6 ways to clean up your spring training

As warmer weather becomes the rule and not the exception, chances are you’ll be more active than ever.

Whether that means more baseball games, gardening or golf and less weight training and stretching for you, or more cycling, running and walking, your needs will change.

To enjoy an injury-free and higher performance summer season follow these few tips to adjust your summer routine…. And get out the door and into the sunshine.

Active fun doesn’t need to squeeze out the things that keep you enjoying them pain- free. Set a few quick new habits for time efficient exercise and a no-excuses routine that provides a clean slate of active outdoor fun all summer.

1. Roll out the right tools

When you feel “tight” but haven’t lost range of motion self-massage using foam rollers, balls or other tools can help. If you’ve had an injury, or just a wake up call from a muscle that tends to alert you there’s something going on, this kind of self- release can keep your body functioning better.

You’re not completely symmetrical. If you develop too much asymmetry with long weak muscles coupled with short tight ones we’re at greater risk for injury. First signs are discomfort. Movement just doesn’t feel as good as it should. Even before that first twinge happens knowing where muscles are long and or where they’re tight can help.

More activity is usually better, but too much of the same if you’re compensating (and you won’t know it) can lead to a problem.

The foam roller can talk, or rather your muscles under it will. They can guide you to the right spots telling you just where they need more attention.

Set aside a few times a week, for just five-to-ten minutes to roll and you’ll clean up some potential imbalances. Many who use foam rolling before exercise report it improves range of motion. Following exercise roll to improve the benefit of stretching. Experiment with before and after to find what suits you best and roll with it.

2. Dust the cobwebs off joints and small muscles

This one follows rolling out the tight muscles for a reason! The other half of the symmetry equation is weak muscles you need to strengthen. Think of a sprained ankle for instance. When we sprain an ankle we end up limping to protect it. That causes a temporary overuse of the other side of the body and it’s often that side of the body then that has problems. It becomes tighter and the injured side first has to heal and then is weak due to disuse. To thoroughly recover we need to strengthen that weak side, relax some of those tightened muscles of the opposite and continue with some corrective exercises until we’re back in balance.

Even without a painful injury we have imbalances. As long as we’re not doing anything too strenuous we can get by. If you start to play golf four or five times a week, swinging 200 times each round? Or you begin to run and ride twice as much in the spring sunshine? You’re more likely to feel the imbalance.

A trainer can help you identify these areas with a movement assessment before it becomes a problem (or you can try a one-leg exercise to access yourself). As you perform left and right side exercises you’ll become more in tune with what’s going on so you can address it or ask for help.

3. Polish your cardio

Chances are you want to look your best, along with feeling your best this summer. If you aren’t sure of where your exercise intensity should be for three important types of cardiovascular exercise now’s your times to focus.

If your cardio workouts look the same every day it’s time for a new shine. Your overall fitness, fat metabolism, energy and weight management will improve with the right balance of three different kinds of exercise.

You want to mix some days that are longer and slower (that might be your hike with the dog), with days that include intervals on the treadmill or a hill you can repeat, and some days where your intensity is mid-range. When pressed for time, I do this anywhere-anytime workout.

4. Make a clean sweep of your fuel

Exercise takes you the last 20% of the way after your nutrition locks it in. You can’t make up for a bad diet with exercise. One of the biggest mistakes we make is not fueling with the right percentages of nutrients or at the right time.

Signs you might not be getting what you need at the right time include lack of energy, plateau in progress, inability to lose (or gain) weight, and workouts of your usual intensity that seem “hard.”

Your first step is to keep a nutrition log. Record not only what you eat, but when you rise, exercise and eat each meal and snack. Timing as well as quality of foods is often the problem and for most of us it’s easier to clean up than addressing portion control.

A personal trainer or nutritionist can help you look at whether your fuel plan is helping you reach goals. Is your protein adequate? Research suggests that 30gms of protein three times a day is optimal for muscle protein synthesis. Do you have the right ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins for your body and activity needs? Are you timing meals and snacks for optimal results?

5. Mop the floor with a yoga mat

More often stretching is the first to go. Busy and off to enjoy life, we’ll do it later, right? As you ramp up the activity overall do a self-check on whether you’re leaving the dirty work undone. Stretching doesn’t have to take a lot of time, and considering it keeps your brain and your body sharp, it’s important.

A few well-targeted stretches that you’ll find in the yoga room go anywhere. Three or four integrated stretches can help you cover the front, back and the side of your body in a way that will shorten your time and meet your needs effectively. No mat required.

Are you familiar with yoga? Think Warrior I, Downward Facing Dog and a third, Side Bending Mountain pose for a well-rounded efficient opening of your summer fun muscles. Not familiar but interested? Watch our videos.

6. Manage your metabolic speed bumps

If you sit at a desk the majority of your waking hours, it’s hard to overcome that with just an hour or so of activity. What you do those other 23 hours of the day matters. This is your metabolic profile. Studies actually show people more active throughout the day without formal “exercise” do better than those who workout one hour and then sit back down. Get the best of both with some small tweaks to your desk jockey life.

Focus on nutrition timing for fuel that keeps you perking right along (minus coffee). And get up from your desk. Try to sit for no more than 90 -120 minutes at a time without getting up. If you can get a standing desk, or use a slow-walking treadmill being introduced all over the country in university settings to do your work, you’ll change your activity level daily by hundreds of calories.

Take your lunch for a walk. Take your meeting for a walk. Encourage your co- workers with a friendly competition set up so that if each of you does more you all will win.

Debra Atkinson

By Debra Atkinson

Debra Atkinson Is the founder of the Flipping 50 movement and host of the Flipping 50 podcast and TV show available on your iphone, ipad, and Apple TV. She is the author of four books including You Still Got It, Girl! The After 50 Fitness Formula For Women and Navigating Fitness After 50: Your GPS For Choosing Programs and Professionals You Can Trust.

Debra is a contributing blogger on the Huffington Post, ShareCare, Prime Woman, and Livingbetter50. She provides solutions for women approaching 50 or who have already turned the corner on what to eat, how to move, and the mindset for lifestyle change with hormone balance that will make the next years as the best years. Find her resources here.