The prospect of warmer weather just around the corner, especially after a winter like this one, is already inspiring many people to “get back in shape.” It’s like a second chance at that New Years’ resolution you made back in January and never followed up on because it was freezing outside.
We all know that exercise is good for us. But no one likes having to put on ten layers of clothing to run outside or having to drive 20 minutes to the gym for a one-hour workout during the winter months. At around this same time every year, spring weather makes it easier for many people to “reboot” their exercise goals and to increase their level of physical activity. However, it’s important to use some common sense when jumpstarting your warm-weather exercise program.
There are at least two big reasons why. First, statistics tell us that over half the people who start a new exercise program quit within six months. “Easing into it” and taking things slowly at first can help to prevent this. Second, starting to exercise again after a period of inactivity can lead to a number of injuries that can easily be avoided by taking a more realistic approach to exercising again. For example, if you’re a runner, don’t start out by trying to run a marathon. Ease into a new running routine by starting with short runs and extending the distance you run each time you go out. Also, try to remember the following general guidelines about exercise in general and exercising in warm weather.
- Always warm up before exercise and stretch/cool down afterwards. The warm-up period is far more critical if you haven’t exercised for a while, because you need to get your body used to increased activity before you put demands on it. So do your jumping jacks or other gentle exercises to raise your heart rate and get your circulation going before you start your sports or exercise routine, and then do some stretching afterwards during a “cool down” period to allow things to settle down again.
- Start slow, and don’t overdo it. If you’ve been inactive for some months, start with a couple of weeks of vigorous walking before you ease back into running. Also, if you’re an outdoor runner, be sure to pace yourself when picking routes, remembering that you have to run just as far to get back home.
- Set goals, measure your progress, and try to keep to them. If possible, work with a trained sports/exercise counselor at your gym to set realistic exercise goals for yourself. Then carefully monitor your progress, making note of exactly how far you run or how much weight you lift in each session. Doing this will help you actually see your own progress and provide additional motivation when you run into problems or your performance plateaus.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. We can’t say this enough—hydrate. Drink lots of water before, during, and after exercising, especially as the temperature and humidity rises. The amount of water you need to consume depends to some extent on your weight and how long you exercise, but as you make progress and your workouts get longer, remember to consume a sports drink beforehand to replenish your electrolytes. This becomes more important as temperature and humidity rises, and you begin to sweat more.
- Cross-train. If possible, try to vary your workouts, even as you’re easing back into them. Try running one day, lifting weights the next, and swimming the next, etc. This will develop different muscle groups more evenly and help you avoid injuries caused by repeatedly using the same ones.
- Listen to your body and be aware of your limitations. If your arthritis has been acting up all winter, naturally don’t start with exercises that put a lot of pressure on your knees and joints. As a general rule, avoid believing in the “no pain, no gain” meme. That’s for committed athletes, and until you’ve been back in the swing of your exercise routine for six months or more, you’re not one. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain, and if you feel weak or in pain after a particular workout, rest for a day or more before exercising again.
- Dress right. Yes, the temperatures are warmer, but be sure to wear proper clothing and footgear for the sport or exercise you are performing. A remarkable number of injuries are caused each year by things as simple as running while wearing improper shoes.
- If you become injured, remember R.I.C.E. This acronym stands for Rest (take off for a few days to rest the injured area), Ice (apply ice or cold packs to reduce swelling and inflammation), Compress (wrap swollen areas in a compression bandage), and Elevate (raise the injured limb). Avoid activities that use the injured area for a few days—you can still remain active, but don’t rush back into the same activities that caused the injury in the first place. For example, if you sprain your ankle, spend the next week exercising your arms and upper body.
- If you are overweight or have known health problems, consult a doctor first. Don’t be macho—discuss your plans to get back in shape with your physician, and follow his or her advice.
If you suffered a recent injury give our office a call at (703) 912-7822 or visit us at Chiropractors in Burke, VA.