At this time of year, exercise is the last thing you want to do, but it could be just the thing to shake off the seasonal blues. Here are some simple ways to put a spring in your step.
The few weeks that lead up to spring and summer often get a bad rap from fitness enthusiasts. There is a hint of spring in the air: the odd sunny day, occasional balmy temperatures, but then we get a sudden frosty, wet, cold reminder that winter still has not completely loosened it’s icy grip.
On these days there is little to entice you out for a run or a cycle ride, and it may even be difficult to get yourself into the mood for a trip to the gym or to the swimming pool. Somehow, exercising in the sunshine is so much more appealing!
However, this is exactly the time of year when you should be exercising. Whether you are seeking to maintain that fitness regime you started as a New Year resolution or whether it is the prospect of baring your arms and legs in the summer-time, now is the best time to start toning up and slimming down. Your muscles will appreciate the warmth generated by exercise, and you will feel more mobile and less sluggish as a result of a good workout.
And then there is the ‘feel good factor’. You might not think so at the time, but the exercise class that leaves you in a sweaty heap on the floor, actually releases hormones that will make you feel happier, increase your self-confidence and more you more alert. At a time of year when so many of us are suffering a post-Christmas and New Year slump or the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder, then a mood enhancing workout is just the answer.
Some of the best exercise ideas for spring
Exercises to do indoors
So what exercises can we do when the late afternoons are dark, roads are slippery, the rain is pouring down and the temperatures are apt to plummet unexpectedly to arctic conditions?
There are so many things you can do to keep fit and they don’t have to cost the earth. If you have a space in your living room or bedroom where you can comfortably lie down, then you have space to do a home workout.
Exercise DVDs are a fabulous way to keep fit. You can choose an instructor you like and an exercise level that is appropriate, push the disc in the DVD player and away you go. The instructor leads, so you can watch and follow his or her instructions – and the beauty of a DVD is that you can pause and replay if you don’t understand something.
X-head: Online answers
Cheaper than buying DVDs are online videos via Youtube. This is something that I discovered when I was recovering from an injury and needed to do regular Pilates sessions. There are hundreds of Youtube workouts, which you can follow from the comfort of your home.
If you can bear to leave the warmth of your home, then a trip to the swimming pool will give your body a great energy boost. Raising the motivation necessary to get yourself to the pool and into swimwear will be the hardest part, but once in the water you will feel your muscles relaxing and your blood pumping faster around your body. A few lung-busting lengths will soon blast away the winter blues and put that spring back in your step. If it has been a while since you exercised, then take it slowly. A few steady-paced lengths to increase your cardiovascular fitness, followed by some stretching exercises in the water and then a few short, faster bursts of swimming to get your muscles working harder, will be a very effective session that will leave you feeling tired, but relaxed.
Another idea which will make exercising indoors during spring fun is to invite some friends around for a sociable workout. Invite three or four friends around and tell them each to think of three fitness exercises that you can do. As you are all doing push-ups or sit-ups in your living room, you will have a great laugh and get a good and varied workout at the same time.
Exercising in the great outdoors
Despite all the doom and gloom that pervades our lives during the cold months of early spring, there is something inexplicably attractive about braving the elements. The feeling of euphoria when you return from a walk over a frosty heathland, or the way that splashing in puddles transports you back to your childhood, cannot be underestimated when it comes to improving your mood.
The important thing is to ensure that you stay safe when you are exercising outdoors. If you are going for a bracing run, then ensure that you have the right footwear and appropriate clothing. Feeling cold will leave you miserable and could lead to muscle tears, while slipping on a wet surface is simply dangerous. The best way to combat the cold is to ‘layer-up’. By wearing three or four layers of lighter clothing, rather than one bulky coat, you allow the air to circulate around your body, and as you get warmer, so you can remove layers one at a time. A hat, warm socks and gloves are a must when it is cold.
The natural gym
If you wanted to build some muscle-work with your cardio workout, then intersperse your run with some exercises using your natural surroundings as an outside gym. An old log on the floor could act as a hurdle. Some dynamic jumping will give your major leg muscles – the hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles – a good work out. Picking up a branch and putting it down again is one step away from an upper body workout. Again, repeat a few times and your triceps and biceps, shoulders and back will all be working hard. Or you could release the inner-monkey and hang from a strong branch to do chin ups.
Using trees or lamp posts as markers can provide you with a varied pace session. Run from one lamp post to the next, but sprint to the next one. Drop the pace to a jog for the third, then walk slowly from the fourth to the fifth. By varying the pace, you are working your cardiovascular system harder than simply maintaining a steady running pace.
Nordic walking is a step up from walking. It involves the use of poles to add another element to walking. The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs, so you are getting an all-over workout.
This is a specific fitness technique and should not to be confused with trekking, hill walking or trail running as the poles are not planted in front of the walker or runner, but in a specific way that increases the use of the upper body. It can be done anywhere and does not require expensive equipment or clothing. To check out the technique go to www.nordicwalking.co.uk
It is not difficult to understand why so many people struggle to maintain a fitness routine throughout the early months of the year, but if you can motivate yourself to do a home workout or go for an exhilarating walk, then you will feel the benefits and the days won’t seem so dank and depressing.
For even more ideas to get you inspired, check the latest trends in exercising that are sure to get you out of any exercise rut.