Four Tips to Ease Into Exercise This Spring

By Buffalo Medical Group | May 16 2017 | Doctor Tips

Spring is here, and while some of us maintained a workout routine through the winter, others are dusting off the cobwebs and getting back on track for summer. When you haven’t worked out in a while, it’s important to ease your body back into a physical routine. Here are four tips to effectively get back into exercising from orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Matthew Cavagnaro:

1. Rome wasn’t built in a day
Your body needs time to adjust to a new workout routine. For cardiovascular exercise, start with shorter distances (shorter time if on stationary equipment), allow for days of rest and increase distance/time as your body allows. For weight training, start with lower weights and higher reps. As you continue with this program, go up in weight as you feel stronger. Make sure to maintain appropriate form when lifting weights, too. If your form starts to deteriorate, you’re probably lifting too much weight. I see a lot of patients who want to get back into shape for the warm weather, and they do too much too quickly and end up hurting themselves so they can’t exercise for weeks as they recover. Your attitude with exercise should never be “no pain, no gain.” Pain is your body telling you something is wrong, so listen to it! Pushing through pain leads a lot of runners to develop stress fractures, shin splints and musculotendinous overuse problems.

2. Keep hydrated and stretch
When you exercise, whether cardiovascular or weight training, your muscles become stronger and more toned, making them tighter. Excessive muscle tightness can put you at risk for muscle strains and tendinitis. It can also begin to negatively affect your natural joint motion and cause joint pain. Make sure you are stretching before and after your activity to help limit your chance of developing these problems. Also, staying hydrated has also been shown to prevent muscle cramping and may help you to avoid these injuries, as well. Remember that adequate hydration isn’t achieved while you are at the gym or within 30 minutes of going for a run. It takes time to adequately hydrate, so make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids several hours before your planned exercise.

3. Everything in moderation
Change is key to moderation. You want to keep your exercise routine changing because each exercise places stress on muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints in its own specific way. If you decided to do the same exercise every day, your risk of developing an injury is much higher than if you alternate exercises. Runners seem to run into this problem the most, but it can happen with anything. If you like to take exercise classes, switch it up with which ones you take. If you’re interested in cardiovascular exercise, go running/walking one day, then biking the next and mix in a stair climber or elliptical here and there. This altered approach will help spread out the stress to your body, keeping your risk for an overuse injury low while still allowing you to exercise regularly.

4. Set realistic goals, and be smart about reaching them
Everyone has different goals for what they want to achieve when beginning an exercise routine. The most important thing is that you set realistic goals and don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t pay attention to the guy next to you running without breaking a sweat. Pay attention to your body. Go at a pace that works for you and doesn’t cause pain or leave you needing five days to recover. I have a lot of patients who develop joint pain when they exercise. For those people, I recommend limiting impact. Swimming is a great way to get cardiovascular exercise while minimizing the impact on your joints. Other low-impact cardiovascular exercise is the recumbent bike, stationary or regular bicycle, and the elliptical. The best way to reach your goal is to stay focused and to avoid setbacks.