April is here and that means the seasons are about to start changing...for some it's a pleasant relief because those days when depression hits with clouds and snow and rain will soon be on the wane. For others it means spring allergy season is almost upon us and with the first buds will come the runny noses and watery eyes. Others will be happy to see more sunny days to get outside and run or work out, while others will start planning those summer pool parties, half marathons, bike tours and other events.
What we're trying to say is that this time of year, more than almost any other, presents plenty of challenges for our bodies — whether it be mental as days lengthen or physical as some try too hard to get set for Speedo and Spandex season. Here are a few thoughts and things to watch out for:
—If you are planning to boost your physical regimen with the change of seasons, start with a visit to your doctor’s office and get checked over. After a long winter, you might need to start more slowly than you’d like, plus muscles and bones unused to all that work might need to be checked to make sure you don’t end your season before it begins with a sports injury.
Be sure to get your doctor's OK before you start that new activity — be it biking, running, lifting, boot camp or whatever. Also, Spring is a good time to think about losing a few pounds you might have picked up in front of the TV this Winter, so ask the doc for some diet recommendations. Just remember that fad diets are just that — fads which rarely work, often can cause harm to your body and all-too-regularly don't allow you to eat properly so you keep weight you might lose off. This is also a good time to visit http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/ and calculate your body mass index (BMI).
That site has an easy calculator where you enter your weight and height and the BM1 pops up. Anything over 25 is bad news and anything past 30 even worse news. Check your numbers and see where you fall. If your number tops 25, be sure to consider losing some pounds.
—Plan your spring activities so you build up to a goal. We all do better when we have a goal set — whether it be fitting in those size 31 jeans in time for a mid-Summer trip or that swimsuit for Palm Springs. Having a tangible goal increases your chance of success with losing weight, toning up or both. And be realistic! It's all well and good to say "I will lose 25 pounds!” but it's one thing to have that as a goal for six months from now and quite another unrealistic thing to set that for six weeks away.
—Understand that not working out every day is no reason to give up on whatever plans you have. If you say you are going to run four days a week and it happens to storm or turn unseasonably cold on one of them, reschedule to the next good weather day or go anyway so long as there's no lightning or unsafe weather taking place. Not every fitness walk or run will or must be on a sunny day with the temperature at 72 which is why “fair weather’’ walkers and runners rarely succeed in their fitness plans.
—Watch that Spring sunshine! Just as is the case all year, sunburn can cause permanent damage to your skin. Its been awhile (unless you are one of the lucky ones who went to the Caribbean or Florida this Winter or got a lot of sun on the slopes at Vail) since the sun was as intense as it is this time of year. Head over to the drugstore and get some SPF 15 or higher lotion and put it on regularly — especially if you will be sweating it off during your workouts. Remember that the effects of sunburn are cumulative, too, so apply plenty of protection when you will be outside as the sun gets higher in the sky.
—Get set for Spring allergies. The leaves and plants coming out and the flowers due in the coming months will be a real challenge. If you regularly take allergy medication be sure to have some near to hand. If you see your doctor for allergy shots in the warmer weather, be sure to book those appointments and be prepared for the pollen and sneezing season to begin.
—Also with the changing of the season be sure to keep your body comfortable with proper gear. Winter heavy coats and gloves might not be needed anymore this year, but on chilly mornings a warm-up top, hoody or light gloves most certainly will come in handy here in the weather-fickle Midwest. Now's a good time to dig out those clothes from storage or the back of the closet, wash them, make sure they are in good repair and shop for new if the old ones have had their better days.
—Do not forget your feet! Shoes do wear out and experts we checked with note that 300-500 miles (depending on your weight and running style) is about the life of cushioning in a pair of running shoes. The tops might look perfectly good and even the soles, but for a running shoe to cushion your stride, there needs to be some "spring'' in not only the weather, but your step. If your shoes are past it, then plan to get a new pair and break them in gradually. Just as you don’t want to hurt your body by starting an exercise program too quickly, you also do not want a tom ligament, sprained ankle or foot problems from worn out shoes or new ones you never took time to get used to before competing.
Remember, too, that a number of area runs take place in the Spring including the mini marathons in Louisville for the Derby and the largest of all — the Indianapolis 500 Mini. If you plan to compete or even run along with friends, you should have already started your training. If you haven't, hop on that now, plan to run the big race next year or pick another event which is later in the year. If you go out too fast and do not train to get your body ready you can plan on injuries!
Also, while we are on feet, be sure to keep yours in good shape. Trim your nails regularly. Watch for the signs of athlete's foot (which can become infected and land you in hospital) by washing and drying your feet regularly. Have proper socks to wick away moisture and plan on changing them more often as the weather warms. Grab some athlete's foot spray, cream or powder and use it. Be sure to consult your doctor if you have signs of infection or any foot pain as that could be the start of something far more serious.
—Finally, do not become discouraged. Just as many of you can already see those broken New Year’s resolutions clearly in your rear view minors, it’s really easy to "only" lose a pound in a week or "only” shave a few seconds off that two-mile run in a month's time. Prepare and plan in advance for set-backs (we all have them occasionally). Set realistic goals, then stick to them and we guarantee things will change for the better as the months go from cold to warm and the seasons change. Spring and Summer will soon be here so start now by getting ready and you’ll be surprised how good you will look and feel.
To keep our lawyers happy, be advised that the recommendations which are contained in this column are suggestions, but are not to be taken as medical advice. Always consult your physician or a healthcare professional before undertaking any physical fitness or other exercise program.