There’s no better time than spring to renew your fitness goals and focus on getting in shape for summer. However, before you jump right in, it’s critical to take some time for proper conditioning. Trying to do too much too soon can result in injuries that may set you back on your fitness goals. In the spring, orthopedic doctors tend to see a large number of sports-related injuries that come from people who pull out their bikes, rollerblades, and running shoes and think they can pick up where they left off.
Keeping up with diverse fitness routines and cross-training during the winter helps, but proper spring conditioning is also key. Experts suggest the indoor to outdoor transition should be approached cautiously and with the same care used when first starting a training regimen. This means looking at your FIIT (frequency, intensity, time and type), and slowly changing only one variable at a time. For example, strive for longer, slower, more consistent exercise before adding intensity.
By following basic conditioning guidelines, you can avoid the injuries that will sideline you during the summer. Make a game plan that includes the following tips that will help you become better conditioned and more flexible:
- Start out slow.
- Stretch your muscles before any exercise. Stretching is something you can never do too much of, and it significantly reduces your risk for straining or pulling a muscle.
- Warm up your muscles before a workout. Do a few minutes of light cardio to ease your body into activity.
- Build a strong foundation by focusing on your core (abdominals and back muscles)
- Work large muscle groups together, and do exercises that mimic the movements you will use on the field, court, or track.
- Employ cross-training principles so that certain muscle groups do not become overworked and others are allowed to become weaker.
- Cool down after a workout to reduce your risk for muscle and ligament injuries.
- Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout. Staying hydrated will significantly reduce your risk for pulled muscles and dehydration.
- Give muscles time to recover by alternating activities or exercises and scheduling days of rest.
- Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated.
Athletes who have been inactive all winter are at a much higher risk for experiencing a spring training injury, so ease into conditioning at least 4 to 6 weeks before hard-core training begins. Make sure you follow you game plan and implement a training program that includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility exercises.
Authored by Zach Meeker, Research Assistant for Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush University Medical Center
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