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As the weather warms up and the sun sets later, you might be thinking about resuming a workout routine that fell by the wayside in winter. To help you get back on the horse, so to speak, Summit Health physical therapists Jennifer Sasso and Lauren McGarry along with Matthew Reicher, a Summit Health athletic trainer, provide their advice on the best ways to reinstate your athletic routine.

Start Slow

"People shouldn't assume they can pick up where they left off," notes Mr. Reicher. If you haven't worked out for several months, your body isn't prepared to take on the same athletic challenges. To ensure that you don't put too much strain on your body, here are some steps to take:

  • Design an exercise plan. Create a plan that begins with conservative exercise loads and gradually ramp it up over time. "It's important to not come out of the gates too quickly," says Dr. McGarry.
  • Do a dynamic warm up and cool down. "Turn your muscles and nervous system on first so they can work harder for you," says Dr. Sasso. A cool down is just as important as it aids in muscle recovery and allows your body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate to return to their normal levels.

Find a Workout You Love

"Do whatever you enjoy most because then you're likely to keep doing it," says Dr. Sasso. "You'll not only do it frequently enough to see benefits, but you won't dread doing it either." As spring weather emerges, it's a great time to enjoy the outdoors. Some low-impact exercises to consider are:

  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood.
  • Going for a bike ride in the park.
  • Hiking a local trail.

How to Stay Motivated

The idea of getting back into a workout routine can be overwhelming. "Be patient with yourself," advises Dr. McGarry. "It takes several days to make your new routine part of your normal." To stay motivated, the providers advise you to:

  • Take the initial steps. "The hardest part of a workout is showing up," says Dr. Sasso. That could be taken literally, such as going to the gym. But it's also about something as simple as putting on your sneakers or hopping on your bike. Making the initial effort helps you move forward.
  • Mix it up. "Doing a variety of things and changing things up are great ways to stimulate the mind and body," says Mr. Reicher. It's also important to do a mix of cardio and weight training for you to benefit the most from your workouts.
  • Give yourself time for rest and recovery. Allow yourself at least one or two days a week to rest. "People who work out seven days a week can see a decrease in muscular strength and cardiovascular conditioning," says Mr. Reicher. "They are also more at risk for chronic and acute injury."
  • Stop pressuring yourself.  "You can make the workout as easy or as hard as you need it to be that day," notes Dr. Sasso. "You feel different every day, and you get to choose what you need to get out of your exercise that day."