Get Your Body Ready for Spring

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Get Ready for Spring

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Time passes so quickly sometimes that seasons often take us by surprise. Except for winter, which lasts forever and ever and ever..right up until the first warm day when we realize just how long it's been since we've tried on those shorts from last year.  Will they fit?  That's the alarming question many of us have to face this time of year, along with a renewed interest in those New Year's resolutions we made eons ago.  It seemed like such a good idea to lose 90 pounds in three months back in January, didn't it?

While you can't make drastic changes in just a few weeks, it is possible to get back on the workout track in time to enjoy the warmer weather ahead. 

Use this step-by-step guide to:

Are you ready? Let's get started.

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Get Your Mind Ready

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The most important step to getting back to a routine after time off is to get your mind in the right place. 

We get so excited about trying to fit back into those shorts without looking like the Marshmallow Man, we often do too much too soon to make up for lost time. You know what happens when you overdo it:  You get really sore, you can barely move the next day and you end up burning fewer calories because you actually have to take extra days off to recover. 

Allowing your body and mind the time they need to get back into the routine will actually payoff in the long run. Use these resources to get your mind ready:

  • Ease Back Into Exercise to Avoid Injury - Impatient as we are, we're so much happier when we're not hobbling around, suffering in pain.  Take it easy the first couple of weeks of exercise to avoid that.
  • Is Your Mind Ready for Exercise? - The mind is usually our worst enemy when it comes to working out.  You may be focused on getting in shape for spring, but are you really ready to commit to a consistent workout program? I just realized I sound just like my mom.  Wow.  She always said it would happen...
  • Are You Ready to Make a Lifestyle Change? - I hate to bring up such a hated phrase, but most of us start a spring a exercise program more out of desperation than anything else.  But, permanent change often comes from making small changes everyday rather than changing everything overnight.
  • Getting Back on Track with Exercise - If you're having trouble getting motivated, this article gives you permission to take your time, with an emphasis on easing back into your workouts and forgiving yourself for getting off track.  Much more pleasant than guilting yourself into crazy workouts, right?
  • Is There a Shortcut to Weight Loss? - Short answer?  No.  Sorry.

NextGet Ready for Spring With New Gear

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Get the Gear You Need to Get Ready for Spring

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If your home gym is already set up or you're a member of a health club, you might be ready to go. However, a change of season often means changing how we exercise, what we wear for exercise and the types of workouts we choose.

These Guide Picks offer some ideas for home gym equipment, spring fitness essentials, workouts and other things you may need for the gym and your gym bag to be prepared for your workouts.

  • Best Home Gym Equipment -  This is the perfect time to update your home gym with shiny new equipment. 
  • Spring Fitness Essentials - Naturally, you'll need a whole new spring workout wardrobe, right? My top picks are some of my favorites for iffy spring weather.
  • Favorite Things in My Home Gym - This list of equipment takes you beyond the 'basic' home gym and into the kind of home gym I have...which includes bouncy, colorful and often weird equipment.

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Do Some Spring Cleaning

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Whether you buy new gear or not, you do need to inspect your home exercise equipment and make sure it's safe, clean and in good working order every so often.

  1. Inspect your weights. Examine your dumbbells, barbells and any accessories for rust, holes (if you use plastic or vinyl dumbbells) or dirt and give them a good wipe down with a cleaning cloth or a damp towel. Now is also a good time to see if you're ready for heavier weights (compare prices).
  2. Check your bands. If you use resistance bands, inspect each one for any tears or other boo-boos that may cause problems. If you find any, throw the offending band away and get a new one (compare prices).
  3. Examine your exercise ball. Don't forget to check your exercise ball for holes or tears which could make the ball pop on you (if it's not an anti-burst ball). Also check the inflation levels, which may need to be maintained throughout the year as the air inside contracts or expands. If you find anything suspicious, get rid of it and get a new one (compare prices).
  4. Get large equipment serviced. If you have a gym machine, treadmill, or other machine, check the service schedule and have a technician come out if needed. If you're like me and have no idea the last time your machine was services, you definitely need it. 
  5. Clean your exercise space. If your workout room is in the basement, the area may need a good, thorough cleaning. Use this time to dust, clean out cobwebs and even paint the walls, hang pictures or do anything else that will make your space more inviting.
  6. Toss useless gear. This is also a good time to toss or give away the equipment you've never used. If it's in good condition, check with local secondhand fitness stores to see if they can use it or sell it in a garage sale. Save your space for items you actually use.

