5 Tips

You may be itching to get back outside and get moving, now that winter is winding down, or is it? With all of the indoors inactivity including eating, drinking and plenty of movie watching, your workouts may have been pushed aside. Or maybe you suffered an injury, personal/family issues or got sick. Whatever the reason, spring is an ideal time to get back to exercise.  Recommended first step is to check with your doctor.

Whether you jog a few miles, tee it up for a round of golf or shoot hoops with your kids and their friends in the driveway, it’s important to prepare your body for activity, especially if the cold temperatures kept you cooped up indoors all season. Otherwise you run the risk of overdoing it. Even ordinary activities can take a toll – There are people who garden through the first nice weekend of spring and then suffer from severe muscle soreness or injury.

Take a systematic and safe approach to your fitness and try these five strategies to shape up this spring.

  1. Under deliver. Many people digress over the winter months, even though they’ve stuck to a regular fitness routine. If you fast start back into your activities, you’re setting yourself up for muscle soreness and injury, and that can sideline you for weeks. You might not feel the pain the day after a tough workout, but a couple of days later the soreness may be so intense you can’t lift your arm above your head.
  1. Small steps. If you’ve been inactive for weeks, check in with your doctor before ramping up your activity. Once you get the all-clear, start with an easy waling schedule or stretching regimen. The slow, gentle movements will help prepare your body for more intense activities like running, preparing your garden and golf. Start with 10 minutes per day every other day for a week. Then increase to 15 minutes the following week or maybe daily. Increase by five minute increments each week until you’ve reached your goal. A very import thing to remember and that is to stretch before and after your workouts and hydrate.
  1. Keep pace. Sunny days are here again however, be sure to start slow. Rule of thumb: Never increase your weight, time, speed or intensity more than 10 percent per week. So, 10 percent of 10-pound weight is 1 pound. Similarly, if you’re running 5 miles per hour, boost it up to 5.5 miles per hour. Also, keep in mind that running on the ground is different — and usually more taxing — than running on a treadmill. The best approach may be to vary the intensity throughout your workout. Sprint for 1 minute, jog for 10 and then walk for 5. Repeat the process until you feel your workout is complete. Called high intensity interval training, this type of training offers more gains than maintaining a steady pace.
  1. Stretch it. No matter what your sport or activity, incorporating stretching into your routine can help you stay at the top of your game. Playing a basketball game? Focus on your legs, arms and upper body and prep your body to pivot. Playing a round of golf? Stretch out your trunk and lower back, bending side to side and twisting from left to right.
  1. Keep your expectations in check. The longer your break the more time you’ll need to get back on form. Therefore, if you worked out three to four times per week prior to your fitness vacation, it will take about four to eight weeks for you to get back up to speed. Remember, too, that you didn’t become inactive overnight, so you won’t become fit overnight. Be Patient.

Exercise stresses the body. While it’s mostly good stress, if you do too much too quickly, you’re more likely to suffer from an injury that sets you back even farther, particularly if you’re packing more weight post-winter. The added weight can place increased pressure on your joints during high-impact activities. Lower-impact activities like swimming, cycling, Pilates and yoga can be easy on the joints.

If you overdo it and strain or injure yourself, follow the RICE rule to lessen the damage. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Rest – It doesn’t have to be a complete sedentary rest, but active resting (which may include light walking or weight bearing) can help your body recover more quickly.
  • Ice – Apply ice to the affected muscles for 20-30 minutes every hour.
  • Compress – Wrap the area with an elastic bandage starting below the injury and wrapping a few inches above. So if you injured your knee, start the wrap at the calf and continue to the mid-thigh. Just makes sure the compression is a little looser at top to encourage blood to flow toward the heart.
  • Elevate – Raise the injury above your heart. Using the knee example, your best bet would be to lie on the ground and rest your knee on the couch.

If muscle pain lingers on for more than two weeks, or gets progressively worse, see a doctor. And next year, don’t hibernate all winter long. Stay strong so you can enjoy springtime sports as soon as the weather warms up.

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