For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, spring brings a welcome change from the colder, darker days of winter. Many people avoid going outside during these months and are more sedentary than usual, causing unavoidable weight gain and general lower energy.
The holiday season and snacking during long sporting events do not help, either, so spring is the time that most people start making a change. Maybe you got a head start through your New Year’s resolutions and are still following your new fitness habits. Maybe nature is pulling you from the man cave, as it did for our early ancestors each spring.
Regardless, here are some healthy ways to make the change you need as the weather starts to make it easier to get outside again.
Our early ancestors had to keep moving during the winter to find food and ways to stay warm, but we do not. As the weather changed, our early ancestors also made changes to their activities. Spring was the time to get to work, as people took up planting, hunting and gathering as nature provided more as the weather changed.
We can mimic these activities by increasing our spring yard work, walking more, bending and stretching to work on our mobility and burn some of the calories and fat stored during the winter.
Increase or Start Calisthenics and Cardio
If you trained during the winter, perhaps you focused on training indoors and lifting heavy weights. Many in the fitness world call this “bulking season,” as winter is a time to lift heavy weights, neglect cardio and avoid portion control.
There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, this season can be quite fun and take off some training stress, as you can be less disciplined than you usually are during the rest of the year. Reality kicks in as you try to add some cardio to the end of your training day and your body yells at you when you try to run when you are 15-20 pounds heavier than you were the last time you ran.
Consider moving into a cycle of calisthenics and cardio for the next several weeks. Move away from heavy lifting and eating to gain weight as you start to work some of the elements of fitness you neglected all winter. If you are just starting out, a calisthenics and cardio foundation is a great way to begin and allows for you to do more with less and spend more time outside.
As the weather changes to warmer and longer days, be sure to get some sun and much-needed vitamin D. Whether you just walk, start jogging, bike or do chores around the yard, get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunlight. You will naturally feel better because of it.
If you’re just beginning an exercise regimen, add some midday walks even if they are only 10-15 minutes during a lunch break. Build this as a daily habit and you will see amazing results.
Warmer Weather Requires More Water
Make sure you hydrate more as the weather warms to keep yourself cool and maintain optimal water levels in your body. Dehydration can often trick us into eating more foods as snacks when really, we were just thirsty instead of hungry.
Being dehydrated can cause severe heat-related injury, lethargy and a general inability to function normally. If you are in humid or arid environments, make sure you are also consuming enough salt, because sodium will pour out of you as sweat in a humid environment or evaporate off your skin immediately in an arid one.
Either way, you need to also add electrolytes. See more info on the importance of hydration and salts as warm weather turns into hot weather.
Take Time to Breathe Deeply
As nature changes all around us and buzzes with activity and new light, let’s join in and get back to our natural state of being one with the world around us. One of my favorite things to do is to walk and focus on breathing.
Try a box breathing drill while going for a walk: four steps inhale, four steps hold, four steps exhale, four steps hold. Start with three steps if you are having difficulty. See how long you can do that and notice the difference between when you started and finished. You may find yourself much more relaxed and de-stressed from a busy day at work. Even if you only do this for 10-15 minutes, walking and breathing will be helpful at any time of the day.
Before we had the calendars of today, our early ancestors used to start the “new year” in the spring. They noticed how the length of days and nights converged to meet and equally how the days continued to get longer as the evenings got shorter.
This time change enabled them to work longer, hunt longer and better avoid nighttime dangers. As our days get longer, consider using the later sunsets to work out a logical progression of training. See whether you can make your workouts longer with incremental increases of repetitions, distance traveled and time focused on outdoor activities.
Let’s get outside where we can move more and enjoy the sunlight.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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