much better and your recovery that much easier.

2) Don’t overdo it, i.e., ask for help:
It’s ok to ask your son to shovel the driveway for you, or to bribe the neighborhood kids to clear the backyard. It doesn’t mean you’re getting old and lazy, really. Besides, with age comes wisdom, right? If you insist on doing things yourself, pay close attention to the signals your body gives you – a tweaky or sore muscle or tendon is a good sign you should stop for the time being.

3) Utilize non-pharmaceutical solutions:
Have a hot bath with Epsom salts. Get a massage from a professional. Supplement with antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, or take glutamine. Apply ice and heat.

I feel that at a minimum, self-professed “Weekend Warriors” require 3 workouts during the week to maintain performance and prevent injury: 2 full-body strength workouts and 1 “safety workout.” The full-body workouts are to maximize strength and performance, and the safety workout comprises all additional work to ensure the weak points are addressed as well (e.g., forearm, wrist, and rotator cuff work for a tennis player). More on that later…

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