If you took the winter off, start your spring by running for 10 minutes every other day for a week.

Walk Before You Run

Taking winter off? Come springtime, ease back into exercise

By P. J. Ellison

If you’re like me, you do a lot of running in winter. You run from the car to the apartment door. You run from the door of the Metro station to the office door. And at night you run the circuit all over again, doing your best to avoid even a speck of snow, sleet, or slush.

Come springtime, I’m the first one on the Lachine Canal, jogging like winter never happened. And then I hit about 500 metres and my back hurts, my shins are splintering and my knees feel like they’re about to pop. So this spring, I promised myself to start heeding the advice of some seasoned runners I know because, if you’re like me, you need extra time to prepare if you used winter as an excuse to stay indoors.

“People can’t expect to hit the streets running,” says former marathoner and four-season jogger, Ken Stockton. “Those 10 kilometres you managed to put in three times a week by late October? Forget about that milestone in March, especially if you were sedentary all winter.”

“If you took the winter off, start your spring by running for 10 minutes every other day for a week,” says my friend and former track coach, Sylvain Gagnon. “The next week, run for 15 minutes. From there, add five minutes per week until you get back to the amount of time or distance you managed the previous season.” Most important, says Sylvain, is to stretch, especially after your run. “For long term results and health, you have to take it slow.”

Of course, most people want to see immediate results, not in a month. Well, sometimes you have to walk before you can sprint. But what if running’s not your game? Marie-Christine, my trainer and passionate tennis player, says people who love racquet sports must focus their exercise program on the upper body. “Work on stretching and strengthening the shoulders and arms,” she says. “Prepare for the stop-and-go pivoting and sprinting actions of tennis and squash. Even golfers would be well-advised to work on their core before hitting the links.”

If you do overdo it, Ken says the best recipe for stiffness is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression (with an elastic, form-fitting bandage) and Elevation. “This helps dull the aches and lessen the damage,” he says. “Of course, the best advice is to see your doctor before you embark on any exercise regimen after a long layoff.”

I suppose the lesson to be learned here is that after I spend the spring, summer and fall working on my overall fitness level, wasting away the winter is beyond counterproductive it’s a waste of energy in the long run, energy I could have used to keep up with my well-being from November to March. Speaking of running, see you out there, Montreal. I’ll do my best to catch up to you before the inevitable August heat wave and I use unbearable humidity as my excuse to sit with my face in front of the fan.


Spring 2016, Vol 8 N°2

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