Spring has sprung. The birds are singing. The flowers are blooming. It's time for new growth, new beginnings and a renewed commitment to your own health and wellness. Your family's, too.
Here's a checklist of things to consider if you want to maximize your fitness fun and minimize your risk over the next few months:
1. Begin with an honest assessment. Take a minute to think about your activity level over the past few months. Did you take the winter off? Did sloth and snacking add an extra 5 to 10 pounds?
Take off your clothes and stand in front of a mirror. Don't judge, don't feel guilty. Just face reality. Now visualize your body as you would like it to be. Stronger. Leaner. Tighter. Smile you look terrific!
Know that you can realize your fitness vision if you are patient, persistent and willing to make a few healthy changes in your lifestyle. Starting now, this very spring.
2. Set personal goals. To make the most of your springtime tune-up, you need to set some personal fitness goals. Don't skip this. It's more important than you realize. Do you want to run a 10K by July 4? Bike 40 miles in a day? Take a yoga class twice a week? Write it down.
Be realistic, though. Don't frustrate yourself with the impossible. Make a plan that allows you to meet your goal in a way that keeps you happy. When you achieve your goal, reward yourself with something special.
3. Keep a fitness journal. Start your spring forward with a fresh little notebook. It will be your Fitness Journal. Use it to keep track of all things fitness goals, times, foods, fluids, mood, problems, etc. Sleeping better? Less back pain? More energy? Write it down.
What you write down isn't as important as the act of keeping track. Looking back, later on, is fun, too. It's good to remind yourself of how far you've come.
4. Spring clean your fitness gear. Now's the time to clean up and put away your winter sports gear and get out the stuff you need for spring and summer.
Clean and lubricate your bike. Check the grip and tension in your tennis racket. Make sure your running/walking shoes haven't lost their cushioning and support. If they have, get a new pair.
All these rituals mark the moment: Out with the old, in with the new it's springtime!
5. Get some support. Think of ways to make fitness more fun for yourself. Now could be a good time to join a health club. Or think about signing up for a few sessions with a skilled personal trainer. Look into lessons (golf? tennis? swimming?) Join a club for the sport-of-your-choice. What about going away to a sports camp? Grab a friend and do it!
6. Plan an adventure vacation. Don't be afraid to sit down and plan an active vacation for the entire family for spring, for summer, for whenever you can get away, even if it's just for a weekend.
There are a zillion books and Web sites geared to vacations that include organized hiking, biking, riding, diving you name it. And remember, adventure travel doesn't have to be costly or exotic to be fun and meaningful. It's more a state of mind than a location. You just need the will to travel to a place that challenges you just enough mentally and physically to get your juices flowing and your heart opened to the teachings of nature.
7. Don't overdo it. Lots of people who are dormant all winter tend to overdo it when they finally get back to exercising. They try and make up for lost time. They push themselves too hard and too fast, and end up getting bored and injured.
Resist springing back into fitness the dumb way. Be patient with yourself. And realistic. You can't pick up where you left off last year, in terms of activity levels. Reintroduce your body to exercise gently. Increase the intensity of your workouts gradually. But DO keep moving forward.
8. Family fitness day. This spring, find ways for your whole family to have fun together. Plan a family fitness day. Keep it simple. Walk in the zoo. Play Frisbee in the park. Go out on your bikes. Toss a ball around. Invest in a volleyball set.
The kind of activity you do isn't as important as learning to play, and stay, together. So be kind to each other. Don't criticize or nag. The goal of a springtime family fitness day is to laugh and have fun.
9. Focus on foods and fluids. Fitness isn't just about the amount of exercise you do. It's also about the food and fluids you take in to nourish the wonder that is our body. So this spring, rededicate yourself to healthy eating and appropriate drinking. Seek out more energizing foods (fruits, vegetables, grains, etc.), and cut back on fatty foods that slow you down and bulk you up (fried stuff, red meats, pies, cakes, cookies, etc.)
And drink plenty of fluid before, after and during your workout, taking special care this spring to cut out so-called sugary soft drinks that tend to soften you with empty calories.
Remember: Spring is a time for new beginnings. Embrace the season with a new joy that comes from knowing it's never too late to begin a healthier lifestyle, one that leads you away from stress and pain toward greater strength, renewed energy and a better look when you slip into that summer swimsuit.