Health and Wellness
April 2016

Spring Cleaning, For Your Body

You take the time to scour your house every spring, so why not do the same for your body?

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A few months of winter can turn anyone’s sculpted work of art into a paint-by-numbers portrait.

“People eat poorly when it’s cold out and come up with reasons not to go to the gym,” says Mike Ryan, a certified personal trainer at the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute whose clients have included Hollywood actors and professional athletes. But all hope is not lost. “Spring is a great time to make adjustments to old habits,” he says. The trick is to have an easy-to-follow road map to success.

Ahead, five “spring forward” strategies to give you a healthy jump start on the rest of the year.

Rebalance with Yoga

After you’ve spent a long winter cramped inside the house, the graceful motions of yoga can help stretch out the cold-weather tension that’s built up in your muscles.

“Yoga promotes active flexibility,” says Corry Matthews, a certified personal trainer with the Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute. “It’s about full joint range of motion.” This helps strengthen and elongate the muscles while relaxing the body through pranayama, the art of controlled breathing. Yoga’s deep, focused breaths promote the intake of oxygen and the release of the waste material carbon dioxide. Yoga has also been shown to alleviate chronic lower back pain more effectively than standard methods, soothe inflammation and anxiety, and boost heart health. And a good session of yoga can bring on that same euphoric sense of accomplishment you get after a full day of cleaning house.

Detox Your Diet

No, we’re not talking about colonics and liquid lunches. “A detox can be as simple as removing processed foods and refined carbs from your diet,” says Alyse Levine, MS, a registered dietitian in Los Angeles. These items give you “fake energy,” which results in ups and eventual downs that Levine says hurt your workout and workday. Eating too many of these nutritional no-nos can have adverse effects on your weight and insulin levels and may lead to diabetes.

Start by cutting out refined sugar: soda, alcohol, anything with high-fructose corn syrup. Next, chop out the “bad” fats, those of the trans and saturated varieties found in full-fat dairy, red meat and fried foods. Finally, drink water only. “Eventually you’ll be able to have those bad foods here and there,” Levine says. “But it’s about getting you used to these better foods so that you might actually prefer them over time.”

Shake Up Your Workout

Nothing will wake your body out of hibernation faster than a major workout renovation. “This is the time to get out of the same old reps and sets,” Ryan says. “Your body adapts quickly to exercises you give it.” Therefore you have to trick it into growth by constantly varying your routine.

“If you’ve been doing only 12 reps per set, now’s the time to go for 25 reps for four sets — that’s 100 reps!” Ryan says. The following week do just six reps per set to keep your body guessing. You can also swap out some of those tried-and-true lifts for new ones, or amp up the speed of your reps while cutting your resting time. “By going faster and allowing less time between sets, you’ll sweat off calories fast,” Ryan says.

A personal trainer can help you identify the weaknesses in your usual routine and then develop a new one that will shock your muscles — and keep you from getting bored.

Make Over Your Gym Bag

Throwing out old workout clothes and starting over with a fresh pair can help overcome the mental roadblocks that kept you out of the gym all winter.

“I’ve seen people go to the gym more just because they bought new sweatpants and sneakers,” Ryan says. “It’s proven that we have more confidence when we look good.”

New exercise gear won’t benefit just your mind, it will also benefit your workout. After too much wear, sneakers lose tread, which can make it harder to run in workout classes or on the treadmill. Garments made from synthetic fabrics like polyester and Lycra lose elasticity and shape with each wash, and as a result won’t provide proper support. Also, sweat and oil accumulate in the fibers of your workout clothes over time, which causes them (and you) to smell. And, keep in mind, odor = bacteria. Go for moisture-wicking apparel that will breathe and last longer. It sounds almost too easy to be true, but a fresh pair of gym clothes can be all it takes to refresh your exercise outlook.

Go Outside

You’ve been cooped up for months now; a bit of fresh air will do you some good! Last November, researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reported that about 70% of people in the U.S. had insufficient levels of vitamin D, an essential nutrient linked to immunity, which some call “nature’s antibiotic.” But you don’t need to pop a pill to get a healthy dose; you need to head outdoors. The sun’s rays naturally cause the skin to produce vitamin D. Throw on your sneakers and jog around your neighborhood. Challenge your friends to a basketball game in the local schoolyard. Or get on your bike to help raise money for diabetes research. If for nothing else, do it for the change of scenery. The point is to “spring-clean” your body, after all. You may as well enjoy the springtime while you do.