As the weather begins to warm and many of us emerge from our winter-long stay indoors, we need to remember to get back into our spring and summer activities slowly. You all know my Rule of 80% by now. Being active at a moderate level is key to avoiding injuries, and helping your body adapt to new routines and experiences. So if you are getting back into an exercise routine soon, don't push it! Build back up in moderation.
But moderation isn't just about exercise. Many people (especially in New England) want to run outside and bask in the sun all day in that first week or two of warm spring weather. But if you expose your skin to too much sunlight all at once after a whole winter of being indoors, you're asking for a sunburn. Or even worse, an increased chance of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen if you are going to be out for any extended period of time is very important. Equally important is allowing your skin to rest and properly react after sunny weather. You should only be in direct sunlight for at most an hour a day during the first two sunny weeks.
If you can begin with half an hour during the first week, and work your way up to an hour, that is even better.
A good rule of thumb is that you should already see a healthy (not red and burned) change in your skin color a few days before you start going out for more than an hour. If you have a darker complexion or your skin just doesn't change color much with sun, two weeks of at most 1-hour a day is still a safe bet.
And how about breathing? We all love to take deep breaths of that fresh, warm air after winter. But many of us walk around with a runny nose or congestion once the flowers and trees start to bloom. That's because you are getting too much pollen and fresh air too fast. You have to use a similar strategy with air as you do with sunlight so that your lungs and sinuses can adapt to the new environment.
Begin with a few deep breaths of outdoor air each day, before things start to bloom. Work your way up to a minute of deep breathing, then two, then three, etc. Don't immediately open all your house windows and let the air through, because then you won't have anywhere for your lungs to rest! Save that for when you have already been breathing the outside air for a couple weeks.
If you have serious allergies, then this deep breathing advice comes with a grain of salt. Consult a doctor before doing anything that might aggravate a preexisting condition.
Happy Stretching (in moderation)!