Enjoy more pickleball with proper shoes, warmups

We need each other. When your "peeps" are part of a fun activity, it's like a double shot of happiness. Movement and meaningful interactions. It's more than just the people or just the activity, it's how the two blend together and create so many happy vibes.

Here are a few steps to keep yourself strong and able to participate in one of, if not your all-time favorite activity.

Good shoes

True confession – I love shoes. They bring me joy. I have shoes for every occasion and some just waiting for the right occasion. In terms of athletic shoes, I know happy feet mean I can keep on moving. I invest in good quality shoes specific to the activity (running, hiking, cross training) and I also have more than one pair per activity so the shoes get a chance to breathe and return to their original form in between workouts.

My feet and legs tell me when it's time for new shoes. Oh, but it's not time to completely retire the shoes. My shoes have a circle of life. The first purpose is for the specific activity - running shoes for running or court or cross training shoes for pickleball, weight lifting, general gym use. However, when they have given me all they can for that purpose, they get bumped to the next purpose – which can be general walking, such as walking the dog – or if they still look nice, for work (I work in a health club so am often wearing athletic shoes). I also keep one pair of shoes in my car for those times I forget my shoes. I am always packing a good pair of shoes that will work for today's workout.

The next notch in the circle of shoe life is camping or yard work. There's enough support to wear them occasionally and I'm not sad when they get muddy or grass stains as they are only being worn for those purposes. This is where my shoe life span ends. It's a circle, however, because I buy and repeat.

I'm not suggesting you go crazy on shoes, b4t if you're playing pickleball in a pair of shoes that you've had for longer than a year and use for a variety of activities like walking the dog and shopping, it's most likely time you invest in a good pair of court shoes. Your feet and lower body are a worthy investment.

Since you're investing in good shoes, also be sure to wear them only on the court – not to and from the facility. Keep them clean, dry and only used for your pickleball fun. They will last longer and, as a club manager, I can tell you the managers and cleaning staff of the facility in which you play will also be very appreciative that you're not wearing outside shoes on the court.

Warm up

I know you're excited to get playing but, just like any activity, a few minutes to warm up will make the activity better. Start your warmup from your head and work down to your toes. Think of the song, 'head, shoulders knees and toes' although we'll add a few in the middle.

Head. Gentle movements of the neck. Look over your right shoulder and slowly move to your left shoulder. Allow one ear to get closer to the shoulder. Really, you're allowing the other side to open up. Not forcing, but allowing with a fluid breath.

Shoulder. Shoulder rolls forward and backward, three or so in each direction. Slow and controlled. Shoulder shrugs, taking both shoulders up and as they return slowly insure your shoulders are open . (proud chest).

Arm circles can be with long arms or the elbows can be bent, any movement that feels best. Circle a few times forward and a few times backward.

Spine. Try the standing cat back stretch: hands just above the knees, fold forward and round your spine like a cat does when they stretch. Gently return to a flat back while keeping your hands just above your knees.

Do side stretches: While right fingertips inch down the outside of your leg, reach your left hand up and gently move your spine to the side. Repeat three or so times and then do the same on the other side.

For the twist, rotate side to side-but no Chubby Checker music is required. This is not so much about the hips, but rather focus on the spine rotating.

Hips. Make circles with your hips in one direction and repeat in the opposite direction. Stay slow and controlled, maybe finding more movement as you progress with the repetitions.

Knees. Place hands above the knees and make small circles with the knees. After three or so, repeat in the opposite direction.

Lower legs. Lift up on your tippy toes and slowly return your heels to the floor. Hold onto a chair or the wall if balance is challenging here.

Ankles. Perform ankle circles with each leg and in both directions.

Cross training

I know, you love pickleball and only want to play pickleball. However, we all need to keep our muscles strong and our joints mobile so we can continue with all the activities. Invite some of your pickleball peeps to hit the weight circuit with you two times per week or go to a gentle flow yoga class together.

If you're pain free now, keep it that way. If you do experience some pain when playing, please don't be the person that just puts on an elbow or knee brace and pushes through the pain. Find out what's causing the pain, which is most likely related to an imbalance of strength or flexibility and find movements that help you control the pain.

So you might be thinking, "this is all good information but I'm doing just fine playing five to seven days per week, in shoes I've had since 1999, and don't want to do anything else." I get it. However, think about how much you'd miss your activity and your community if you were unable to play. Would you in hindsight wish you had invested in a few steps to stay at your best? You are worth it. Evaluate your current program or routine and take some steps to ensure you're a pickler for life.

Janet Warner is The Alaska Club Executive Director of Fitness Services and a proud grandmother of three.