Birds chirping, trees blooming and feet on the pavement all signal the arrival of spring. However, hitting the great outdoors for a 5K or fun run involves more than just lacing up your sneakers and programming the perfect playlist. After a long winter slumber, these five simple steps will get you on your feet again — the safe and healthy way.
Starving yourself should never be part of an exercise regimen, but eating right should. Fuel up with whole-grain breads, pastas and rice two hours before your workout. Complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, are digested slower than simple carbohydrates, resulting in more sustained energy throughout the day. Foods to avoid include those high in added sugars such as jams and jellies, cookies, cakes, pies and doughnuts. Foods high in added sugars may provide a quick fuel source, but they don't offer much in the way of other nutrients.
It's important to start all activity well-hydrated. Even slight dehydration can have significant effects on performance. Staying hydrated is sure to help you feel energized and perform at the top of your game. Make a point to drink fluids at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain a healthy hydration status. When trying to determine if you should drink water or a sports drink, consider intensity and duration. If the activity lasts longer than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be beneficial to provide some addition fuel and replace the electrolytes lost in sweat.
Don't skip the stretching! The warm-up and cool-down are key components of any workout and are necessary for proper recovery and to prevent injury.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, warming up with light aerobic activity prior to stretching helps reduce the possibility of straining a muscle while stretching. Both static and dynamic stretches are effective. Static stretches should be held for 10 to 30 seconds and repeated two to four times.