From workouts to gear (time for new kicks?), how to recharge your body
It's that time of year again—the snow's melting, the sun's shining, and those thick sweaters in the closet are about to go into storage. It's the perfect time to reignite your motivation by breaking away from your boring gym routine and embracing the great outdoors. Kick off spring with a healthy start by getting the right gear, revamping your routine, and doing some "spring cleaning" in your pantry. Here are 20 simple tips to get you started.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Book a Physical
Believe it or not, only about 20 percent of Americans get an annual check-up. Be one of them! While you might look and feel just fine (or really hate needles), it's important to keep tabs on things like blood pressure, cholesterol, and vitamin deficiencies before designing your workout program.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Set a Schedule... but Be Realistic
If you haven't been working out much this winter, don't write down that you'll do outdoor cardio exercises for 30 minutes a day, six days a week. You'll only find yourself getting frustrated and will be more likely to give up on your workout program. Post your exercise plan in places you'll look frequently, like the calendar app on your smartphone or at your desk at work.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Team Up
You're more likely to stick with your plan if you've got a partner in crime. Choose someone who has similar goals who's schedule fits with your own. Your best bet: Get together at the same time four days a week, whether it's before work or just before dinner.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Buy New Running Shoes
If you've been hitting the gym (and the treadmill) all winter, chances are, you're due for a new pair. Most running shoes last somewhere between 300 and 400 miles—but if you use them to walk around or do other parts of your gym routine, that wear and tear counts, too. Go to a running specialty store to get fitted, and have them look at your gait/pronation to find the best shoe for you.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Clean Out Your Pantry
Still have that tin of popcorn from the holidays or a box of chocolates from Valentine's Day? Get rid of them. And while you're at it, throw away other foods low in nutritional value, like chips, pretzels, sugary cereals, white bread and, yes, even those 100 calorie snack packs (a cookies still a cookie, even if you squash it flat and drop five in a bag).
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Protect Your Skin
Now that it's warming up, you'll be heading outside again. This means more sunshine (and vitamin D, which is a good thing), but it also means that your skin is exposed to harmful UV rays. Rub waterproof lotion with at least SPF 15 or more over all exposed areas of your body. Don't forget easy-to-miss areas like behind your ears, the back of your neck and the crease near your underarms.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Pump Up Your Playlist
Still listening to the same tracks from December? Do some iPod "spring cleaning" by downloading a fresh workout playlist to get you going. (Need some fresh ideas? Check out our library of pumped-up playlists!)
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Jump Rope
Heading outside and doing this favorite childhood "workout" can burn about 208 calories in just 20 minutes. Add other outdoor cardio exercises like walking lunges, short sprints, and jumping jacks, and you've got yourself a circuit program you can do right in your backyard.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Update Your Workout Wardrobe
Still sweating it out in cotton T-shirts? Throw away worn-out workout duds and replace them with shorts, tanks and tees in breathable, wick fabrics. While you're at it, update your sports bras, too (a typical bra has a lifespan of about six months, although hand-washing can make them last longer).
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Stretch Out
The best way to prevent injury is to stretch before and after your workouts. Here's how it's done: Warm up with 10 minutes of light outdoor cardio exercises, then do dynamic stretching—as in, stretching while moving. This includes lunges, touching your toes and walking your hands forward, swinging your legs while standing and twisting from side to side. After your workout, complete "static" stretches—a.k.a. your typical "touch and hold" routine. Yoga, Pilates, and dance classes are also great ways to stay flexible.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Stay Hydrated
Avoid muscle cramping and fatigue by drinking about two liters of water a day, and 17 ounces about two hours before exercising. Another general rule of thumb: The more you sweat, the more fluids you need to replace, so drink up after a vigorous workout. Use stainless steel bottles to avoid some of the chemicals associated with certain plastic varieties (such as Bisphenol A, or BPA).
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Plan a Trip
Outdoor exercises are great, but if the weather's still cool where you live, take a "health" vacation to a resort with hiking, biking and other activities (plus warm weather), or sign up for a yoga retreat.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Get Sporty
Break up your routine with outdoor exercises like tennis or golf, or team up with friends for an afternoon of ultimate Frisbee. Even kickball will get your heart going—and you don't have to be athletically gifted to play!
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Hit the Farmers Market
Soak up some of that spring sunshine while you shop for fresh fruits and veggies. Other items worth picking up include fish, dried fruits, and nuts.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Change Your Thinking
Instead of designing goals based purely on weight loss, concentrate on how you feel. If counting calories has you down, think in terms of portions instead. Constantly checking the clock during your workout? Chances are you need to find a sport or activity you actually enjoy.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Step Off the Scale
Muscle weighs more than fat, so although you may look more toned, there's a chance you might not be shedding pounds at the rate you'd expect. To get an accurate measure of your progress, use measuring tape once every two weeks to see where you're trimming inches from your waist, hips, and other target areas.
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Jump On the Twitter Train
Get vocal about your fitness routine and goals and make friends with other women looking to get motivated this spring with a Twitter feed. Give updates on your progress, post links to your favorite fitness articles and products, and cheer on others (they'll do the same for you).
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Tie On Weights
Tone up arms and legs by doing your regular routine—whether it's walking to the store, cleaning your house or walking the dog—while using wrist and/or ankle weights. The resistance will help strengthen muscles (and get your body that much more ready for bikini season).
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Sign Up for a Race
Adding positive goals to your fitness routine will make you feel better and also give a purpose to your training other than losing weight or fitting into those skinny jeans. Look into local road races—the 5K distance is perfect for beginners—and sign up with your training partner. It's also a great way to get involved in your local fitness community!
Spring Training Fitness Tip: Reward Yourself
Don't forget to take care of your hard-worked body! A sports massage is the perfect way to pamper yourself, while alleviating toxins and speeding up muscle recovery. We love Just Calm Down Spa in New York City; even if you can't get there, you can still get your hands on the muscle-soothing cream their therapists swear by: Topricin. Rub this fast-absorbing topical pain reliever on after a tough workout and your muscles will thank you.