Ready to take advantage of the warm weather? Here are 10 spring workout tips to get you started on the right track.
1. Don’t Let Allergies Slow You Down. The last thing anyone wants on the last leg of their 5 mile run is a sneezing fit. The spring is known for its high pollen and mold count, so if you are susceptible to allergies, consider using an antihistamine pill or eye-drops before heading out. Avoid tall grasses, and rinse off as soon as you get home to minimize prolonged contact with allergens.
2. It’s Never Too Early for Sunscreen. Don’t let the mild spring weather fool you; sun damage can happen any time of the year. And with beach weather just around the corner, you might as well get in the habit of using sunscreen now. For outdoor exercise, use a waterproof sunscreen with at least 15 SPF.
3. Stay Warm, But Comfortable. Choosing workout clothes in the springtime can be tricky. Your winter gear is already packed away, and it’s not quite hot enough yet for shorts and a t-shirt. In cool to mild temperatures, stay warm by dressing in light layers. You’ll stay warm enough without the extra baggage of heavy clothing to weight you down.
4. It May Be Warm, But Don’t Skip the Warm-up. It’s tempting to just get out there and start moving on a nice spring day. Unfortunately, your muscles may not share quite the same enthusiasm as your brain. Warm up your body with 5-10 minutes of light cardio and dynamic stretching.
5. No Weights? No Problem. Weight training does not have to be a strictly indoor activity. Even if you don’t have any freeweights to bring outside, you can still enjoy the weather while giving your muscles a workout. Take advantage of tree limbs and playground equipment for pullups and dips, large rocks for shoulder raises, and just about any open spot for pushups or situps. Be creative.
6. Start Slow. Even the most hardened couch potatoes usually feel the outdoors calling when springtime rolls around. But if you have been sedentary most of the winter, start slowly and up the intensity just a bit each week. Give yourself fitness goals you can reach in three months from now, not tomorrow.
7. Be Realistic. It’s great that you were running a half marathon last spring, but that doesn’t mean you will be ready for that on day one, especially if you have taken a long layoff from training. You won’t be starting from scratch thanks to muscle memory, but give yourself time to work back up, and set a realistic time frame for getting back in shape.
8. Stop Wasting Time. Unfortunately, life doesn’t slow down just because we want to enjoy the spring weather. But research suggests that intense 15 minute workouts can be as effective (or more) as longer, less intense exercise at burning fat, toning muscle, and increasing fitness levels. Plus, a shorter time investment makes it a heck of a lot easier to stick with a longterm plan. The trick is to make those 15 minutes count. Check out some short but effective workout plans here.
9. Pace Yourself. I love running outside, but I’ve come to realize that it’s a totally different ballgame than running on the treadmill. In the gym, you can set your speed, incline, and distance with the press of a button. But once you hit the pavement, you’re on your own. There are a bunch of cool phone apps for runners that essentially do the work for you, but if you don’t have access to these, the most reliable way to monitor your pace is the “talk test.” You should be able to carry on a simple conversation exercising at a moderate clip, but if you need to catch your breath first, be aware that your tank is running low.
10. Cross Train. Most people find one type of exercise they like and stick with it. But cross training with a variety of activities can help you avoid injury, improve your overall fitness level, and correct any muscular imbalances, especially if your winter workout routine was stuck in a rut. Hiking, biking, jogging, basketball, rock climbing, and ultimate frisbee are some great outdoor options in the spring, but anything that gets you up and moving will do the trick.
Sources: Yeager, Selene. The Men’s Health Big Book of 15 Minute Workouts. New York, 2011.
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