Think you don't need to physically prepare for a round of golf? Think again.
"People really think you don't have to be fit for golf," says Kara Thomas, fitness and wellness manager at Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa's Sanctuary. "You want to get fit and really ready for your golf game."
Thomas, a certified personal trainer who specializes in exercise conditioning for golfers, says amateurs and professional golfers often get injuries to their "lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands."
Even if you only hit the links once a week, you need a regular fitness routine to keep your body in shape and help reduce the likelihood of injuries.
"I have a belief in foundational fitness for golfers," says avid golfer Grant Pettegrew, who is also a personal trainer and a certified strength and conditioning specialist at GolfConditioningNow.com.
Pettegrew recommends resistance training at least twice a week to help the body stay strong, as well as flexibility exercises five to seven times a week.
*Working Your Core
Because golf relies on a lot of forward motions and bending, you'll need strong abdominal muscles, an area known as the "core."
"Breathe; exhale; and pull your tummy into your spine to activate your muscles," Thomas says. "Activate your abdominals to support your back."
*Get Fit, Stay Fit
Golf can be a long game, but that's not a good reason to skimp on a chance to get extra exercise.
For example, don't take the cart.
"Do the little things to add to your overall fitness," says Pettegrew, who recommends walking throughout your golf game.
"I'd say fitness is absolutely beneficial and needed for the golfer," he says. "Even just small tweaks to traditional exercise can make a big difference to your lifestyle and your game."
"Don't walk out before you're warmed up," says Thomas, who suggests golfers should have pre-round movements, mid-round movements and late-round movements.
"Your warm-up -- low-impact aerobics or a cardio program -- is crucial," Thomas says. "You want to increase blood circulation so you have warm muscles."
She recommends power walking, knee lifts (to stretch your back and your quads), shoulder stretches and lifting your arms over your heart to get oxygen flowing.
Pettegrew suggests doing 10 to 15 weighted core rotations on each side during your warm-up.
"Hold something heavy at the center of the chest," he says. "Then rotate from the core, not the shoulders, and move side to side."
You need to stay limber during the back nine, too.
Stretch your lower back by just leaning over slowly and extending your spine. Hold your club or a chair and stretch over it, says Thomas.
You also can do lunge stretches to stretch your hips, flexors, glutes and hamstrings.
Keep your hands flexible, too.
"In between holes, use the rubber end of a golf club for a quick?hand massage," says Michele Merhib, licensed massage therapist and founder of?Elements Therapeutic Massage. "Apply pressure to the base of the thumb and your palm. Make circles with your hand in that area, and move it around to hit all?the pressure points."
Merhib also recommends a mid-game foot massage.
"With your shoes off, start with?a golf ball on the ground while seated on the golf cart or standing," she says. "Roll your foot forward and backward slowly. Apply enough pressure to?feel a pulling, but not enough that you are in too much pain. Then roll?your foot side to side."
Just because it's late in the game doesn't mean you can't stay flexible.
"Hold the club behind your back. Raise your arms up with straight muscles. Look up to the sky, and expand your chest," Thomas says.
Work your lower back, too, by placing the palm of your hand on your lower back. Then pull your elbows back. Look up to the sky, and extend.
After your game, be sure to cool down.
Pettegrew advises static stretching, which requires holding a pose for 20 seconds.
You also can take care of your sore muscles with some pampering.
"Postgame massages help golfers avoid?achy muscles and get back to the next round in tiptop shape," Merhib says.
Overall, golfers need to stay flexible and support their bodies.
"Posture and proper body mechanics are essential in any sport and exercise program," says Thomas, who notes that "neck and shoulder rolls keep everything flexible."
She recommends frequently circling the ankles to keep them flexible and always wearing the right shoes.
"Your foot support is extremely important, so you want the proper shoes," Thomas says. "Stabilize the feet and ankles, because they're the foundation for the body."