No more excuses. Spring is almost here, and it’s just about time to get out and enjoy the outdoors.
For 34-year-old Ryan Gruber, it means a return to his exercise routine of 5-mile runs around his Springfield, Ill., neighborhood.
Gruber’s workouts for the past five months have consisted of some time on an elliptical machine and jogging around the basement with his 5-year-old daughter.
Many of us swap our exercise routines for a cozy couch during the winter. If you stopped or cut back on workouts, you need to take special precautions before you hit the pavement.
To avoid injury, Dr. G. Brett Western, a sports medicine physician with the Springfield Clinic, recommends starting slowly.
“Go back to about 50 percent of what you were doing the previous fall,” he said. “Start increasing 10 percent every week to two weeks, depending on how you feel.”
To stay injury-free and enjoy the season, Western suggests the following five tips.
1. Comfort is key. Try sweat-wicking, synthetic fabric for shirts and socks. Add layers that you’ll be able to take off and tie around your waist if you get warm. Make sure you have the right shoes. Runners need to change shoes every six months, especially if you ran in the winter. Snow and moisture break down cushioned arches.
2. Warm up. Stretching is especially important for activities that require quick movement, such as softball or soccer. Running or walking is a straight-ahead movement, but stretching still helps make the muscles more flexible.
Start out with a light jog to warm up so the muscles are easier to stretch. Don’t forget to stretch after the activity to help maintain muscle length.
3. Understand the elements. Even if you kept up a steady winter routine on a treadmill, you still need to adapt once you transition back outside. That’s because your bones are not used to hard pavement. If you go too hard too soon, it can lead to stress fractures. Outside temperatures can even make it a little more difficult.
4. Cross train. Broaden your routine to include more than one activity. Exercises like weight lifting, swimming or biking can take some of the pounding off muscles and joints. When doing the same activity over and over, you’re more vulnerable to overuse injuries.
5. Take time off. To maintain a healthy lifestyle, you should exercise five days a week for at least 30 minutes. But it’s essential you take at least one day of rest.
Even if you train for races or other activities, you still need to allow time for your body to rest and muscles to heal. When you’re doing those exercises, you’re injuring muscle that then rebuilds itself. The muscles are adapting to stress, so they need time to recover.
Signs of injury
Expect to experience some soreness and a little pain as you restart your fitness routine. This typically goes away with some rest and pain reliever.
But if aches and pains don’t go away or come back each time you exercise, chances are you have an overuse injury. Common injuries, such as stress fractures and knee tendonitis, typically happen when you try too much too soon. If it doesn’t improve after a few days of rest, visit your doctor to determine the best course of treatment.
Have fun, be consistent
“To be successful in any fitness routine, you must enjoy it,” said Western. “When you build up the routine, do it in a certain time of day and stick to it. That works better than just a ‘do it when you can’ type schedule.”
For Ryan Gruber, that time is in the morning before his family wakes up.
“You get it done and out of the way. And you don’t have to worry about coming home and trying to do it after work,” he said. “You can still put the kids to bed at night. And it’s just a good feeling to do it. I’m excited to get back outside.”