For many people, the summer season marks the time to get back outside and resume their exercise routine. But if it’s been a few months—or a few seasons—you want to start out slowly and strategically. Here are our top 5 steps for a safe return to regular exercise this summer.
Here are our top five tips to ensure a safe return to regular exercise this summer after a break.
Stretching should be a part of every pre- and post-workout regimen. Prepare your body for activity with an active warm-up of dynamic stretching followed by a cool-down with static stretching.
Dynamic stretches ease the body into activity and are important before exercise which requires flexibility and a good range of motion to perform certain athletic maneuvers. Dynamic stretching introduces the movements to follow while elevating temperature and getting the blood flowing. If running is your sport of choice, for example, you can do some walking lunges before you begin to stretch and warm up the hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
Static stretches are recommended after a workout to cool down muscles. They are most likely what comes to mind when you think of stretching: moving a single muscle or muscle group into position and holding it for several seconds.
While it was once thought that static stretches were good before exercise, the latest research shows otherwise. Static stretches before a workout can actually reduce athletic performance. Static exercises after working out help lower heart rate and body temperature, and signal the body to initiate the recovery process.
2.Follow a Progression
Don’t try to pick up where you left off last year. Whatever your preferred activity, it is best to resume it gradually. The human body needs time to adjust to the new physical demands. A slow but gradual progression helps reduce the risk of the most common injuries suffered by the weekend warrior: those caused by overuse and muscle strains or sprains. Do not progress your exercise to the next level unless your form is correct.
Progression in exercise is the concept of increasing the volume, and intensity of training over time. Some people also gradually increase the technical difficulty of their exercise, which requires heightened power, coordination, balance, and agility. This approach not only helps avoid injuries, but it also results in improved performance over time.
If you are confused about how and when to up your game as you resume your fitness routine this summer, you can use preprogrammed fitness apps that do the work for you. “Couch to 5K” is a popular running plan that guides beginners to build fitness and stamina with the goal of running 5 kilometers when complete. Similar programs are available for resistance training, walking, and even yoga!
We touched on this above, but the point is worth exploring a bit more because it is so important. As you begin your summer training program, make sure you are switching up your workouts. You do not want to do the same set of motions every time you exercise.
Training diversity, or cross-training, allows the body to adapt to a wide variety of stressors, which leads to a more optimal level of fitness. It also prevents those frustrating plateaus that may tempt you to throw in the towel before you see results.
When you alternate between activities, you reduce the risk of overuse injuries because you focus on different muscle groups. Tapping into all of your major and support muscles through different forms of exercise helps you become stronger and more balanced overall.
Also—who really wants to do the same workout every time? Swimming, paddleboarding, hiking, and biking are a few summer exercise ideas to get you fit while you have fun!
4.Spread it Out
Summer always seems to be too short and go by too fast. Although it is tempting to go “all in” to get the results you want by September, your body needs time to rest and recover between exercise.
If possible, spread your activity out throughout the week. You are better off scheduling shorter workouts every other day than cramming multiple intense workouts into the weekend. With that said, many people do prefer to exercise daily. They find it helps to boost energy and mood and improve sleep. Working out can set the tone for a good day—or help decompress after a not-so-good day.
If that sounds like you, just be sure to diversify your workouts, and alternate a day of high-intensity exercise with a day of low-impact activities like yoga, swimming, or cycling to give your muscles and joints a break, and to avoid overuse injuries.
Hydration refers to the process by which the body absorbs water and other liquids. Every person should be mindful of how much water they consume regardless of age, health status, and fitness level. More than 60% of the human body is composed of water. And water is essential for nearly every system in the body to function well.
Drinking water has many benefits. Proper hydration:
• Helps to improve physical performance
• Helps the body cool down after exertion
• Lubricates the joints to prevent soreness and injuries and improve range of motion
• Moves oxygen and nutrients throughout the body to encourage the recovery process
When it comes to just how much liquid to consume in a day, that amount can vary based on age, gender, weight, and fitness level. However, as a good rule of thumb, an adequate daily fluid intake is around 11.5 cups (or 2.7 liters) for women, and 15.5 cups (or 3.7 liters) for men. Add more for exercising in hot weather, if you sweat a lot, or if you are getting over an illness.
Whether you have taken a break from your fitness routine for the winter or are rehabbing from an illness or injury, these steps can help you get back into action safely. A physical therapy screening will determine when and how it’s best to resume activity. Find a physical therapy clinic near you.