Winter is a time many people take a break from their fitness regimens. The weather is cold, and it's the offseason for many sports for children. With spring around the corner, a variety of athletic activities will begin, and now is the time to get back on a training schedule.
Here are five training tips for spring sports:
Whether getting into shape or starting a new season, nothing will send you back into athletic hibernation quicker than doing a workout for which your body isn’t ready.
Too often, athletes start the season with workouts they were accustomed to at the end of last season or the last time they participated in a sport, expecting to perform as they did at peak level. Few athletes can perform well without a warming up period that may include several weeks of less intense exercises.
Much like your body needs time to acclimate to a fitness regimen after a break, it also needs daily warm-up exercises and stretches before exercise to prevent injury.
A good set of warm-up exercises will dilate blood vessels, filling muscles with the oxygen they need and raising their temperature, to give you increased flexibility and efficiency. It isn’t just muscles in arms, legs and back that benefit — slowly raising your heart rate with a warm-up will minimize stress on your heart, according to the American Heart Association.
What is just as important as warming up before exercise? Cooling down. During exercise, muscles build up lactic acid, causing residual soreness that could make it difficult to walk after a long run or lift things after doing an upper body workout. Cooling down with slow motion stretches or walking after exercising will reduce lactic acid, thus limiting soreness.
Just like warming up helps your heart, cooling down does the same. Because physical activity causes your heart to beat faster than normal, stopping too fast could make you pass out or feel sick. The AMA recommends cooling down after physical activity to gradually decrease your heart rate and prevent these issues.
Mix it up
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and that includes exercise and sports. If you pound the pavement hard every day, or swimming the same number of laps at the same pool each morning, you could get bored and lose motivation quickly. You may even have a mental burnout or develop overuse injuries, such as stress fractures.
By changing up your routine, perhaps adding trail running, weight training or a variety of sports, you can balance your body's fitness and abilities, which will only make you stronger. You may even find you enjoy exercise more and for longer periods of time.
Fuel up and rest
Training for your spring sport isn’t always about what you do during a workout, but what you do during off hours, particularly with eating and sleeping.
Fueling with healthy foods including good fats, proteins, fruits, vegetables and plenty of water, will give you the energy you need to perform well in your sport. Additionally, according to research in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery by allowing your body to repair muscles overnight.