Spring (Realistically) Into Action (March 30, 2013)

Either click here or keep reading for my March 30th piece on spring fitness and reaching your fitness goals. Thrilled to be on the cover of my section!

Spring (realistically) into action

Finally, after suffering through the agony of January and February, the calendar tells us it is spring. Though we’ve still got snow on the ground and a chill in the air, it is just a matter of time until spring has sprung.

Everyone’s favourite season offers so much promise; renewal, regrowth and, of course, warmer temperatures. These warmer temperatures tend to lead to fitness inspiration. We want to be outside, and we’re suddenly reminded that soon we’ll be in bathing suits and shorts at the cottage.

We’ve not had it yet, but that first day of sun and 12 degrees seems to turn everyone into a runner. Without fail, the sidewalks are packed, the parks are full, and the path along Lake Ontario is standing room only, so to speak.

I call this the honeymoon period. Three weeks later, the crowds are gone and the paths have plenty of space. People give up on their fitness goals in a hurry. Call it a second wave of abandoned New Year’s resolutions.

This, of course, is disheartening to see. I’m going to give you advice to avoid this boom-and-bust cycle of exercise, breaking it down into three categories, insuring that you’ll be in tip-top shape come bathing suit season.

Lose weight to work out, don’t work out to lose weight.

If you’ve spent the winter hibernating, or just now want to “up” your workout routine, chances are you’re wanting to shed some pounds with your new workout plan.

The best thing you can do is clean up your diet before starting to work out. Give yourself about three weeks of extremely clean eating as a preparation for your spring fitness plan. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll lose weight. Working out is a lot easier five pounds lighter.

When it comes to weight loss, there seems to be an inordinate focus on exercise. It is, of course, important for overall health and helps to burn fat and calories. But, the general opinion of the experts is that our (body mass index) BMI is 65% to 85% reflective of our diet. I like to tell people that abs are made in the gym, but shown in the kitchen. Remember that, to maximize the effects of your workouts, you’ve got to eat clean. It doesn’t matter how frequently you make that trek to the gym, if you’re eating mozzarella sticks all day, you aren’t going to get the results you want.

Beware of the burnout.

The biggest mistake that you can make is sprinting in the marathon. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your bikini body.

Don’t do too much too quickly. You’ll either exhaust yourself in two weeks, get frustrated and disillusioned when you don’t see results, and quit, or you’ll injure yourself. Either way, it isn’t good.

Baby steps and small improvements make for a good, sustainable exercise plan. Not only is this the best route for your body, it is the best route for your mind. You’ll feel like you’re accomplishing something, not like you’re futily working for nothing.

Don’t expect miracles. To lose one pound, one needs to burn about about 3,500 calories. A five-kilometre run will burn somewhere in the 300-calories range. All else remaining equal, that means you need to run a dozen 5k runs to lose one pound. You can’t go into the spring expecting to lose 20 pounds in two weeks.

Most importantly, you have to choose an exercise plan that you (at least partially) enjoy. If you love swimming and can’t even stand the thought of going for a jog, you should probably head to the pool, not start training for a marathon. You’ll have days you can’t way to jump out of bed and tackle your workout, and you’ll have days that your workout seems insurmountable. Be honest with yourself, and you’ll have the best results.

Set a goal and make a plan.

No matter what your level of fitness, a plan is the hallmark of good health. Pick a goal — a running race, a number of pull-ups, a timed swim — and create a schedule working toward that goal.

Write it down, post it on your wall, and track your progress. Checking off the little boxes is not only an incredibly satisfying feeling, but it keeps you on track and focused. If your progress is staring straight at you, you’ll be less likely to give up on it. You can focus on how much you’ve achieved, not how challenging your workout is. There are, of course, tons of resources for planning your workouts online, but I prefer to go the good old-fashioned paper calendar route. You can always avoid logging on to a particular website, but you can’t avoid the calendar on the wall.

As a final, and somewhat unrelated note, enjoy your Easter and Passover meals this weekend. Don’t be afraid to go in for that second helping of ham and scalloped potatoes — it is a holiday, after all.


Spring Fitness