Spring is in the air. With the warmer weather and longer days, many find themselves feeling reenergized and ready to get moving. Regular exercise has been shown to have countless health benefits. But, creating a fitness routine can be overwhelming. Whether starting a new routine or resuming a previous one, check out these five tips to start a routine off right.
1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
Staying well hydrated is important to ensure the body is functioning optimally. When exercising, the body loses water through sweat making it easy to become dehydrated without realizing it. Drinking water before, during and after a workout can help to replenish what is lost during the workout. How does one know if they are dehydrated? A good rule of thumb to check hydration status is to use your urine as a barometer. If urine is clear to a slight tinge of yellow, then the body is most likely well hydrated.
2. Fuel the body.
When initiating a new exercise regimen, it is important to maintain basic nutrition. Activity increases the body’s metabolism, which will require more of the essential macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) to fuel and help repair the body post workout. When one does not consume enough protein, the body will resort to utilizing protein as an energy source, which will, in turn, break down muscle to meet the body’s energy needs. If an exercise goal is to build muscle and strength, this can be counterproductive. Questions regarding basic nutritional needs and goals are best answered by a physician or registered dietician who can assist in setting up a plan.
3. Dress for success.
It is always important to consider the environment in which one will be exercising. Wearing short sleeves and shorts in hotter, more humid climates (in addition to remaining well hydrated) can help to decrease incidence of heat injury/illness. If planning to exercise in a wooded area, longer sleeves and pants should be considered to avoid insect exposure. Furthermore, if the sun is out, it’s recommended to use sunblock and appropriate eyewear, especially when the UV index is high.
Choosing the appropriate footwear can be helpful in preventing injuries. It’s important to select shoes based on activity, body type, comfort and biomechanics. Proper footwear can also help to reduce incidence of chronic injuries such as shin splints, knee pain and plantar fasciitis.
4. Start slow.
To begin any exercise program, always think about any exercise goals or desired achievements. Setting realistic goals can be humbling, but remember that the body’s capacity to recover and adapt changes with time and age. If one has not worked out recently, it would be best to start with a shorter duration of activity and/or intensity level. It is important to start slow and not do too much too soon. Consider the basic components of exercise that can be remembered by the acronym “FITT” (Frequency, Intensity, Time, Type). Increasing just one of these components at a time can help to decrease the risk of injury.
Speaking with a physician is especially important if one has underlying conditions or limitations, a physician can help determine what activities and durations would be optimal to start. Additionally, they can provide insight and resources, and help determine what kind of activity/exercise is best suited.
5. Listen to the body.
The body can speak, well not exactly… The body has ways of letting one know when it has done too much or when a change of activity is needed. Muscle soreness is the body’s way of communicating that it is trying to adapt and recover from a workout. To assist in preventing muscle soreness and improve flexibility, it is essential to stretch before and after exercise.
Getting plenty of rest and sleep is also important when trying to get back into fitness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night. Musculoskeletal remodeling and repair occur while sleeping, meaning sleep deprivation can lead to delayed adaptations to exercise and slower injury healing.
Marshall Ochi, DO, CAQSM, is a physician with the ProMedica Sports Medicine Institute.