Spring is in the Air So Get Out and Enjoy It!

Have you been cooped up in the house all winter? Too cold and dark to enjoy even a brisk walk outside? You are not alone! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten off the phone with my mom after she has expressed her frustration of the cold, wet winter she was experiencing.

Well, winter is over (almost officially!) and it is time to enjoy the fruits of all that winter moisture. Here in Colorado where I live the grass is starting to turn green and trees have buds that are just about ready to burst open. Where my mom lives it is a bit warmer climate and when I was there at the beginning of the month the grass was bright green and the plum trees were in full blossom—how beautiful.

One of the things I really enjoy about walking in the springtime is seeing the vibrant colors, smelling the blossoms and hearing all the various birds chirping away. It is a quiet feast for my senses—something that is a nice break from loud music at exercise classes.

Keep in mind if you have not been exercising much over the winter that you need to take it a bit easy for a while. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you should be able to walk the same distance at the same speed that you were at last fall before winter hit!

Stretch—even if you are “just” going for a walk, take a few minutes and get a good stretch in. Stand on with the balls of your feet on the curb and your heels hanging off and let the heels sink to give a gentle stretch to your Achilles tendon. Back on flat land, get into a gentle lunge with your back leg straight and feel a gentle stretch in your calf, then switch legs. I even like to stretch my arms and shoulders a bit—this is really important as I spend so much of my time at the computer which can really tighten my shoulders.

Shoes—check the condition of your shoes. If the heels are worn it is time to invest in a new pair. Depending on how much walking you do, the type of terrain you cover and your body weight you may need a new pair of walking shows every couple months. To check for excess wear, put a newspaper on a table and put your shoes on the paper. Stand back and look at the shoes—are they standing straight or are they leaning apart? If they are leaning it is time to go shopping. Walking is inexpensive—the only thing you really have to invest in is shoes—and it is important that we take care of our feet. Be sure to get shoes that give you proper support and that feel good. Don’t buy shoes that are tight thinking they will stretch out—they’ll just hurt!

Breathe—remember to take in that fresh spring air. Never hold your breath when exercising. Try to get some deep belly breaths in, during your walk and at other times of the day. We tend to breathe much too shallowly and studies show that if we take deep breaths we will actually burn more calories. Think of stoking a fire—it needs wood and oxygen to burn, so does your body.

Vary the Pace—any walking you do is great, but you can make it even better by switching up the pace. Even if you are starting with a short walk, rather than trying to go as fast as you can the entire time, start off with a gentle pace for a couple minutes and end at that same gentle pace. This is your “warm up” and “cool down” period. Then in the middle, mix it up. Walk at a medium pace for a minute then go for 30 seconds as fast as you can then back to a medium pace for a minute. Keep alternating medium and fast pace for what is called a “HIIT” (high intensity interval training) workout. You’ll burn more calories during the walk and after the walk is over too. The great thing is you can apply this principle no matter what condition you are in!

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