Ask an Expert: Shape up this summer with expert exercise advice
Everyone gets motivated to get more active when the summer sun comes out. Before you get started, make sure you’re setting yourself up for success and preventing injury by considering these tips:
- Find an activity that you enjoy so that you will want to continue it long-term. Better yet, find a few activities to mix it up and keep boredom at bay. This is a great way to work different parts of your body as well.
- Walking at a steady pace is a great form of exercise and can help improve your baseline fitness levels. Doing light weight training will help build lean muscle and burn fat more efficiently. Build the exercise into your schedule so it becomes a normal part of your day.
- If you have an injury or some nagging aches and pains, consult with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any new exercise routine. They can help you design a safe exercise program.
- When starting a new exercise program or increasing the intensity of the one you have, start cautiously and ease into it. Listen to your body and go at your own pace. If you feel good, go a little further. If you are tired, rest. You will feel better and have more energy on some days than others. If you push yourself when your body is saying no, injury may occur.
- Give yourself adequate recovery time (24-48 hours) between your exercise bouts so that your body can repair damage and build muscle to get ready for your next activity.
- Set clear goals and reward yourself (not with chocolate!) when you reach those goals. Looking forward to a reward is a great motivator when you are starting an exercise program. Consider treating yourself to a massage or an afternoon just for you once you reach one of your fitness goals. Your goals should be easy to reach initially; getting more difficult as your fitness levels progress. If your goal is to lose weight, be careful not to tell yourself it’s alright to have that cookie because you exercised that day. Grab an apple with some almond butter instead.
Best times to exercise
The best time to exercise is at a time that works for your schedule so that you’re able to stick to your plan. But here are some safety guidelines:
- During the summer, try to avoid exercising outside in the mid-afternoon hours when the temperatures are highest. This will help reduce your chance of developing heat-related issues such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion or, more seriously, heat stroke.
- Wearing light-colored, wicking fabric is helpful to reduce your body temperature during exercise. During exercise, if you feel light headed, dizzy or like you are overheating, stop exercising and rest in the shade or air conditioning until you cool off. Drink cool water and rest. Call it quits for the day after that. If your symptoms last more than one hour, seek medical attention.
Hydration and stretching
For a safe exercise program, staying hydrated and stretching are key components:
- It’s important to drink fluids before, during and after exercises. A good rule of thumb is 8-16 ounces of fluid for every hour of exercise. You will need more than that during hot weather. Water is the best exercise beverage, but if you exercise for more than one hour, a non-sugary sports drink is helpful to replenish electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise.
- Stretch after exercise, not before: A gradual warm up prior to your exercise routine is a great way to get your body ready to work, but static stretching (holding a stretch in one position for 30 seconds or more) is not recommended – it may actually decrease your performance. Gentle stretching afterward, however, can get your body ready for next time and help you recover faster.