Sspring always looks like something of a rebirth. Flowers bloom, birds chirp, animals (and people) come out of hibernation.
If the winter slump has taken a toll on your fitness, undermining your plans and slowing your New Year’s resolutions to an all-too-familiar crash, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The good news: Spring can be a, well, stepping stone out of that rut. And now is the perfect time to start planning for spring fitness.
Why winter hurts our physical motivation
“Winter can be very difficult to stay active and especially to be active if it’s not already your base,” says psychologist Jeffrey Morrow, PhD, who directs the Southern California Psychology Group and is a motivation expert for kids. athletes. “Whether due to the dreary conditions or simply the cold, these roadblocks can lead to significant drops in activity and abandoned targets.”
Research related to human physiology shows that humans tend to need more sleep in winter; combine that with less sun and colder temperatures and you have a recipe for less activity. After all, who wants to get out from under that warm blanket when it’s freezing!
Winter can also have negative effects on our mental health. A common condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is sometimes referred to as “winter blues” and results in symptoms such as fatigue and lack of energy, excessive sleep, weight gain and changes in appetite. “Even when there is no overt diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder,” says Dr. Morrow, “I certainly see many clients who clearly have some mental sensitivity to winter, especially in areas that have long periods of cold, cloudy weather with limited daylight.
Why the new season can help you redefine your goals
The changes that come with spring—more daylight, warmer weather, the return of natural life—can make it the perfect time to get in shape.
Sunlight is well known to be a catalyst (if not the most important factor, one of the most important) of energy levels. Exposing yourself to direct sunlight within the first hour of waking up is one of the most effective ways to regulate your circadian rhythm and therefore your sleep/wake cycle throughout the day (think: more consistent energy ). Sunlight can also improve our mood and is the most readily available source of vitamin D, which can help optimize our muscle function.
Warmer temperatures have also been shown to increase muscle temperature and body temperature, which reduces warm-up times. And exercising in the heat has been proven to improve our aerobic exercise performance. This is why many elite athletes and sports teams travel to warmer temperatures in the winter to train.
From a purely pragmatic point of view, having more daylight just means more time for activity, especially if you like outdoor activities.
“Spring is the perfect time to move workouts outside and take advantage of the changing elements,” says Kristina Kam, DPT, trainer and physical therapist. “It can be a huge mental refresh and a boost to fitness goals and client motivation. I will often see a significant increase in training and engagement levels.
How to plan a spring fitness
Rather than going straight back to where you left off last summer, the best way to get back in shape (or reach new goals) is to follow a step-by-step plan.
“Both the body and the mind don’t like change, whether for better or for worse,” says Dr. Morrow. “Therefore, we need small, incremental, measurable steps that can lead us safely and eventually to big changes.”
For example, if your spring fitness goal is to run 10 miles a week, work at it for a few weeks, starting with running/walking if you haven’t been running regularly over the winter. Find a reputable workout plan online that suits your current fitness level. A specific schedule that you can mark day after day will give you constant and refreshing motivation rather than chasing a fuzzy idea in your head.
Even if you’ve been at the gym all winter, taking advantage of the nice weather by doing your workouts outside can give you a welcome mental boost and be a creative way to mix up the types of exercises you do. For example, you can kayak instead of an arm day, take a gentle hike as active recovery, or skip that spin class in favor of some trails on your bike. Even taking care of your garden and going out to do some gardening can give you a damn good workout.
Embracing the outdoors can bring new energy to your fitness routine. The key: focus on one day at a time and enjoy the process. I will see you there.
Try this core workout with Traci Copeland outdoors for inspiration: