Warm weather, sunshine and longer days are welcome signs of spring. With that comes a return to the outdoors for many of us with a goal of improved fitness. Being able to get outside and move motivates us, but you will want to make sure to exercise safely, especially after a winter of inactivity.
First, take it slow. You can always increase your time or intensity of exercise in the future. But if you wake the next day so sore it hurts to move, or worse, with an injury, you cannot reverse that. Both too much activity and too fast of a full return can create that muscle soreness or overuse injury. A safe rule of thumb is to start out at half of where you left off last season. If you were walking for 30 minutes at a time, start out at 15 minutes and increase 5 minutes each week until you reach your goal. If you are a runner, increase your speed or distance each week, not both at the same time. Let your body “ramp up” appropriately and safely. “No pain, no gain” is not the way to go to reinstate your exercise regime.
Do something you enjoy. This may sound simple, but really examine what you like to do. Don’t make it a “have-to-do” on your list. Make it fun and, better yet, enlist a spouse, friend or the kids. A social aspect will boost your commitment. You are less likely to miss a walk with a friend that you predetermined a week ago.
Don’t give up! If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Remember, doing something is better than nothing. Exercise has a cumulative effect; it is not a one-time fix. Your body will like you all the more for being respectful to its return to activity while also enjoying the positive effects of exercise, sun and fresh air.