by Paul Rosengard
Spring is a time for renewal, and as the green leaves emerge and the weather improves we’re more motivated to be active outdoors. So how do we press “Play” again after a long winter on “Pause?” Here are 5 tips I hope you’ll find helpful:
1. Goal Setting: If you are among the many millions of people who are currently doing very little or nothing in terms of weekly physical activity, you’ll likely benefit from setting a few goals. Make an appointment with yourself and schedule movement into your life. You wouldn’t miss a doctor’s appointment right? So don’t miss that 15 min. you’ve set aside to walk around the block and back. Every little bit counts – in fact studies have shown that being active in three, 10-minute increments provides nearly the same health benefits as a 30 min. session.
Goal setting should first involve specific days and times for activity. Write it in your calendar; for example: Wed. from noon-12:15. Once you have a specific day and time in mind, write down what you plan to do. Walk, ride a bike, swim, weight train, garden! All movement is good movement and it all counts. As you become consistent – moving a little (10 min.) to a lot (60 min.) almost every day of the week, then consider goals to increase your intensity over time so your heart rate is elevated (Are you breathing harder? Can you feel your heart beating faster?) during some of your activity sessions. Goals should be challenging, specific, and realistic. Can you set a physical activity goal that meets those parameters? Give it a try!
2. Start slowly: Everyone, young and old, should begin an activity program slowly, allowing our body’s time to acclimate to the change in frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise (FITT principle). For example, 6 months ago you were running 4-5 miles outside. Then, winter arrived and you were confined to the great indoors, now using a treadmill or elliptical for your cardio workout. Fast forward to Spring — you don’t want to throw open the door and hit the dusty trail! Instead, re-start your running program slowly. A good rule of thumb (or in this case, foot) is to begin at about 25%. If you were doing an hour on the treadmill, try jogging for 15 min. – after an appropriate warm-up of course. Gradually add 5 min. each run (as long as you’re feeling good and your body is cooperating) until you’re at or near the level you were before.
3. Cross-Train: A lot of people lock in to the one thing they do, and their bodies lock in right with them. Certainly, we need to do cardio for heart health and resistance training for skeletal health and muscle exertion. So is a run every 2nd or 3rd day and a weight-training workout 2-3x a week the ideal? It’s DARN great and if you’re doing it congrats! And, let’s also think variety. Mix up your cardio, different running routes (more hills, less hills) and different paces (how about some sprints once a week?). If you’re in a health club or gym pushing weight on machines around, how bout mixing in some free weight exercises? Try a TRX system? Do a day of just body weight/resistance exercises? It’s easy to get into a rut and keep repeating the same exercises at the same weight, same number of repetitions, in the same sequence. Try not doing the same workout twice! Your body will respond differently too. And don’t forget Yoga, Pilates, Body Pump and Zumba classes. Videos available to check out at a library close to you too! We have so many different and fun ways to be active and stay healthy and fit. Viva la difference!
4. Social Support: While some people are motivated and able to stay consistent with their exercise regimens, most of us benefit from being active with a friend. If you’re one of these folks, recruit a workout buddy! When there’s someone else counting on you to carpool to a health club, or meet you at a trail for a jog, or rendezvous at a park to shoot some baskets or play tennis or just a game of catch, there’s a much better chance you won’t cancel your activity time. Plus, you’ll have someone to give you feedback, spot you when you’re bench pressing, and maybe even encouraging you to try something new and different.
5. Have Fun! As you become more active more opportunities will open up for you. When was the last time (if ever) you played table tennis? Badminton? Pickleball? These and other activities might be offered at a recreation center not far away. Check out their schedules and see if there’s a class or league you can participate in and if it looks interesting and fun, sign up! If you’re a member of a health club or gym, when was the last time you looked at their class schedule? What about that spinning class you walk past from time to time? Whatever you do to move, we know that if it’s fun you’ll want to do it more often.
I hope these 5 tips were helpful and you’ll become healthier and happier by making physical activity happen in your life!