Many of us are less physically active during the winter. We eat more and move less. We have a tendency to gain a few pounds, which we blame on the climate. If you found this past winter long and defeating, you’re not alone. It was the coldest winter in 20 years. The good news is that spring is finally here! No more excuses. Let’s get off the couch and start moving. It’s time for spring training!
Professional baseball players practise and participate in exhibition games as part of spring training. They also work out at the gym. Though most of us are not pro athletes, it’s beneficial for our brains and bodies to get prepared for outdoor activities.
Practice makes perfect, or at least it makes us better. Are you a golfer, cyclist or runner? Don’t wait until you hit the fairway or the pavement. Whatever sport you prefer, you can prevent injuries and improve performance by easing back into an exercise routine. The last thing you want is to experience hip pain after your first round of golf, or aching knees or shoulders after a tennis match. Muscular soreness up to 48 hours after exercising is normal; pain during or after exercise is not.
A full-body strength-training workout will strengthen your muscles, tendons and ligaments. You may want to try some sport-specific strengthening exercises as well. How do you find out what exercises are best for you? A trainer can assess you and develop a workout program that meets your individual needs. You can also get some general tips from sport-specific magazines or by searching for videos online.
While it’s healthy to work up a sweat and increase your heart rate during physical activity, you don’t want to be gasping for breath or unable to keep up with the demands of your game.
That’s why cardiovascular exercise is another important part of spring training. You want to be able to cover the court and return the ball. You want to be able to get up the hills as you’re cycling. If your body is deconditioned from winter hibernation, you might find that you stop in your tracks because you’re out of breath or because your heart is pounding too hard. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to get back into reasonable shape. A few weeks of regular exercise and dedicated training can prepare you for your sport.
If physical activity is foreign to you, set some realistic goals and start slowly and safely.
If your winter staples included pizza, pasta and doughnuts, or you’ve tried on last year’s golf pants or tennis shorts and they’re feeling tight, it’s time to get back on track with better eating habits.
Some athletes eat less stringently during the off-season. In the springtime, they clean up their act because they know that what they put into their bodies will affect their performance. If you want to optimize your performance and decrease your waistline, think of food as energy for your body. Think before you eat. Here are a few rules to guide your decisions.
1. If you wouldn’t feed it to your dog, why would you eat it?
2. If you can order it from your vehicle, it’s not good for you.
3. If it comes in a box or it’s from a restaurant, check the nutritional information. You may be surprised at the calories, fat and sodium per serving.
4. Eat complex carbohydrate to fuel your body for physical activity, and lean protein to recover and build muscle.
5. You can still enjoy treats! But every day is not a special occasion.
Speaking of special occasions, if you want to avoid weight gain during Passover, stop telling yourself you can eat whatever you want because it’s a holiday. Traditional Passover recipes are heavy on simple carbs such as matzoh meal, potatoes and sugar. We all know what happens to our digestive systems after a week of eating matzoh. Modify your recipes to reduce calories, fat and sugar, and incorporate more whole grains.
Here are my Passover survival tips.
1. Don’t overload your plate.
2. Don’t take second helpings.
3. Put greens and other colours on your plate.
4. Skip dessert or savour a small tasting.
5. No matter how busy you are preparing for Passover, schedule time to get out of the kitchen each day and exercise.
Gloria Schwartz is a personal trainer at the Soloway JCC.