Al Brodnick of Bethesda Physical Therapy
Photo by Bethesda Physical Therapy
The minute the weather edges up over the 60s and sunshine abounds, streets and sidewalks are crammed with bikers, joggers, walkers, strollers — everyone thinking about fitness and squeezing into spring clothes and swimsuits after a winter of sitting on the couch. However, to launch a springtime exercise routine, one needs to consider a number of factors.
The most common problem that Physical Therapist Al Brodnick of Bethesda Physical Therapy sees year after year is, “Enthusiastic exercisers may not be in the same physical shape they were when the clocks changed last fall and their exercise routine faded with the sunlight. It can be dangerous to pick right back up with favorite physical activities. The mind is ready for its old routine, but the body is not and the repercussions of starting back too quickly can range from ankle sprains to knee injuries to hip tendinitis, among others.”
Here are some tips from Brodnick to get back into a springtime fitness routine smartly and safely:
- If it’s been awhile, adjust the dial. If you haven’t participated in regular exercise over the winter, do not start in at your previous level of intensity. Lower speed and lower weight with a lesser number of repetitions will warm up your body for more difficult exercise. Too much, too soon may result in injuries — and then your spring start-up will be delayed for certain.
- Give your equipment a check-up too. Check your bike to see if you need a tune-up or a re-fit. Make certain your treadmill still has tread and bands are not ready to pop. Your tennis racquet may need a new grip and strings and your roller-blades might need new wheels. Check out your equipment to make certain it will not cause injury to you.
- Make certain your shoes fit you and your activity. If your shoes have no tread, are broken down on the inside or are uncomfortable, it’s time to invest in a new pair. Resist the temptation to buy whatever is on sale. Get properly fitted and heed the advice of experts about the best shoes for distance running versus playing tennis, golf or walking.
- Get a tune-up before you start-up. If you have tight muscles, nagging pain or any weaknesses, you might want to make an appointment with a physical therapist to check them out before you start your exercise routine. Better to protect yourself against injury than run the risk of developing a more serious problem later.
- Stretch and warm up before you exercise. Brodnick said, “Loss of flexibility is the most common side-effect of having not exercised in a while. Core weakness is probably the second most likely result of inactivity. When you are renewing your exercise routine, prepare your body by stretching and by performing low intensity activity to get your heart rate up prior to jumping into full-fledged rigorous exercise.”
- Rest is not only for the weary. Rest days are not a sign of laziness, but are vital to recovery and to see how you are feeling. Evaluation of aches or pains on rest days will determine how much exercise you should do the following day.
- Variety is the way to go. Cross training is beneficial for your mind and body. Varying activities works different muscle groups and challenges you in different ways keeping you from getting bored with your work-outs. Playing games such as tennis, golf, racquet ball and ping-pong is good for your eye-hand coordination, your reactions and your brain.
- Set realistic goals. If using a personal trainer, make certain your goals are his or her goals. Decide what your want to accomplish: building strength, becoming more flexible, losing weight, sculpting your body, becoming more fit. It’s important to talk to an expert about the best ways to meet these goals. Make certain, if you hire a personal trainer, that your expectations are in line with his or hers.
- Look out for warning flags. Watch for signs of stress and irritation, particularly when you begin your routine. If you have sharp pain, swelling in a joint or difficulty/pain in performing a movement which has never been a problem previously, then stop doing that exercise and rest or see an orthopedist.
- Get a good return on your exercise investment. Increase the duration or the intensity of your workout by 5 to 10 percent each week. Schedule your workout each day — and don’t let unimportant activities take you away from your appointment to workout. It’s important to block out the time to exercise regularly — as important for your mind as your body. Make it a priority.
Brodnick suggests that those who sit hunched over a computer with forward C-like posture must do exercises to stretch the back and the shoulders. “Muscles tend to shorten as we sit in one position. That’s why it’s so important to do exercises that are opposite to what you do all day. The other things to work on are balance and core muscles.”
He said, “Some people are motivated and others are not — but it is important for each of us to evaluate the best way to work exercise into our lives.”