The birds are chirping louder and the flowers are in full bloom. You have a renewed skip in your step and you're ready for whatever the world throws your way. Summer and its midriff baring clothing is just weeks away, so take advantage of the great weather, rev up your fitness routine and kick yourself into spring training mode.
Our 12 tips offer surefire ways to bust out of a rut and shed any winter weight you may have gained. Get started nowbikini season will be here before you know it!
A Dozen Get-in-Shape Tips
Jump rope. Although you may not have done this since the third grade, jumping rope is a great aerobic exercise (Ever check out a boxer's bod?). Jump ropes are inexpensive and can be used almost anywhere. Build up your endurance by starting with short intervals and progress up to 5-minute sessions.
Be an early bird. Sign up for an early morning boot camp class or start running with a friend. It's a drag at first, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by the extra jolt of energy you'll have throughout the day. You'll also have more time after work for things you really want to do, like seeing a movie or having dinner with friends.
Sign up for a run/walk or ride with a friend. There are an endless number of causes now that raise money through athletic events. You'll not only improve your own health, but will be helping others in need. Most large races offer training sessions to help you gear up for the big event.
Go on the defensive Many community centers offer self-defense classes that teach women (and men) how to protect themselves in an emergency situation. Not sure you want to be a Kung-Fu master? How about trying Karate, Jiu-Jitsu, Kickboxing, Aikido, Capoeira or Krav Maga?
Clear your head You already know that exercise benefits your physical health. It's great for mental health as well. Studies show that there is a link between physical exercise and brain activity, resulting in more creative and productive mental activity after exercise. You don't need an hour-long step class to feel the effectsa brisk 10-minute walk should do the trick.
Change things up. Try changing your exercise routine every three to four weeks. Your muscles adapt and when things become "easy", you're not getting the most out of your workout. You may even surprise yourself and find a new activity you really enjoy.
Pump iron. Buy some free weights and begin a weight training routine. Weight training has been proven to prevent bone loss, improve balance, boost metabolism and tone your body. It's even good for your heart. Just 30 minutes of weight training a day slashes the risk of cardiovascular disease by 23 percent.
Start a Fitness Log. Logging your hours, activities and even how you felt during and after exercise, will help you pinpoint which exercise you enjoy and get the most out of. It will also help you see how often you truly are exercising, instead of how often you think you are exercising.
Do the hustle. Sign up for a dance class with your significant other or a friend. Not only are dance classes a great social activity, they can also get your heart rate up and burn a ton of calories. The number of dance styles to choose from is endless; try ballroom, swing, funk, afro-Brazilian or even a hybrid called Yoga Booty Ballet!
Set a goal. Although you've heard it a thousand times, setting a goal can really make a difference when you're trying to get in shape. A goal can be as small as progressing from "girly" push-ups to regular push-ups, or as big as running your first marathon. Keeping a record of your goals and discussing them with friends will help you keep stay focused on achieving them.
Go climb a rock. Although rock climbing may seem too adventurous or just plain crazy for you, there are great physical and psychological benefits to it. If you can't find folks to climb with outside, find a sports clubs with a rock wall where an expert can teach you basic techniques. Climbing is a great workout for your legs and upper body and there's no better feeling than reaching the top.
Join a sports team like softball, baseball, ultimate Frisbee or tennis. It's an automatic guarantee that you'll get active and burn calories. As part of a team, you're committing yourself to keep at it and not let your fellow team members down.
Laugh more. Go to a comedy club or rent a funny new (or favorite) movie and allow yourself to relax. Or call up a friend who always puts you in stitches. Laughing not only enhances your mood, but those giggles can add up and burn calories. Try to find something to chuckle about each and every day.
Claire Holzman and Frances Largeman, RD