While the longer days and warmer weather inspire us to get outdoors, get moving and perhaps lose a few extra kilos (thanks to rich winter comfort food and many hours clocked up on the couch), for those of us who go into true hibernation mode during the cooler months, exercise can be a daunting prospect. The trick is not to do too much, too soon. The results might be slower, but you won’t risk spontaneous combustion or heart failure. (An added bonus: the more gradually you lose weight and increase fitness, the more likely you are to maintain the results.) So, what’s the best way to ease your way into summer fitness?
Slow and steady wins the race
• Don’t succumb to ‘weekend warrior’ syndrome. You might be tempted to get outside and train as soon as the weather improves, but one of the best ways to get injured or sore is to go hard all weekend and do nothing during the week. Try to get some exercise three to four times per week on alternate days.
• Which types of exercise are best? That’s totally up to you, but aiming for 20 to 30 minutes of low- to medium-intensity cardio is best. Walking, swimming, cycling, jogging – these are all good options. Once you feel your fitness levels rising, you can increase the duration and intensity of your workouts.
• Be sure to warm up first to avoid injury and promote circulation. Warm-up exercises increase your body temperature, making the muscles more flexible and receptive to strenuous activity. Do five minutes of your intended activity slowly beforehand. For example, to warm up for a brisk walk, walk slowly for five minutes; to warm up for swimming, swim slowly at first and then pick up the tempo as you’re able to.
Hate exercise? Here’s how to get moving anyway:
• Do something you enjoy. In other words: play! Tennis, soccer, hiking, surfing … whatever doesn’t feel like hard work to you, but gets you moving.
• Set goals. Small ones you are actually able to achieve. Then reward yourself when you achieve them (just not with food, obviously).
• Get a buddy. Find a friend who shares your fitness goals – you’re much more likely to stay motivated.
• Dance. That’s right. Crank up the volume and boogie like no one’s watching – in your lounge.
• Get a dog. If you don’t already have one, owning a dog is a great way to force exercise. Fido needs his walkies, after all.
Like many good things, exercise can also be risky – especially if it’s been a while since you last worked up a sweat, or if you have any health conditions (including obesity) that could increase your risk of injury. So it’s best to consult your doctor before starting any new fitness programme.