How To "Spring" Into Your Best Shape!
For many people who live in colder climates, regular exercise can decrease in regularity over the winter. Couple this with heavier foods and a natural desire for more carbohydrates and fats during the colder months, and the few extra winter pounds that we may have gained urge us to renew our exercise program with renewed intensity and desire for health. However, starting slow is key, and if we want to avoid injury, we have to pace ourselves and work our way back to our previous level of fitness and activity.
Stretch and Tone
For muscles unaccustomed to being put through their paces, stretching and simple toning exercises are a very good way to begin. Muscles always need to be warmed up prior to exercise in order to avoid injury, but if you’ve been somewhat of a couch potato this past winter, it’s even more important to regain your flexibility and tone before you hit the courts, the gym or the track.
If you’re looking for a gentle way to restart your fitness program, yoga classes offer strengthening, toning and increased flexibility that can only serve to enhance your ability to work out efficiently and safely. And some research shows that stretching before and after exercise can actually improve the efficiency—and efficacy—of your workouts. If you’re uncertain about the demands of a yoga class, meet with the teacher beforehand and voice your concerns. Most teachers will work with you to avoid injury and pace yourself.
If you’re out of shape or just slightly off your game after the long winter, walking is also a great way to get started again with your routine. Begin with a ten- or fifteen-minute gentle walk each day, increasing the length and intensity of your walk every three or four days. As your muscles strengthen and your lung capacity increases, your exercise tolerance will also increase exponentially.
Swimming is another way to undertake non-impact exercise while also strengthening and toning the body. Swimming offers an overall body workout that you can do at your own pace, and just a few weeks of gentle swimming can wake up your muscles and get them ready for more intense workouts.
No matter what exercise regimen you choose for yourself this spring, remember to start slowly. So many people injure themselves when they try to do too much too soon, and it is so important to take your time and work your way slowly towards your exercise goal. And if you are engaging in activities that involve a fair amount of impact on the muscles and joints (ie: tennis, running, etc), then all the more reason to make sure your muscles are ready before you really let loose. Avoiding unnecessary injury is crucial at a time like this, and playing the part of the Tortoise rather than the Hare will certainly yield more satisfying results for you in the long run, no matter how strong your urge may be to leap out of the starting gate with a single bound.