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Spring fitness thaw

A few tips to shake off your winter 'coat'

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You admit that you've spent most of the winter in a state of lethargy -- sitting around waiting for spring to arrive.

Now that it's here, you're excited to get fit again.

But where do you start?

Here are 10 tips to help get back into a fitness and health routine:

 

Keep track of the right numbers

While some organizations use Body Mass Index (your weight divided by the square of your height in kilograms and metres) to measure health, BMI doesn't take into account muscle and fat composition. For example, one six-foot-tall man who weighs 200 pounds might have low body fat and be fit while another may be unfit, with a high percentage of body fat. Yet, both people end up with a BMI of approximately 27, which classifies them as overweight.

Instead of paying too much attention to BMI, ask a personal trainer or other qualified professional to measure your body fat percentage. Waist circumference is also a good indicator of health. (Men should have a waist circumference of under 40 inches while women below 35 inches). Anything more than this could mean you have internal abdominal fat, which can increase risk of heart disease. (To measure accurately, place a measuring tape on your bare waist, just above your hip bone. The tape should be snug without compressing your skin).

 

Don't be afraid of the scale

While you don't want to be a slave to the scale, stepping on it every couple of days is a good way to monitor your weight and take action (eat a bit better, exercise a bit more) if you've put on a pound or two.

 

Take advantage of the weather

Moving your exercise routine outside is the perfect way to incorporate activity back into your life this spring -- especially for people who aren't up to strutting their stuff at the gym. For a breath of fresh air and the feeling that you're exploring a different world, take a brisk walk on a scenic trail around your neighbourhood (www.winnipegtrails.ca). Or if you're at a more advanced fitness level, take your walk up (and down) Winnipeg's favourite "mountain"-- Garbage Hill (a.k.a. Westview Park in St. James).

 

Sign up for a walk or run

Register for a local charity run or walk. There's nothing like sharing a common goal / finish line with fellow walkers and runners to motivate you. Consider the Fort Whyte Alive Eco Adventure, happening April 22. (Last day of registration is today). Or commit to the Physio Fit Run, a 10-kilometre race happening May 12.

 

Loosen up

While spring fever may leave you eager to get moving again after a long winter hiatus from physical activity, doing too much at once can leave you with torn muscles and other injuries. Avoid exercise-related aches and pains by easing into activity. Stretching every night before bedtime and again every morning after your shower will help loosen your muscles. Also: Be sure to warm up and cool down before and after activity.

 

Don't skip breakfast

Studies prove that eating a healthy morning meal means you're less likely to overeat throughout the day. The latest? A Harvard School of Public Health study released earlier this month found that men who skipped breakfast had a 21 per cent greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.

 

Don't overcompensate

Now that you're exercising again, it's easy to tell yourself that it's OK to eat more, since your body likely needs the extra fuel. It probably does. But be careful not to overdo it. Doing so can sabotage your weight-loss goals. Instead, snack carefully, opting for a carb-and-protein-loaded snack after your workout. (Consider chocolate milk or peanut butter on toast to recharge your energy stores).

 

Let the web motivate you

Need some motivation? Look to the web for your fitness inspiration. From workout snippets on YouTube to personal weight-loss blogs to live streaming fitness classes, you can find inspiration (and valuable instruction) on the Internet.

 

Play with your kids

Got kids? Put away the video games and set up a date to play in the park. An afternoon of running around like when you were a kid again is a fun way to get your heart pumping and get your legs moving again. Don't have kids? Borrow a niece, nephew or buddy's child for a play date.

 

Work out at the tight intensity

To get the most of that walk, you need to engage in moderate to vigorous activity. Winnipeg exercise researcher Dean Kriellaars has told the Free Press that moderate activity means you'll be "panting and sweating." Vigorous activity means you'll be panting, sweating and unable to speak clearly during the movement. Just be sure to warm up and cool down before and after your routine. And be sure to build a good fitness base before you decide to take on a major fitness challenge.

 

Have an interesting story idea you'd like Shamona to write about? Contact her at shamona.harnett@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 16, 2012 D1

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