Spring is here! With the longer days, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You’re outside more often, and feeling a willingness to get more fit, to be stronger, to find more energy, to feel better, and to drop a few of those extra pounds you put on while being cooped up over the winter.
You want to kick start a training regimen to get into shape, but where and how should you start? Here are seven practical tips to help you get going.
Set realistic goals
Regardless of what you were doing before you hit the pause button, or before you were stifled by the lockdown, you need to be realistic about the results you’ll expect to see. Set one or two specific, attainable goals, and start with a schedule that has you working out two or three times a week. A fitness professional can work with you on properly setting this up.
Find a workout buddy
Full disclosure: If I hadn’t had a running partner who I committed to meeting at 6am over the last thirty years, I would never have made it to the starting line of all those road races, let alone out the door or to the finish line. You can come up with a thousand reasons not to train, but having a workout buddy or trainer changes that. This practice not only adds a level of accountability; it can also break down barriers around trying new exercises or routines, because you can motivate each other. And of course there’s that reward of a protein shake or cappuccino together at the end of your workouts.
Choose a workout you’ll enjoy doing
Put a star beside this one! It’s a lot easier to convince yourself to work out if you look forward to it. A personal trainer will help you establish the exercises you actually enjoy doing, and will make sure that you are doing them safely so they provide the intended benefit.
Take advantage of the improving weather – walking, running, hiking, biking. As the days warm up, try taking a mat out to the deck, lawn, or local park, and doing some body-weight strength training or work out with a set of dumbells.
Walk before you run
I say this literally and metaphorically. Before you start any workout, a proper warmup is essential. A warm-up prepares your body for the exercises you’re about to do, loosens up your muscles and joints so you don’t strain something, and gets your heart rate going. This means that by the time you actually get to your workout, you’re already burning calories and stoking your metabolism. Literally though, if running 5K feels like climbing Mt. Everest, don’t despair. Break your distance into small pieces. Start by jogging one block and then walking a block, then slowly increase the run:walk ratio as your comfort and fitness level increases. You’ll get there.
Working out is a total body experience
Think of your body as a group of moving systems that all need to be addressed in sync. Focusing just on cardio, or on one muscle group at the expense of others, is not going to lead you to developing balanced strength. A personal trainer can help develop a workout plan that brings all the muscle groups together for the common good.
Don’t forget to stretch
Just as important as the warm-up is the cool-down and stretching portion of your workout routine. Many people finish their workout and call it a day without stretching or otherwise cooling down. A good cooldown routine will help decrease soreness after a workout, which can be essential to helping you stick to your workouts. After all, who wants to start a workout when they’re still sore from the last one? The cool-down period is important for improving circulation and bringing your heart rate down slowly. Walking at the end of a run, or pedalling slower in a lower gear at the end of a bike ride are two examples. Your cool-down is also the time to do static stretching (the kinds of stretches you hold for at least 10 seconds). Focus on muscles that are particularly tight or muscles that you utilized during your workout. A fitness professional will help guide you in proper stretching. Some great standbys are the standing quad stretch, figure four stretch, half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, and chest stretch using a wall or door frame.
Fitness is a lifetime habit!
These tips should help kickstart your spring training. Stay focused on reaching your goals. There may be some days when it just doesn’t click, or when you feel like you simply don’t have it. That’s okay. Over the last 30 years I’ve had my share of those days. Cut yourself some slack, regroup, and get ready for the next day.
Note to Bliss readers: I will be expanding each of these points in a separate weekly blog on my website.