By Tara Daye, canfitpro PTS/FIS
This winter has seemed like one of the longest that we have had in a while. Mix in the length of the winter with the temperature fluctuations, storms and ice, and we are all more than ready for spring to come in 2019! Our bodies are now craving fresh air, Vitamin D from the sun, longer daylight hours and the smell of spring renewal. With the bad winter conditions, it even made it difficult to get in regular sledding, snowman building, outdoor running and sometimes even going for a walk was made dangerous because of the hidden ice lurking everywhere.
With spring upon us, we can’t wait to get outside and feel energized again! I know I have been longing to break the soil and garden, feel the grass on my toes and just be outdoors in general. Runners will again hit the streets and trails, bikes will emerge out of storage, and treadmills will get traded for the outdoor foot path. While this is a great thing that we all need, it is important to remember to maintain the balance of physical exercise we get on a weekly basis.
Most often when in the gym, we are there for the sole purpose of getting our workout in, ensuring we get there at least 3 times a week and getting the job done. It is much easier when outdoors to drop the intensity level of cardiovascular work. Leisurely strolls enjoying the spring flowers replaces the faster pace and upper body engagement achieved when on the elliptical machine. More time is spent cleaning up the yard from the harshness of the winter, mowing lawns and gardening and less time is spent resistance training.
While we are still being active and any activity is a good thing to log into a day, the nicer weather will bring less people into the gym. This is not only lonely for the dumbbells on the rack, it also directly translates into a loss of cardiovascular capacity, strength, flexibility, balance, posture, power, agility and more for those folks who aren’t making it in! Scary isn’t it?
As a trainer, each year I hear a large number of people complain in the fall about losing so much strength and cardiovascular endurance over the spring and summer months. Most times, these people also found that they have gained unwanted pounds. The spring and summer not only draw us outdoors more frequently but also usher in weddings, barbeques, parties and events in which we indulge. More calories daily, more beer, wine and margaritas all go against our efforts to lose fat, maintain or develop muscle, and stay in shape.
While they may not be a time when you want to take on new challenges, the nicer months are the time to focus on at least maintaining your workout schedule and intensity. So how do we know what are appropriate amounts of strength, cardio and flexibility to maintain our hard work? Studies show that we can maintain our current fitness level by training at 1/3 the volume at the same intensity level for up to 12 weeks. Keep in mind that this is truer with maintenance in our caloric intake. If our intake rises, so should our exercise duration, frequency, and load or intensity in order to achieve the maintenance we desire.
Another important aspect to note is flexibility maintenance. In regards to the mobility and flexibility of our bodies, it is essential to maintain if not increase our time spent on these areas. This is even more important as we age. Experts report that when in our 20’s we should incorporate at least two days in which we focus on flexibility, in our 30’s 3 days, 40’s 4 days and so on! If you are a Yogi, there are many outdoor Yoga classes in which to indulge in the great outdoors while giving our bodies the precious time they deserve.
As the weather turns more desirable and we spend more time with our outside activities, remember not to let your hours of winter gym time turn into summer woes. Our health is an investment of time, money and effort that we cannot take back or reverse. As we age, it becomes even more important for consistent attention to exercise and can drastically help us avoid and/or reduce health issues such as sickness, anxiety, low energy, cardiovascular conditions, diabetes, having to take certain medications and even surgery. Make a commitment to yourself this spring to add in outdoor time to your current workout regime rather than to replace it – you’ll thank yourself in the fall!!