Easy does it, Slugger: Prepare for your warm weather regimen
Spring is a tough time of year for the overzealous. You know who I mean: the keeners who dive into warm-weather sports like they never left them, only to find out the hard way that winter’s idleness has whittled away all but the memories of last summer’s conditioning.
Before you “tsk, tsk” too loudly, you must admit that it’s hard to squelch the excitement you feel when you dig out your tennis racket, softball glove, soccer cleats, running shoes, golf bag or bathing suit from summer storage.
Add some good weather, a little friendly competition, the company of a few good buddies and the inherent need to prove that one more year hasn’t made a lick of difference in your athletic prowess, and it’s no wonder so many Canadians make the most common fitness mistake of them all — doing too much too soon.
You can mitigate some of the effects of seasonal overenthusiasm by spending a few hours every week getting back into summer shape.
Before you groan and ignore sage advice, try to remember how you felt last spring after you revved up on all four cylinders without a tune-up.
Do it right this year, and get in shape before you start your summer season. Now’s the time to get it done. Here’s how to do it:
Build an aerobic base
This is the first goal of any pre-season conditioning plan. Being able to sustain a minimum level of intensity for an extended period of time not only provides the endurance necessary to play a game of tennis, softball or golf, it also aids recovery — which means you’ll be able to get back out there sooner.
Increasing aerobic endurance isn’t hard; all you have to do is exercise a bit longer every week.
The length of your aerobic workout depends on your preferred summer activity, but aim for 60 continuous minutes spent doing any form of aerobic exercise: cycling, swimming, walking, running (or any combination of all four).
Strengthen your core
Whether you’re hitting a serve, kicking or throwing a ball, swinging a golf club or swimming up and down the pool, all athletic power transfers through the core muscles, which is why you need to get your midsection in shape.
And because a good core conditioning program focuses on building endurance before strength and power, most core exercises can be done at home with very little specialized equipment.
Start with a basic plank (get into the classic pushup position, balancing your body on your forearms and toes -head, hips, knees in alignment), and work up to holding it for 30 seconds. Do the same for the side plank (lie on your side and lift your hips off the floor, balancing on your forearm -placed perpendicular to your body -and feet). Then combine the two exercises, moving from the front plank to the side plank, back to the front and then to the other side.
Hold each position for 15 to 20 seconds, and keep your hips level and body in alignment as you move from side to side. Repeat your core workout four to five times a week.
Hone speed and agility
Speed and agility need constant tweaking to keep you fast and light on your feet.
A word of caution: speed and agility drills should be incorporated into your workout only after you have built a good aerobic base.
To increase speed, you need to increase turnover, so that’s what you need to practise. Pick up the pace in the middle of your workout for 30 to 45 seconds, concentrating on building and sustaining a speed that is 80 to 90 per cent of your maximum effort.
Repeat this six to eight times during the middle of your workout, spacing each speed interval with a 60-to 90-second rest.
Agility exercises incorporate fast feet with fast changes in direction.
Do simple carioca drills (cross one foot over the other while moving laterally) to warm up and follow by sprinting five steps forward, five steps to the right, five steps to the left and five steps backward.
Add one or two speed and agility drills to the end of your workout a couple of times a week.
Add strength and power
Building upper-body strength is the key to hitting the ball out of the park, cranking a big drive and smacking a serve down the line.
Head to the hills to build lower body strength, choosing a hill that takes about 30 seconds to climb (on foot or on your bike). Power up the hill and cruise back down. Repeat four to six times.
For upper-body strength, pushups will do the job. But don’t just stick with the run-of-themill variety. Try varying the tempo by taking four seconds to descend and two seconds to push back up to the starting position.
Keep head, shoulders, hips and knees in alignment through all phases of the exercise, making sure you don’t lead with your hips as you push away from the floor.
Perform strength and power exercises two to three times a week.