Winter weather and holidays cause many people to take a workout break and pack on a few pounds, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting back in the swing of things. Getting back into shape after winter or any long break means easing in to your workout to prevent injury, and you can be ready for spring sports by planning ahead with a good training regimen and smart prep.
Get Your Space Ready
Despite that New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get back into shape, many people find themselves with a gym membership they’ve stopped using long before spring arrived. The first step in deciding how to get back into shape is finding a gym or space you’ll use.
To get the most out of your workout space, make sure it’s:
- Convenient to your work, home or school
- Open during hours you regularly have a break
- A space you pass almost every day
If you’re able to have a convenient, open gym that you see on a regular basis, it will stay at the forefront of your mind and be a little harder for you to skip, especially on leg day.
Start Slow: Spring Sports Preparation
Whether you kept busy during the winter or heeded Mother Nature’s call and tried your hand at hibernating, it’s best to begin slowly. Take stock of your current fitness level before you start working out so you avoid pushing too hard and causing an injury.
One way to assess your fitness level is by performing a variety of quick tests. They’ll give you a good idea of your aerobic and muscular fitness as well as help you better understand what areas you need to work on and take extra care with during your workout.
The activities you can do for your fitness assessment include:
- Measuring your body mass index (BMI)
- Measuring your waist circumference – around your bare abdomen, just above your hipbone
- Timing how long it takes you to walk one mile
- Recording your pulse before and after you walk that one mile
- Seeing how many pushups you can do at a time
- Sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you and seeing how far you can reach
These and other activities, such as monitoring how many sit-ups you can do, will help you determine where you are on the path to getting ready for spring sports. They’ll also point out where you need the most improvement.
Keep your training for spring sports to your own pace and don’t push yourself too hard too soon. For example, set a treadmill to the rate it took you to walk one mile when you begin your workout program and work up from that number. Don’t expect to double that rate in one day – that will likely lead to an injury such as a sprained ankle or damage to your knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
How to Get Back Into Shape Every Day
A good schedule that allows for gradual improvement is the best way to get back into shape and avoid injury. To capitalize on this, try including some exercise into your routine each day. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Schedule it. In an overly-scheduled world, it might be time to actually add a calendar appointment so you get reminders on your phone or email. This gives you a chance to block out the time for your workout and avoid double-booking. You won’t have to make the tough choice between appointments, and you’ll get the workouts in so you’re ready for anything from a competitive soccer league to company softball and kickball games.
- Build on what you already do. If schedules don’t provide you with a structured day, consider building in a workout to the activities you already do. This can mean taking your favorite book to the treadmill, doing sit-ups during the commercials of your favorite show, riding a bicycle to nearby appointments, or even parking at the far end of a parking lot every time you run an errand.
Thankfully, getting ready for spring sports is something many people are able to incorporate into their everyday lives.
Exercises for Spring Sports
The main thing to consider when starting back up after an exercise hiatus is to do less, even if you were able to do much more before. Reduce the amount of reps you do per set and reduce the weight you’re using. This makes it a safer workout, and you’ll be able to gradually work up to the level you may have been at previously.
There are, however, two important things to increase when first starting back: the warm-up and cool-down. Longer warm-ups will provide more blood flow to muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injury as you first get started. Lengthening the cool-down with a gentle aerobic exercise and lots of stretching will ensure you’re not causing any harm to those freshly worked muscles.
Stretches were hopefully a major part of your last exercise routine. This shouldn’t change. The more you incorporate gentle stretching, the safer you are. This is true whether you’ve been working out for one day or one decade. Stretching helps to prevent muscle and joint pain and damage, so always stretch it out.
If you’re looking for specific exercises that can help, we’ve created this list below. Please note that it’s always safest to have a professional show you how to do each exercise. Descriptions in articles and pictures on the side of a machine are rarely ever as good as having a live demonstration where someone can help you get the right motion and stop before any over-extensions.
Some exercises to get you back in shape include:
- Leg Swings
- Hip thrusts
- Standing squats
- Stretching before and after every workout
These exercises are great for strengthening muscles while you’re also getting in aerobic exercises such as jogging, swimming, biking, or even walking at a brisk pace. Your best bet is to find a professional to help you determine a workout that’s right for you and your current fitness level. Going too soft won’t give you the fitness you’re seeking, and pushing too hard often leads to injury.
Beyond working with a professional to set your schedule, there are also some other habits and spring fitness tips to consider when getting back into shape after winter.
Spring Fitness Tips: Mix It Up
One of the best spring exercise tips you can listen to is to make cross-training a major part of your routine. It’s hard to think about spring fitness without Spring Training coming to mind, and lots of the work there involves cross-training approaches.
Cross-training creates both individual training sessions and overall regimens that combine several different types of workouts. This gives a total body workout and allows you to focus on general health instead of muscle isolation. You’ll also get a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises that will help you build both muscle and stamina, which is required in most spring sports.
