We made it! Spring is upon us and with that, winter is now behind us. Woohoo! Spring comes with longer days, warmer weather, and drier, safer sidewalks and trails to enjoy and explore. The start of spring is an amazing time to develop healthy exercise habits that we can carry with us into the summer and fall. Whether you plan to start getting out for walks, jogs, bike rides, roller blades, or anything else it is important to ease your way into your activity. It’s easy to get excited and perhaps a little too ambitious when starting an outdoor exercise routine. Though that excitement is great, it is important to think about the strain on your body. Some simple solutions include: taking regular breaks while going for a walk or slowing down your walking pace; breaking up your jog into a jog-walk, where you jog for 2 minutes, then walk for 5 minutes (as an example); or sticking to flat, paved routes when taking your bike out for the first time. These are some ideas that can be easily altered to fit your unique needs.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
I love the feeling I get when spring rolls around. Knowing that the days are getting longer and hotter, while summer is right around the corner brightens my mood significantly after a long winter. If this sounds like you, you may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD affects loads and loads of people with the severity of each case varying. SAD sometimes isn’t given the recognition is deserves because of its acronym, but that isn’t right. I often find that when discussing SAD I am met with “Ha! So you’re telling me someone being sad is a disorder?”. That’s not the case; there is a difference in feeling sadness and being affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder. Though I feel the term ‘disorder’ may be used liberally in the name of this diagnosis, the down feeling we get during the winter months is real and there is a reason for it. The best remedy for SAD is sunlight, which may sound familiar if you’ve heard of people doing light therapy during the winter months. Luckily, in the spring and summer we don’t need light therapy to get our dose of vitamin D, we can get it naturally by getting outside. Exercising outdoors is even starting to be prescribed by medical professionals!
Ways to Get Moving this Spring
Here are some of the more popular outdoor activities you can get into in the spring, along with some tips and tricks to avoid diving in too quickly:
- Walking: walking is a great way to get fresh air without putting too much strain on your body. Focus on pushing off each stride with your toes and planting the heel of the other foot you are about to step into. If you haven’t been out walking much, stick to sidewalks or other even surfaces. As you progress, you could incorporate some trail walks or hillier walks to improve your cardiovascular fitness even further. Note: be careful of sidewalks in a low spot as water may pool there and turn to ice if we get a cold spell.
- Jogging: if you feel good about walking and think you’re ready to progress further, jogging may be for you. Form is crucial when you begin jogging. I recommend doing a bit of research on beginners running form online or watching videos explaining a proper stride. Though each stride is different, some basic tips are to take short strides to avoid excessive strain on knee ligaments, focus on pushing off with your toes and using your calves and glutes, don’t over-extend the leg you are about to land on, keep some bend in your knees. Again, these are basic tips and I recommend you watch a video explaining technique or consult a runner in your life and try to emulate a proper stride. Start jogging on sidewalks and try plan a flat route first. As you progress you may incorporate trail running, or hillier routes.
- Biking: biking is a great way to get outside, get your exercise, and cover a whole lot of ground in not a lot of time. Biking is likely my personal favourite of the three activities here, as I like being able to go much further and see more of what Mother Nature has to offer. Biking is low impact on your joints and a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and leg strength. If you plan to road bike, be careful about salt and sand that is still on the roads; and as always, watch for traffic! If you’re like me and enjoy biking in the trails, make sure you’re comfortable using your brakes and always make sure you’re going at a speed you feel safe at. And please, always wear a helmet. Helmets are cool, head injuries are very uncool.
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In closing, exercising outdoors is an amazing way to improve yourself physically and mentally. Motion is medicine, and you may notice your body aches and pains go away with regular exercise. By developing a routine in the spring, we are giving ourselves a great base to further improve upon as we head into the warmer months. Not sure if you’re fit for a certain activity? Come on in for an evaluation and we can go over which activities may be the best fit for you!