As the temperature starts to warm, many Americans think about lacing up their running shoes or pulling out their tennis rackets. But don’t let spring fitness fever corrupt your good judgment – if you haven’t exercised all winter, it’s better to ease into physical activity.
Not sure where to start? Here are some tips:
• Start slow
Attempting too much too soon will result in an injury or “hitting a wall” —reaching a point where your body can no longer recover from exercise. It takes about three weeks for your body to adjust to a new exercise routine and about six weeks before you’re ready for more aggressive activity. If you’re running, start with exercising three days a week. If you’re walking you may be able to handle four or five days of exercise from the start. Increasing the duration or intensity of exercise by more than 10 percent each week puts you at a greater risk of injury, so be sure to progress gradually.
• Get the right equipment
Wear clothes that wick sweat — you’ll be much more comfortable. If you’re a runner, proper footgear will help your legs avoid unnecessary strain. Likewise, a well-fit bicycle can help cyclists avoid knee and other injuries.
• Don’t push through pain
Most exercise injuries are overuse injuries, meaning they occur when athletes push their muscles, tendons and bones past their limits. One sign that you’ve reached your limit? Pain. If you experience real discomfort, it’s better to take a few days off or see a doctor than risk worsening an injury.
Of course, some muscle pain is perfectly normal for those starting up an exercise routine. Schedule recovery days — days in which you either don’t exercise or engage in very light activity — to give your muscles a chance to rebuild between workouts.
• Rest and repetition
When it comes to gaining muscle, rest is just as important as repetition. Exercise causes small tears in muscle fibers. During rest, the body works to repair those muscles, building them back stronger than they were. Your muscles need rest — but rest can mean a brisk walk or a slow bike ride. In fact, gently exercising during a rest day can increase blood flow to sore areas, helping muscles recover more quickly than a few hours spent vegging on the couch.
• Fuel your muscles
Muscle recovery starts right after a workout, so you should give your body the nutrients it needs to rebuild muscle as soon as possible. Drink water and electrolytes immediately after exercise. Exercise uses up muscles’ glycogen energy stores, so replenish them with simple carbohydrates. Make sure to eat protein within two hours after working out.
• Increase circulation
The more blood going to your legs, the better. Stretching and massage can help your muscles release toxins.
Getting a full eight hours of sleep will help your body recover. On a similar note, give your body time to rebuild between workouts. Most athletes include one or two recovery days in their training programs, where they will either not exercise or will perform a low-intensity activity, such as walking.
Information provided courtesy of NewsUSA