spring fitness

5 Tips To Spring Back Into Fitness

Posted on April 24, 2023 by Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC

If your workouts took a backseat this winter, you're not alone — it's easy to slip into hibernation mode during the cold, darker months. But with brighter, warmer days ahead, spring is an ideal time to get back into exercising.

Whether you jog a few miles, tee up for a round of golf or shoot hoops with your kids in the backyard, it’s important to prepare your body for activity, otherwise you run the risk of overdoing it. Even ordinary activities can take a toll – I often see people who garden during that first nice weekend of spring and then suffer from severe muscle soreness or injury.

The “no pain, no gain” approach to fitness doesn’t work. Instead, try these five strategies to shape up this spring. 

  1. Underestimate your abilities. Most people regress during the winter, even if they’ve stuck to a regular fitness routine. If you don’t ease back into your activities, you’re setting yourself up for muscle soreness — and injury that can sideline you for weeks. You might not feel pain the day after a tough workout, but two days later the soreness may be so intense you can’t lift your arm above your head. 

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  2. Walk it out. If you’ve been sedentary for weeks, check in with your doctor before amping up your activity. Once you get the all-clear, start with an easy walking schedule or stretching regimen. The slow, gentle movements will help prep your body for more intense activities like tennis, gardening and golf. Start with ten minutes every day or every other day for a week. Then increase to 15 minutes the following week. Add five minutes to your workout each week until you’re walking for 30 to 45 minutes at a stretch. You can even break up sessions throughout the day. 
  3. Amp up your workout little by little. A good rule of thumb: Never increase your weight, time, speed or intensity more than 10% per week. So, 10% of a 10-pound weight is 1 pound. Or 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. This is called high intensity interval training, and it offers more gains than maintaining a steady pace.
  4. Stretch it out. No matter your sport or activity, incorporating stretching into your routine can help you stay at the top of your game. Competing in a tennis match? Focus on your arms and shoulders 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.
  5. Keep your expectations in check. The longer your workout hiatus, the more time you’ll need to get back to on track. If you worked out three to four times per week before your fitness vacation, it will take about four to eight weeks to get up to speed. You didn’t become inactive overnight, so you won’t become fit overnight. Patience is key.

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 do overdo it and strain or injure yourself, follow the RICE rule to lessen the damage:

  • 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 minutes every hour.
  • Compress – Wrap the area with an elastic bandage, starting below the injury and ending a few inches above. For example, if you've injured your knee, start the wrap at the calf and continue to mid-thigh. Make sure the compression is a little looser at the 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 for more than two weeks, or if gets progressively worse, see a doctor for help. And next year, try to keep moving all winter long — it will keep you strong so that you can enjoy spring sports as soon as the weather warms up. 

Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC, is the Director of Athletic Training and Community Outreach at Henry Ford Health. Read more of Christina's articles
Categories : MoveWell

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