After being cooped up inside during the cold winter months, it’s natural to embark on a new fitness routine. But if you’re not careful, your excitement could turn to injury.
Even the most active people need to be mindful when starting a new exercise regime, especially if they have nagging injuries from past sports or workouts. The last thing you want is to get into the groove, only to be sidelined. To avoid this frustration, try implementing these three tips for getting fit this spring without injuries.
Plan Your Workout
Often, adults will make moving their body an all-or-nothing activity. They’re either sitting around on the couch, watching television, or they’re attempting long runs. But going from zero to 60 is a crash waiting to happen for your body.
Instead, make a plan before beginning your new workout. First, create your goals. Some people want to lose a few pounds packed on over the cold months. Others want to prepare for whatever outdoor sports they love, be it surfing, climbing, or running in the local 5K. Goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
Whatever your goal, remember the big picture: Exercise should be a celebration of your body’s ability to move, not a punishment for “bad” behavior over the last few months. You must challenge yourself to bring about change but being mindful of your plan will help you find success.
Once you’ve created your goals, make a daily schedule of activities. Buy accessories like a new pair of running shoes (you’ll want to replace them every 300 to 400 miles), or a new sleeve brace to enhance circulation in parts of the body that have been injured or weak in the past. Plan routes using online maps or apps to find outdoor gyms, hiking trails, or new places to get out on local waterways.
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Warm Up First
Most athletes (or wannabe athletes) know that growing muscles involve microscopic tears in the fibers of your muscles. That’s why so many people start a workout by stretching — but modern science suggests otherwise.
Just as the old adage of RICE, or “rest, ice, compression, and elevation,” is no longer supported by science as a way to address an acute injury, stretching is no longer recommended as the first thing to do before a workout. Instead, movement specialists with Harvard Health encourage warming up before stretching.
Have the first five to 10 minutes of your exercise routine to include slower movements to loosen joints, engage the heart muscle, and get the blood flowing. For example, start a jog with a leisurely stroll. Stop for a short stretch before gradually building up to a brisk walk and finally a run.
As you are increasing endurance and improving your fitness level, chances are there will come a point where you are huffing and puffing. But it doesn’t take much to know that this mindless state of near exhaustion is when injuries occur. Instead, start this spring’s fitness plan by focusing on your breath.
Most yoga classes teach students to breathe slowly, evenly, and consistently through the nose only. Yet, outside of class, many people will use their mouths to breathe — especially during strenuous activities. Yet studies show nasal breathing allows athletes to reduce their respiratory rate, which in turn can improve performance and endurance.
Plus, there’s something worthwhile about focusing on the way you breathe. You’ll know if you’re overdoing it and need to take a rest, and you’ll be more present in your movement. Instead of zoning out during your run — what are you going to eat for lunch, anyway? — you’ll be more aware of your movements and less likely to hurt yourself accidentally.
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
Finally, with the warmer temperatures, there are simply more ways to enjoy the outdoors. Whatever your plan for getting fit this spring, make sure that it’s something you actually like to do. If you have a bad attitude about movement, you’ll be less likely to stick with it and reach your fitness goals for 2021 and beyond.
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