With warm weather finally here, you might find yourself feeling extra motivated to get outdoors and get back into the fitness groove you may have put on hold during the winter months. While it’s tempting to head out and hit the pavement, your best bet after any sort of fitness hiatus is to ease back in. So whether you’ve had a break from workouts because of pregnancy, child birth or life just got in the way, here are a few tips to help you spring back into your workouts. Dr. Neuman, founder of Pop-Doc.com, Karena Wu, physical therapist and owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy, and Chiropractor Dr. Rob Silverman are sharing their tips on how to prevent fitness injuries as you ramp up your workouts.
Tips to Prevent Injuries as You Ramp Up Your Workouts
1. Slow and steady wins the race. Even though spring is pumping you up, don’t exercise as long, fast or often as you used to before a break. “Reintroduce your body to movements, weights, frequency and duration,” says Wu. “You can feel more tired initially because you are expending more calories doing additional activity, so your body needs to get used to all of this work.”
So for your fresh spring training Wu says stay hydrated, use smaller weights, slower and steady pace, shorter duration, proper technique and lots of healthy eating.
2. Warm it up. Muscles need to be warmed up before you work them out. Aim for at least 5 to 10 minutes of an easy warm-up with dynamic stretches to prepare your body for a workout.
3. Don’t work too hard. Similar to No. 1, don’t push your body too far. If you get too sore, you may take a days long break to recover, so all of your hard work will not pay off. Build up slowly to avoid the burnout.
4. Check your sneakers, or wreck yourself. With spring weather in action, so is running outside more, but don’t run without proper gear. Wu explains that “running has a period of ‘double float’ which means for a split second, nothing is in contact with the ground.” That means every stride you take, one leg is absorbing all of your weight plus gravity and the ground reaction forces means significant impact forces through your joints. Without supportive and proper cushioned shoes, your joints will be negatively affected.
5. Get into interval jogging. Interval jogging is a great gradual return to running because it allows the body to acclimate to the impact forces of running. It also increases muscle energy, cardiovascular output and oxygen consumption without fatiguing the system too greatly. Wu suggests to “start slowly in your jog to get used to how it feels to run and how the body has to brace for impact during the stance phase of running.”
6. Stretch after the sweat. The best time to stretch is really after exercise. “Blood is flowing to the skeletal muscles, your tissues are more pliable and the stretch is not as uncomfortable (the dreaded stretch pain),” Dr. Neuman explains. Take the time to do some static stretches to help increase flexibility for the long run and slow the heart rate down. It means less tightness and soreness after exercise because it can help move the lactic acid out of the muscle tissues.
7. Pamper yourself and rest away. Remember that a massage can be used proactively. According to Wu, “Nothing beats fingers digging deep into your tissues to help loosen them up after you work out and continue to do your stretches. Massage can help break up fascial adhesions (the ‘knots’ found in muscles) and increase circulation to the tissues. It also helps to move lactic acid out of tight tissues.” After your massage, take a good and long rest. Then, every morning will feel like a spring awakening.
Thanks to the pros for these tips! I especially like No. 7. Rest days are important too! —Erin