According to the groundhog, spring is just around the corner. Temperatures are rising, bulbs are coming up, and you might be feeling like you want to get off the couch and move. It’s not uncommon for people to grow lax about their fitness routine during the cold, dark winter months, but if you want to be in shape for the beach, now is the time to start. Here are four ways to start getting back in shape.
1.Work Out The Kinks
If you’ve been doing a little too much ‘Netflix and chill’ this winter, you are probably suffering from some sore, stiff muscles. Long hours spent sitting can cause lower back pain and tighten your hamstrings. If you’ve been staring at a computer, you might also have some neck pain. Jumping into a workout right away in this condition could be a recipe for injuries.
One of the first things you should do is go into your chiropractor for a ‘tune-up’. Get your spine and hips realigned so you can move more freely and have less pain. If you struggle with back or neck pain regularly, ask your chiropractor for some posture tips. He or she can tell you what types of postures might be causing your pain and how to correct them.
Yoga is another great way to get limbered up after a sedentary winter. Don’t be intimidated by pictures you’ve seen of master yogi’s holding complicated poses. Most yoga poses are simple, and there are many videos and resources available for beginners. You can buy a DVD if you want, or watch on youtube as fellow practitioners lead you through simple routines.
You can start out practicing for as little as ten minutes a day and still feel a benefit. Then if you want to, you can work your way up to longer routines. If your lower back gives you trouble, look for yoga exercises that are ‘hip openers.’ These help to loosen the tightness in your lower back. Some yoga routines are challenging enough to count as a workout, and these can be a great way of building up your stamina.
2.Bring the Outside Inside
If your favorite modes of exercise involve cycling or running outside, you might be out of luck during rainy March and April weather. That doesn’t mean you can’t start getting your body ready for when the weather clears up. If you don’t want to pay for a gym membership, check out your local recreation center. These county-run facilities offer indoor tracks, gym equipment, and even fitness classes for insanely low prices. Depending on where you live, it might be less than twenty dollars a month for a couples membership.
If you jog around your neighborhood during warm weather months, consider starting this month on the indoor track. That way, when the weather gets nice, you will be in prime condition to hit the pavement again. The same goes for cycling, taking a spin class now or even just using a stationary bicycle can get your muscles ready for the road. If you love to swim, consider trying out an indoor lap pool. These days it’s not hard to find all kinds of indoor activities that mimic outdoor sports. You can even rock climb indoors.
3.Clean Up Your Diet
There’s something about winter that makes humans want to load up on fat and sugar, but now that spring is here, it’s time to embrace vegetables again. Take a hard look at your diet and try to eliminate empty calories like soda, candy, and pastries. Just quitting soda could help you lose thirty pounds this year!
After you’ve cut out the empty calories, replace them with nutrient-packed fruits, veggies, and legumes. Nuts are also full of nutrition, but they are high in calories, so eat them in moderation. Start reading the labels on the food you eat and aim for foods that are low in sugar and high in fiber, protein, and vitamins. Make sure to keep the serving size in mind when you are watching calories.
Eating a diet that contains 20% animal products and 80% plant products is healthy for you and sustainable for the environment. Just make sure that your plant-based foods are minimally processed. Technically white flour is a plant-based food, but it’s been processed to the point that it contains almost no nutrition. Vegetable-based snacks like potato chips are fine in moderation, but are chock full of fat and sometimes chemicals.
Find a vegetarian cookbook that you like and start making meals that include lots of whole vegetables and beans. For snacks, consider dipping veggies or corn chips in hummus or making your own roasted chickpeas. A quick Google search for ‘vegetarian snacks’ will give you loads of ideas about how to snack healthier.
4.Try Something New
Spring is a time of new beginnings, and if you just aren’t feeling your usual workout, it can be a great time to experiment. Being active doesn’t have to mean going to the gym; you could take a dance class, learn to swim, learn to ride horses. The list of fun and healthy activities is almost endless. If you want to keep things simple, look into the fitness classes that your gym or local rec center offers. Pilates, kickboxing, and dance fitness are some of the most common offerings. Taking a class even once or twice a week could help renew your excitement about getting fit.
If you like to work out at home, but are bored with your treadmill, consider trying an app, a DVD or a streaming service. These allow you to take a fitness class in the comfort of your own home. You will enjoy a lot more variety, learn new exercises, and get a more well-rounded workout. Best of all, most of these programs don’t require special equipment, and when they do, it’s usually something inexpensive like an exercise ball. Some apps and streaming services are also free. If you are out of shape, start with a routine that is labeled for beginners and work up from there. After your stamina has improved, you might find yourself feeling confident enough to take a public class or start a new active hobby.