Spring has sprung. Tra-la, tra-la. Kiss those snow shovels goodbye. The birdies are chirping, the trees are blooming, and in fewer than 100 days, you're going to look at your bathing suit with suspicion and fear, wondering what went wrong.
Don't panic. Spring is the perfect time for new beginnings because when the seasons change, we can, too.
"We are made of star stuff," Carl Sagan reminded us. Spring awakens us all to new growth, renewal, new ways of eating smarter, playing more and giving up diet sodas forever.
Where do you think a springboard got its name? To take full advantage of this seasonal shift toward the light, consider the following:
AWAKEN YOUR INNER ATHLETE. Spring training isn't just for baseball players. It's for all of us citizen athletes who slide home every night, exhausted from all the curveballs we get thrown during the day.
This spring, I challenge you to create a spring fitness program that will get you back in the game, gradually, successfully.
What sport did you leave behind last summer? Golf? Tennis? Running? No shame, no guilt. Start where you are, get out pen and paper (or find the app) and make a three-month calendar for yourself, detailing what you'll do three to five times a week to get you where you want to go.
SET A GOAL. Decide on a sport-specific goal with just enough challenge to keep you motivated for the next few months. Be realistic. Set a goal you can achieve. Finishing a 5K? Shaving three to five strokes off your golf game? Learning to mountain bike?
Setting goals in the spring will keep your training regimen focused and keep you engaged. Take notes in your fitness journal, chronicling your progress, your pleasures and your backsliding, too. It's all part of the process. Say goodbye to negative thinking and self-blame. They just get in the way of training to be a better athlete, a more joyful person.
MAKE TIME. If you can't find the time this spring to realize your plan, then you're not ready to change. That's OK. Accept it and stop struggling. But if you are deeply, truly, finally ready to move toward a healthier, happier lifestyle, then you'll make time every day to do something that moves you toward your goal, even if it's just a five-minute visualization or 10-minute walk.
If you have the time and money to work with a coach or fitness trainer, don't hesitate. Even a few sessions will help get you on the right track. Share your goal and ask for a sport-specific program of stretching and strengthening, some visualization and breathing exercises, and some tips on improving balance and endurance.
PLANT NEW FOOD HABITS. Spring is a great time to nurture little seeds of interest in eating smarter, lighter, cleaner.
—Cut way back on packaged, processed foods and shop instead at your local farmers market, where the fruits and vegetables are plentiful, seasonal and packed with flavor.
—Join a Community Supported Agriculture and enjoy weekly baskets of fresh, mostly organic food from local farmers. One of many sites to help you connect to the sustainable food producers in your community is www.localharvest.org.
—Grow some of your own food, in window boxes or community gardens. Urban sharecropping is a new idea catching on across the country. It teams you with a partner who has the time and desire to farm your backyard, and you split the bounty. Check out www.urbangardenshare.org for more info.
CULTIVATE WAYS TO DE-STRESS. The American Psychological Association has estimated that about 75 percent of Americans are overstressed. Are you one of them? Stress keeps you from learning, sets you up for disease and increases your risk of depression.
This spring, commit to an action plan to manage your own stress in healthier ways. Exercise is one of the great de-stressors of all time. Ditto for yoga, qi gong, meditation and mindfulness training.
RIDE YOUR BIKE. Rediscover your inner child this spring by reconnecting to your bike. Ride to work or school, or just ride for the freewheeling joy of it. You'll burn calories, juice your knee joints, save on gas, spin away stress and build leg strength. Best of all, you'll feel like a kid again.
ENERGY EXPRESS-O! SPEND TIME OUTDOORS, LOVING NATURE "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt." — Margaret Atwood
Marilynn Preston — healthy lifestyle coach and Emmy-winning producer — is the creator of Energy Express, the longest-running syndicated fitness column in the country. She has a website, marilynnpreston.com, and welcomes reader questions, which can be sent to [email protected] She also produces EnExTV, a digital reincarnation of her award-winning TV series about sports, fitness and adventure, for kids of all ages, at youtube.com/EnExTV and facebook.com/EnExTV. To find out more about Preston and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.