The weather is nice, and it’s time to get outside and have some fun. But we have to be careful–especially we women! We often push ourselves more than the men in our lives and can sometimes zero in on one lone exercise to give it our all.
If your life is too hectic for a balanced exercise program, then, like me, you are probably working some muscles more than others. Repeating the same activity day after day is easy; you don’t have to think about it. Just put on your shoes or hop on your bike and off you go!
It’s hard to balance exercise when you are thankful to be exercising at all. (We women are busy!) But diversifying workouts can prevent injury and save us from long drawn-out recoveries. I should know. As an avid runner, I have been pounding pavement for decades.
This spring’s tip from Athletchic is: Make a conscious decision to balance your exercise plan. Making up for lost time with one exercise can put a stop to all your summer plans. So here are a few things we’ve learned over the years about our favorite exercises. Hopefully, it will help you keep on moving all summer long:
Walking: Everyone agrees walking is good for you. But overdoing it that first week of summer after a cold-weather hiatus could send you screaming to the doctor. Shin splints can be all the inspiration a woman needs to stop walking! So heed these tips:
- Limit yourself to a sensible distance,
- if you have shin pain, lower your weekly mileage and make sure your walking shoes still have a lot of tread (if the tread is gone, it’s time girls!),
- replace a walk or two with an anaerobic activity like weight lifting or take a flexibility class at the gym,
- and the typical rule of thumb is don’t increase your mileage more than 10% a week. (For example, if you walk 10 miles a week, increase it 1 mile per week until you reach 15, then up it to 1.5 until you reach 20 and so on.)
Running/Cross Country: This can be dangerously addictive because it helps women lose weight fast. It’s tempting to start upping our miles foolishly—especially during bathing suit season. So time off may be even more important for runners than walkers.
- Again, use the 10% rule above,
- try the one-day-on and one-day-off schedule if you are feeling aches and pains,
- or, for seasoned runners who didn’t take off all winter, a hard-day, easy-day schedule may work for you,
- but no matter how tempting the weight loss is, include some days off,
- and to avoid the dreaded stress fracture—and I know, I’ve had one—make sure you stay at a healthy weight and cross train on the bike, in the pool, or at the gym with weights.
Swimming – Swimming is a great balance for runners or walkers, but again, should be done in moderation. A doctor once told me that women’s ligaments are more lax than men’s, so we are more prone to dislocating a shoulder. While we don’t participate in many sports that risk dislocation, swimming may irritate our rotator’s cup. So listen to your body and if you start to feel neck or shoulder pain, make an appointment with your Doc.
Here are a few tips to keep you swimming:
- Alternate strokes to help avoid shoulder injuries,
- consider a few breast stroke or back stroke laps to switch it up,
- teach yourself to breath to both sides (this helped my neck pain),
- if you don’t do a flip turn, alternate which hand grabs the side of the pool when you turn (this helped my shoulder pain),
- Spit in your goggles before you get them wet to see better,
- And invest in a water ipod to battle boredom!
Cycling – Cycling is a great cross train, as long as you are sensible. First and most important: WEAR A HELMET. I can’t count the times I’ve seen helmets save cyclists. No ride is too safe for a helmet. It’s when you least expect it that an accident can occur. Other tips include:
- Alter where you place your hands on the handlebars,
- add aero bars to alternate your grip,
- replace your seat to allow you to go long distances comfortably (so if you don’t have the funds for a new bike, this might be a good option),
- tune up that bike every spring at your favorite bike shop,
- check the air in your tires evey other ride (unless you are completing long rides, then it is every ride),
- if you are not comfortable clicking your bike shoes into your pedals, invest in a dual pedal (this pedal allows me to click in on one side or not click in on the other side–it was my best investment as I click out and use the normal pedal when I am approaching any stop or am in heavy parking lot traffic), and
- WEAR A HELMET!
Weight Lifting – Another tip I’ve learned over the years by talking with doctors and Physical Therapists is that age matters when it comes to exercise–especially lifting. Here are a few tips for women at different stages in life:
- Prepubescent girls – Stay away from heavy weight training.
- High School/College– Ask your school trainer or family doctor about a weight training program. Weight training is is fabulous for most women. It builds strength and allows athletes to work out longer.
- Middle Aged Women – Walking and running alone is not enough. It’s important to include strength training in your workout to help prevent osteoporosis. And if you have osteopenia, it’s definitely time to consider requesting a training session in your workout facility’s weight room.
- All Women over 40 – Don’t forget to ask your doctor for advice on taking calcium, vitamin D or other supplements. She/he can advise you on what may help prevent future bone loss.
- Elder Women – While lots of women feel age is just a state of mind, you must still talk to your doctor about what is right for you—especially if you are just beginning to add exercise into your life!
Now get out there and get going!