Aahhhh Spring! Is there anything more glorious after months of hibernation than to wake up and step outside to find the polar vortex of winter gone? For me it is perfection. As a relatively new mom, I’ve spent the last two winters hiding from and over bundling against a cold that is just not safe for small children. I can only find so many creative ways to exercise in my living room and desperately need a vacation from the Cat in the Hat. Temperatures over 0 degrees bring the promise of fresh air and outdoor activity that I have been craving for 3 long months. It is also a chance to get back to my favourite activity, running. After dropping my daughter at daycare this morning, I excitedly ran home, donned my running shoes, grabbed my dog’s leash and hit the streets of the Junction.
I was already half way through my run when it occurred to me that in my hast to get outside I hadn’t stretched, I hadn’t brought a water bottle, my shoes were probably due to be replaced and I had been running continuously as fast as I could despite not having run since November. Keep in mind that healthcare practitioners often make terrible patients. My 5-year-old-like exuberance is the perfect example.
I know I am not alone in these mistakes. Professionally, Spring is often the season I start to see a fresh emergence of over training, or as I like to call them “too-fast-too-soon”, injuries. However, with a little common sense and planning, it is easy to get active outside and stay injury free. So while I dutifully sit here foam rolling my over worked calves and my salt bath runs, here are my top 5 suggestions for getting back into your Spring activities safely.
Start Conservatively and Build Progressively
If you are getting active again after a hiatus or are just changing your activity, your body needs time to accommodate. Going out guns a blazing on your first attempt is never a good idea. Pick a challenge that corresponds with your current fitness level with regards to time and effort and air on the conservative side for that first outing. Once you see how your body handles the challenge you can start to think about progressions. As a rule of thumb, I advise my clients to only increase their intensity and distance by 10% a week. That pace allows your muscles and joints to adapt to your change in activity without putting you at risk for injury.
Be a Planner
I realize that planning might take away from some of the spontaneous joy of just getting out there and enjoying the day but it will also keep you safe. Pick a route that doesn’t involve a lot of hills and has good footing as a starting point. When you look at your route, consider doing an out-and-back versus a loop and stay on the same side of the road. This will ensure that both legs endure the same angles and forces and prevent an uneven distribution of stress to one side – think shin splints. Plan to include a light warm-up followed by dynamic stretching before you start your actual work out. Compliment that with static stretching or foam rolling to help maintain muscle health.
Dress for Success
Weather can still be unpredictable this time of year and can be considerably colder in the shade or when the sun goes down. It is important to dress in sweat wicking layers that you can easily take on or off to make sure you maintain a warm core temperature without over heating. It is also important to wear well fit shoes that are not too worn down. I tell my clients to have their shoes professionally fit and not to mistake expensive shoes for good shoes. It is important to go with a running shoe that feels great on your foot and supports your individual architecture. Shoes should be replaced every 6 months or 500 km and should be rotated if you are running more than once within a 24 hour period.
Do Drink and Run
Some people think that just because we aren’t working out in the intense heat of summer that we don’t need to hydrate. Wrong!! Your muscles need water to avoid cramping and to propel you efficiently. For workouts under 3 hours you should be drinking water before, during and after. To get a good idea of whether you are hydrating sufficiently, look at the colour of your urine. If it is clear, you are well hydrated. If it is a deep yellow or amber colour, increase your fluid intake before being active. When I am of sound mind, I always run with a $5 bill. That way I can dart into a convenience store to replace my water if needed or can visit a Tim Horton’s bathroom if I’ve over hydrated.
No Pain No Gain ……. Does Anybody Actually Say That These Days?
Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Listen to it! I will agree that delayed onset muscle soreness is normal after a challenging workout but any pain that is sharp, unusual, unremitting or new is not. Scale back on your workout if you experience any of these types of pain. If the pain does not resolve within 48-72 hours see a healthcare professional. Very often we can make small adjustments to your training that will resolve the pain. We can also identify small issues before they become big issues and sideline you for the rest of the season. You know your body best and is something feels wrong, don’t hesitate to get it checked out.
So go out there and take advantage of this gorgeous weather. Just do it safely and smartly. I would rather see you on the road than in my office.