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Get Back to Your Strength Workouts

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You already know that strength training is important for shaping your body, losing weight and getting your body strong for all those fun spring activities ahead. Now is a great time to start or ramp up your strength training workouts.


Getting Back to It

If it's been a while, ease into a strength program that will allow you to slowly build strength while minimizing the soreness. Below are a some articles to help you learn the basics of strength training and some beginner workouts to get you started:

As a general rule, start with about 2 days of strength training a week (rest a day or two between workouts) and choose light-medium weights until you get used to the exercises.

Something a Little Different

If you've been exercising all winter, it may be time to shake things up and have a little fun. Below are some new and challenging workouts to try:

Getting Healthy

If you're planning to get out and do things you haven't done in a while like gardening, painting the house or other tasks, take some time to prepare your body with these specialty workouts:

  • Strengthen & Stretch the Core - This is a favorite of mine for working the wore in a dynamic way with a little flexibility thrown in - two things you'll need for yard work.
  • Ball Workout - This advanced ball workout is a great way to work on balance, strength and stability that can translate to almost any activity.
  • Total Core - This is another good bet for strengthening the core muscles.
  • Circuit Training Workouts - In my opinion, the absolute best way to get in shape is with circuit training. Combining both cardio and strength in the same workout gives you more bang for your buck and helps you burn more calories.

You can also find ideas for individual muscle groups in my article, Your Best Body.

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Get Back To Your Cardio Workouts

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Getty Images/ Dave Long

Cardio is essential for losing body fat and getting your heart and lungs ready for springtime activities. If it's been awhile since you've done any cardio, be sure to:

  • Ease back into your workouts. Start with just a few days a week and keep the intensity/time at a level you can handle.
  • Gradually build onto your workouts. It's best to slowly add time to your workouts each week to give your body time to adjust to exercise.  Start with 15 or 20 minutes, or whatever you can do, and add a few minutes for each workout.
  • Focus on time rather than intensity. When you're getting back to workouts, focus more on accumulating time. Once you can work continuously for 30 or more minutes, then play around with your speed, resistance and/or incline to add intensity.
  • Choose what you like. Pick an activity you can see yourself doing without a lot of muss and fuss.  Walking is always a great way to start.

Beginners

If you're new to cardio exercise or it's been a long time, these resources will help you get started:

For the record, how often you do cardio depends on your fitness level, goals and schedule. To lose weight, the more cardio the better and getting something in everyday is a good idea. Doing a variety of workouts with different activities, levels of intensity and duration will help you avoid plateaus.

Something a Little Different

If you've been doing some cardio, it may be time to shake things up and try something different:

Get Motivated

The key to great cardio workouts is motivation. All of us have to find what motivates us each day (and that changes all the time), but here some tools I use to stay interested:

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Increase Flexibility and Core Strength

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One thing we often do in winter is sit a little too much and that means tight muscles and, probably, a slightly wider behind.  Doing the strength and cardio workouts mentioned above can help with the wide part and some focused stretching workouts can help with the tight muscles part.

You also want to make sure your core is strong. So many outdoor activities (and indoor as well) require lots of strength in the abs and back and, if you've been sitting as much as I have, you may have lost a little strength in that area.

Try some of the workouts below to increase your flexibility and core strength.

You should also visit our Pilates and Yoga sites for more great information about strengthening the core and stretching the body.

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Programs to Get You Fit

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Getty Images/Mark Bowden

If you're looking for a more structured approach and a bit more guidance to exercise, check out some of the free exercise programs available to help you lose weight, change your lifestyle and become more active. These e-courses come in the form of newsletters sent to your email account on a daily or weekly basis and are a great way to get into a program with a bit more instruction:

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