Spring is officially here. And with it comes the innate drive to get outside, to move and stretch, to truly awaken to the outside world.
If you’re familiar with my philosophy on behaving seasonally, you know that I eschew the popular idea of New Year’s Resolutions as inherently counter to what our bodies want to do. Like wild plants and animals, our bodies want to go into a protective hibernation mode during the colder months of the year. And just like those tulips you planted last fall, our bodies don’t truly want to greet the world until the more temperate months of spring.
Now that spring has sprung and you’re starting to become more active, you may notice your body feels a little creakier than you remembered. You might have some unexpected pains after resuming activities you let slide over the winter. That’s completely normal. Remember, we tend to be less active during the winter. Our bodies aren’t used to a lot of movement.
The best way to start something new – be it a new physical activity, a healthy habit or even a hobby – is to start slowly. Just like you don’t go from being sound asleep to running a marathon, you should not go from a period of several months of low activity to an intense daily activity without any time to build up your activity level. That’s a recipe for injury.
Just like starting a new healthy habit Is It Time for a Change? Here’s How to Set Yourself up for Success, you need to incrementally build your regular activity until you have reached your end goal. If you want to take a two-mile walk each morning, but the farthest you’ve walked all winter is your weekly grocery trip to Wegmans, you’ll need to work up to that daily goal. You can either start increasing your frequency or your distance, but you shouldn’t try to do both at once. It’s like the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare – slow and steady wins the race. One week you focus on increasing your distance, the next you work on walking more often, and keep alternating weeks until you’ve made it to walking two miles each day. And by that time, not only have you met your goal, but you’ve likely made it into an ingrained habit.
One other important way to prepare for a more active lifestyle is by preparing your body. This means taking care of your fascia by staying properly hydrated and engaging in light stretching, as well as addressing any potential problem areas before they are a problem. For example, if you tend to get knots in your shoulders, you should focus on stretching the muscles around your shoulders, increasing mobility in the area, and talking to your massage therapist about working through any current kinks in your fascia.
If you’ve already overdone it and are in pain, make sure to give your body the time it needs to recover. If the pain is recurrent, is interfering with your daily life or is taking longer than expected to resolve, schedule an appoint with a licensed massage therapist.
No matter how you choose to celebrate spring, give your body time to acclimate to your new activity level. And enjoy!