By Chrystal Caudill
Enjoy amusement parks this spring, but skip the soreness, blisters and sunburn!
Is there a better time than now to ride a roller coaster? Amusement parks are teeming with excited visitors in the spring – for both kids and adults, the weather is ideal for walking around the park, waiting in line for rides and experiencing all that the expansive meccas of fun have to offer. There are plenty of amusement parks that require a road trip, but don’t forget about Busch Gardens in Williamsburg or Kings Dominion near Fredericksburg, which you can do in a day trip! But before you print your coupons and push the kids through the entrance gate turnstile, make sure you’re not waiting in line for a strain or an injury. Nothing ruins an exhilarating day at the park more than a sore back, aching feet or a scorching sunburn.
Follow these easy pre-park stretches and prep plans, and your spring outing will be
You and your friends or family will be on your feet all day at the park – standing in line, wandering from ride to ride…standing in line some more. Get your legs and feet ready with some pre-park stretches.
Hamstrings: Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you, toes pointing up. Gently fold forward, bending at the waist and bringing your chest toward your legs. Do not force this stretch, but make sure you feel the muscles stretching in the back of your legs. If you’re flexible, reach for your ankles and hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds.
Quadriceps: Use a wall or sturdy chair to hold your balance with your left hand. Bend your right knee and reach for your right ankle. Holding your right ankle with your right hand, pull your heel close to your glutes. You should feel a stretch through the front of the thigh. Hold this for 10 to 15 seconds and then do the same with your left leg. Repeat twice on each side.
As temperatures rise, it’s tempting to throw on a pair of flip-flops. At an amusement park, however, you’ll need sturdy, comfortable shoes with ample support – flip-flops, sandals or worn out footwear could land you at home on the couch with shin splints, blisters or throbbing feet. Choose sneakers or gym shoes designed for walking. Walking shoes are stiffer than runners or cross trainers. It is also important not to wear brand new shoes for a full day of walking. Give your shoes a few trial runs to ensure they agree with your foot and gait. Socks are critical too – Socks create a moisture barrier between the skin and the shoe, preventing a sweaty foot from sliding around and incurring blisters.
Clothing and Skin Protection:
Whether it’s sunny or not, sunscreen is a must. Apply it before you arrive, and reapply to exposed areas regularly throughout the day to avoid sunburn. Many people wear hats to protect the scalp from sunlight. If you’re a hat person, just make sure to take it off and store it securely when you’re on a roller coaster. Clothing should be comfortable – avoid anything too binding or restrictive. Light colors will also help deflect the sun’s rays if it’s a particularly bright day.
Neck and back stretches:
Roller coasters and other rides can be a nightmare for the neck and back, especially as we get older. Your muscles and bones likely aren’t used to all that jostling, twisting and jerking, and will respond to sudden movements with tension and opposition.
Torso rotation: Lay on your back and bend both knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Move the knees slowly from side to side, but only until you feel a stretch in your torso. The shoulders should be still and flat. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds in each direction and do 10 or 15 repetitions.
Neck: While seated or standing, look straight ahead and tuck the chin down and move the head backward slowly. The goal with this movement is to feel a stretch at the base of the neck, but you should not feel any pain. Repeat this movement 10 or 15 times, always looking straight ahead.
Lower back: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Place hands on the small of your back, fingertips pointed downward so they touch at the spine. Bend backward at the waist as far as you can without straining. Keep your knees straight. Hold for just a second or two and then repeat 10 times.
Water is crucial at any amusement park, whether it’s sunny or overcast. You’ll be moving all day and you may become dehydrated without realizing it. Do some research before you go. Some parks do not allow outside drinks beyond the entrance – this information is usually available on the park’s website. If this is the case, find out whether the park provides free or inexpensive cups for water you can get from drinking fountains around the park. If you are allowed to bring your own drink, get a reusable water bottle that seals tightly and won’t leak. Sip regularly throughout the day, whether you feel thirsty or not. If your kids are along for the day, keep a close eye on their water intake as well. They may be too excited to remember to hydrate.
Enjoying a day of laughter, roller coasters, water rides and games should leave you full of exhilaration and memories – not stiff muscles, blistered feet and scorching sunburn. A few simple preparations should help maximize your fun and avoid any amusement park pitfalls.