Spring is here…finally! What a great time to recommit to getting fit. Whether you are a power walker, marathon runner, a triathlete, cross-trainer, tennis buff, or any of the dozens of other ways to get your heart pumping and your muscles flexing, warm weather, sunshine and exercise just go together.
If the cold winter has kept you away from your workout routine for a few weeks (or months), there are some things to remember before jumping back in at full force. Did you know that during a break from exercise there are physical changes that occur in your body…not just the five pounds you added or a decrease in stamina? Your lungs can lose elasticity, making it harder to breathe and increasing the potential for side stitches. Blood volume can decrease, causing vessels to become smaller and less efficient at drawing oxygen from the blood, and making your heart work harder. And you know what can happen to your muscles.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that you talk to your doctor before returning to strenuous exercise after a break of three months or more, especially if you suffer from heart disease, diabetes or arthritis. Your physician can advise you about the safest way to get back into an exercise routine without taking unnecessary risks to your health or suffering injury.
• Another tip is to start slowly. Rome wasn’t built or rebuilt in a day, and your body also will take time to reach its former level of fitness. You can stick to the same exercise program if you want, but ease into it by reducing the intensity and length of your workouts in the beginning.
• Be patient. It will take your body a few weeks of modified exercise to get back to your previous level of fitness. Try to resist the urge to push yourself too hard. Trust your body’s signals to let you know when you have reached your limit, and don’t wait until you’re in pain to stop. Otherwise you may be taking an even longer break from exercise due to injury.
• Rethink your nutrition. A common mistake is overeating after starting a new workout plan. True, you’re burning extra calories, but maybe not as many as you think. Be mindful of portion sizes and avoid extra helpings or sweet treats because you feel you “deserve” it.
• Stay well hydrated. Besides all the benefits to overall health, good hydration helps you avoid a false sense of hunger. Exerting more energy through exercise requires additional water intake. Failing to properly hydrate after exercise can make you feel hungry and can cause mindless snacking. Aim for drinking half your body weight in water ounces, daily.
• Enjoy yourself. It may be hard, especially if you’re a goal-oriented, deadline-driven person who finds it hard to proceed at anything less than full speed. But, it’s a good idea in life and in exercise to concentrate on living in the moment and enjoy the journey and not get stuck focusing on the destination.