There are three major benefits to a cross-training approach, and these habits can help you get ready for any sport, just like the pros:
- Injury prevention. One of the most common reasons behind injury when training for sports is when someone focuses too much on a single activity. This laser-like focus puts a lot of pressure on muscles, joints, ligaments and other tissue without giving them a chance to repair and recover. Cross-training helps address this by building in rest days for certain parts of your body and using activities that address different muscle groups. Your body has time to rest where it’s needed, leading to a healthier training session and a healthier you.
- Conditioning. Most spring sports involve a lot of running and a heavy workload. To match the rigors of your sport, it’s best to put those requirements in your workout. Cross-training allows you to build this conditioning by switching up what you’re doing – that means less long-term rest and more demanding workouts than a standard arm day or leg day. Cross-training primes your body and allows you to focus on multiple goals in a single day. You can easily include activities that focus on building muscle mass, losing weight, and getting quicker on your feet.
- Active recovery. To prevent major injuries, you need to rest the muscle groups you’re focusing on. However, the active recovery schedule involved with cross-training allows you to still get a workout in while giving those muscles a break. It’s also a fun way to introduce new methods of training. Runners and football players use swimming to give their joints a break while building up strength with resistance exercises. Some studies even suggest that working out lightly or with different methods on a recovery day can improve your recovery time and help reduce the risk of injury because of increased blood flow and delivery of nutrients to sore or hurt muscles.
Give Yourself a Slow Down Time
Every workout day and week needs some time to breathe. Don’t focus so much on how to get back into shape that you forget about the overall concept of wellness. Too much of anything – even exercise – can be dangerous. Your body, your mind and your schedule will need some time to recover when you get back into the habit of working out.
Get ready for spring sports by planning your workout with large times between reps and activity switching. You don’t want so much time that your muscles cool down, but you do want to give yourself enough time to feel everything out as you go. The extra time will help you determine if a muscle has been injured or if a joint needs some relief. You’ll be better able to judge whether you’re finishing a set to feel the burn or pushing too hard.
You aren’t losing or giving up control; you’re just adding some time to be self-aware. This mindfulness is a top way to stay safe, and it’s a spring exercise tip that the majors all use.
Spring Fitness Tips: Listen to Your Gut
If your car engine needs oil, it doesn’t matter how much gas you put in the tank. The problem won’t be solved. Your body and your recovery work the same way, and nutrition is a major player in the world of getting ready for spring sports.
You’re training your body to last the whole season, so you need a strong foundation with the right mix of fruits, vegetables, meats and other healthy choices. Balance them right for your sport, and you’ll see a better workout recovery as well as a reduced chance your muscles will face injury.
Professional baseball players, for example, need to load up on a lot of protein to keep their muscles strong but also need a higher-than-normal amount of carbs and fats for energy. However, you probably won’t want to ramp up your diet to that extent until you get closer to professional-level status. But don’t worry if you slip up or are unsure of what you should eat; just follow the basic food pyramid to achieve an overall daily balance.
Even Michael Phelps, who was hitting a 12,000 calorie diet each day during the 2008 Olympics, is still fine-tuning his meals. He recently switched from a morning of grits, French toast, three fried egg sandwiches, omelets and chocolate chip pancakes to a slightly smaller menu of oatmeal, fruit, a ham and cheese omelet and some coffee. Those changes moved him toward more protein-dense foods and typically healthier items.
If you’re working out, eat. Limiting calories to also lose weight can increase the risk of injury and reduce the amount of energy you have to work out. Lowering your calories below a standard diet while working out may also slow your metabolism.
Give Yourself a Trophy
A loud, aggressive trainer is a great motivator for many people while they’re at the gym. If you need a little more motivation outside of the gym, treat yourself. Whether it’s simply acknowledging you’ve met workout goals and giving yourself a gold star or updating your clothes to help you feel fitter and happier, go for it.
One top benefit of spring sports preparation is that you’re getting better overall. Pick up some new cleats; grab a fresh bat, or get that pair of wireless headphones you spotted someone else wearing during a workout. These little trophies establish another layer of positive feelings toward working out, and they’ll help you keep the schedule.
You are your body’s boss, and everyone likes it when their boss shows a little appreciation.
What If You Push Too Hard?
Everyone in the gym has tried to break a personal record or get over that wall and ended up running right into it. With this, there often comes an injury that may involve a long recovery period if it’s left untreated. The most important spring exercise tip anyone can offer is: get yourself checked out whenever you have an accident and are hurt.
Not treating an injury can bench you for much longer than just the spring season.
For 24/7 orthopedic care assistance call 855-OUCH-OIP (855-682-4647) and then follow up your treatment with therapy and other activities suggested by one of our orthopedic providers. OIP offers a variety of treatment options throughout Central Pennsylvania that can help you get back on your feet after an accident.
From small procedures to help with pain management and physical rehabilitation, OIP can help provide you the best treatment for a spring training accident. OIP is here to help you with getting back into shape after winter, spring or any season.