Tips for the Industrial Athlete
by Ben Isbell, Safety Supervisor, Minnkota Division
Professional and competitive athletes’ careers often last as long as their bodies can handle the sport. Whether it’s football, triathlons or mixed martial arts, an athlete’s body endures a lot of physical strain. They often follow strict stretching and body care regimens to stay in the best possible physical condition. WTS employees are no different than these athletes; the amount of physical activity applied on a daily basis while performing line clearance is easily comparable. As an “industrial athlete” you need to take care of yourself just as much as LeBron James or (as a Vikings fan, dare I say it) Aaron Rodgers.
Here are four simple steps to take in order to stay in top physical shape:
1) Stay hydrated, even in the winter months.
Water acts as a building material, a solvent, a carrier for nutrients and waste products, a thermo regulator, and as a lubricant and shock absorber. Those last two benefits are imperative for the spine, tendons, joints and muscles. Hydration is good for stress recovery and helps relieve inflammation.
2) Maintain vertical efficiency whenever possible.
As someone who started as a groundman, I realize that you can’t always maintain an ergonomically friendly position when climbing or working from a bucket. Try to keep your back straight when lifting, carrying or pruning with a stick saw or ground saw, as it is essential in preventing back injuries and strains. Carry items as close to your body as you can. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrases “turn, don’t twist” and “move, don’t reach.” When pruning with a chain or hydraulic saw, rather than reach, move your body into a strong position before making the cut.
3) Stretch, stretch, stretch!
Before work, stretch the areas of your body that are going to be used that day. Also, stretch after particularly strenuous activities or at lunch. If you’re an equipment operator, be sure to stretch after sitting for a long period of time. After work, make sure to stretch as well. Stretching increases flexibility, which benefits tendons, muscles and joints. Combined with a good diet and good hydration, stretching will help to prevent strains and sprains from occurring.
Getting good sleep at night (and in a dark room) helps the body recover thoroughly from the day’s activities. Your body has a much more difficult time regaining energy and flexibility with little to no sleep. Also, recent studies show that limiting exposure to LED or LCD screens at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep can help you fall asleep easier and help you achieve better rest.
These four steps are just some of the things we can do to stay in peak physical condition. Seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor on an annual or otherwise regular basis can also be beneficial, as well as going to the doctor for an annual exam. Just like we inspect our climbing gear, we must have the most important machine on our jobsite regularly examined – the industrial athlete!