After spending the winter months relaxing indoors, indulging in too many holiday treats and lounging in front of the TV, the worst thing you can do is jump right into your favorite spring fitness activity without any preparation. Before you go all out, take precautions in to avoid injury and condition your body.
Many athletes have a hard time “starting out slow” when they are used to going all out in their favorite sport. Over-training in the beginning of any season is the worst thing you can do to your muscles and their ability to heal and gain strength, which pushes you further away from your goal. Here are six ways to get ready now for spring.
1. Increase mileage on a weekly basis.
If you are a runner, follow a training plan that increases mileage on a weekly basis so that your muscles and ligaments have time to regain mass and recover. Search for the right training plan to get you up and off of the couch in time for your next race. Additionally, hold off on incorporating intervals, extremely long distances and speed training until a few weeks in.
2. Hikers need conditioning, too.
Condition your body for long hikes by hitting the hills at the very beginning of the season with shorter distances at a low elevation, then gradually increase each time you head outdoors. Most hiking injuries occur in the feet and knees, so perform straight-leg knee lifts and step ups to prevent pain on your trek. And, make sure that you have a good pair of hiking boots.
3. Interval training builds cycling power.
When beginning a cycling program, the first step is to build strength in your lower half. Perform 30 minutes of weight training two days a week to improve muscle tone and loosen up your neck and shoulders that can be prone to stiffness on long rides. Start out with long, medium-intensity rides such as two-hour spins at least twice a week to improve your heart rate and respiratory endurance. Build your power through various types of interval training. For example, put on the resistance on a stationary bike or charge up a hill at a moderate pace for 5-10 minutes, then release the resistance, recover and repeat. You can also perform short, intense intervals by pedaling as fast as you can for a minute or two, then recover at an easy pace for another minute. Make sure to only perform two to three intervals during a workout in the beginning to prevent injury.
4. Climbing takes practice.
Head to an indoor rock wall while the weather is still cool and perform as many climbs as you can on various courses until you feel tired. You can increase your power by bouldering in either an indoor or outdoor rock wall with a cushioned pad to prevent injuries from falling. Strengthen wrists with reverse wrist curls and an assisted pull up machine. Make sure to stretch out your fingers by holding out your hand in a “stop” gesture and pulling your fingers back toward you, then, push your wrist down to stretch the opposite way.
5. Customize a training plan for overall fitness.
If you’re trying to improve your overall fitness or begin a new training plan, you can start a routine that looks similar to the one below:
Week 1: Cardio two times per week for 30 minutes each, strength training one time per week.
Week 2: Cardio three times per week for 30 minutes each, strength training one time per week.
Week 3: Cardio three times per week for 30 minutes each, strength training two times per week.
Week 4: Cardio two times per week, strength training two times per week, and circuit training one time per week.
There are a lot of training plans out there and you should be building one to customize your particular needs. You’ll also want to consult with your physician if you’re battling health issue. Afitnessroutine.com is a great place to start. You can browse more training plans that will cater to your workout needs. A high tech watch that tracks your heart rate can help you keep track of how hard your pushing your body. You can even go wireless with a Fitbit which tracks your steps, calories burned and distance using your favorite devices, like your iPhone.
6. Don’t forget to rest, refuel and reset.
The key to progress is allowing your body adequate rest and recovery. Do not over-train, exhaust yourself or sacrifice sleep for a workout. Make sure that you are fueling your body with healthy foods and hold yourself accountable each day. Lastly, visualizing your goals and recruiting a buddy to join your program are two surefire ways to keep you on track, and will make getting in shape for spring more enjoyable, too.