Spring is in the air! This winter feels like it has dragged on for far too long, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to see double-digit temperatures on the horizon. For me, the warming weather almost immediately gets me in the mood to start spending time outdoors.
One thing that I notice, even in myself, with the start of spring, is the sudden urge to jump head first into outdoor workouts and summer sports, etc. While I absolutely love the enthusiasm for getting active, there are a few things that you might want to consider before going out for that first run.
Often, the activities we take part in over the spring and summer months, aren’t as available to us throughout the winter. This makes it even more exciting when the weather starts to change, and we can get back to the activities we love, but it also means that because we haven’t been doing them consistently for a good 4 or 5 months, and our bodies need time to adjust.
For example, I am not an avid runner… well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not even an adequate runner, but when spring hits, and I want to get outside, I automatically want to grab a friend and hit the trails or the stairs. While this is a great idea in theory, I haven’t been running all winter, and my body isn’t conditioned to do so yet, therefore if I were to jump right into a 10K run, or try to sprint the Glenora stairs, I open myself up to the possibility of injury. On top of that, I’ll also find that my performance is a lot less impressive than I remember it being last year, which can be disappointing and discouraging.
Even though I’ve been exercising and keeping in shape throughout the winter, I haven’t been keeping up with those specific activities, which means I will need to get back into them gradually in order to get my performance back to the level that it was last year, and from there, I can continue to improve.
If you’ve got a leg up on me, and you’ve brought your summer activities indoors, and kept them up through the winter, congrats! You are starting the season off in a great place, but there are also other factors that our body needs to adjust to once we take our activity back outside. Indoors, we train in a very controlled environment. The temperature, air quality, and even the surfaces we train on, they’re all constant; our body has already adapted to them, and they don’t really factor into our performance. Once you get outside, however, all of that consistency goes out the window… or I guess in this case it remains safely behind the window. The environmental factors outside are always fluctuating. Wind, humidity, temperature, air quality, and allergens are just a few factors that affect performance. Your body will need time to get used to handling the fluctuations in the environment on top whatever activity you’ve chosen.
That all being said, here are a few things to keep in mind when you start getting outside this spring!
- Gradual change: when you are first getting back into your outdoor activity, regardless of whether you’ve kept active all winter, start small and build, you’ll be less likely to be injured, and you will be able to increase your performance overall.
- Set reasonable goals: This ties in with the previous point, but it is important to know where you are starting from, and set realistic goals. If you haven’t run all winter, and you decide to run a marathon, you will likely not do as well as you’d like and could potentially hurt yourself, start with a 5k, then a 10k, then a half, etc. Work your way up and congratulate yourself on the small victories which will ultimately lead to larger ones.
- Prepare for the weather (and the environment): This means making sure you’ve dressed appropriately, wearing sunscreen if need be, being aware of/prepared for seasonal allergies, knowing what type of footwear is best for your activity (ex. trail running vs road running). Keeping all of these things in mind and being prepared, will help to reduce the impact of the environment on your training.
- Have fun: Last, but possibly most importantly, whatever activity you choose this summer, enjoy yourself. Being outdoors has so many health benefits beyond that which you achieve from exercise, so take advantage of it while you can!