10 Spring Training Fitness Tips for Athletes

How to ease back into shape this spring without sports injuries

Woman listening to music through in-ear headphones while jogging on bridge in city

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After a long winter of reduced activity or inactivity, you might be tempted to get outside and train as soon as the weather improves. You may also be tempted to exercise at the same level you did at the end of the last season. But such enthusiasm often leads to early season injuries. If you changed your routine for the winter, you need to get back into shape slowly.

How to Get Back Into Shape for Spring Sports

Here are some tips for avoiding sports injuries as you increase your exercise this spring.

Go Slow but Steady

Don’t succumb to the weekend warrior syndrome. Try to get some exercise 3-4 times per week on alternate days. One of the best ways to get injured or sore is to go hard all weekend and do nothing during the week.

Monitor Your Level of Exertion

Use the perceived exertion scale, the talk test, or the heart rate range to help you determine an appropriate intensity level. Stay at the lower end of the scale (11-13) and build up over several weeks.

Increase Your Training Slowly

Increasing training (mileage, time or amount of weight lifted) more than 10 percent per week increases your risk of injury. To avoid this, increase your training gradually over the weeks.

Don't Exercise in Pain

As you get back to training in the Spring, you may have some minor muscle aches and soreness. But if you have any sharp, unusual pain, or soreness that doesn't go away, pay attention. You may be on the way to an injury. It's important to listen to the warning signs of an injury.

Cross Train

Varying your workouts can improve help your performance and reduce the risk of overuse injuries. By participating in a variety of different activities, such as running, weight training, hiking, boot camp classes or biking, you limit the stress on one specific muscle group because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways.

Avoid All-Out Efforts

Depending on how much inactivity you had over the winter, it could take as long as 6 weeks to re-establish a solid fitness base. Start your exercise program with slow, steady aerobic sessions. When you add intervals or all-out efforts, make sure you allow enough rest and recovery (at least 48 hours) between those hard-effort training days.

Follow a Training Program and Keep Records

If you really want to build back up to optimal fitness, it helps to establish a training plan and stick with it. There are many training programs for all types of sports and having one is not only good motivation, but it helps keep you from doing too much too soon.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

If you took the winter off, don't expect to be back to peak fitness in a week or two. It's ok to go slow and just enjoy being outside again. There's plenty of summer left, so don't worry about going a bit slower in the beginning.

Train With Others at Your Fitness Level

If you can find a few people with the same fitness level and goals as you, it can help keep​ you progressing at a good pace. Training with those who are farther along will only encourage you to overdo it, get injured or feel ‘behind’ in your training. Workouts with more fit people can be motivating and help you improve, but only after you have a good solid base to work with. Otherwise, they can be harmful.

Create a Support System

Having a strong support system, made up of friends, family, a coach or a strong team is an important part of becoming a successful athlete. Spring training is an essential time to turn to your closest allies for motivation.

Don't Forget to Have Fun!

Keep in mind that Spring Training is a time for fun, light-hearted exercise. You aren't competing, and you aren't burnt out yet. So just relax and enjoy your activity.

By Elizabeth Quinn, MS
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.