Cindy Eggemeyer: Be smart coming out of fitness hibernation

<p>Cindy Eggemeyer has worked at Edward Health & Fitness Centers 19 of the last 24 years. She most recently celebrated her 15th anniversary as executive director of EHFC. | Submitted  </p>

Cindy Eggemeyer has worked at Edward Health & Fitness Centers 19 of the last 24 years. She most recently celebrated her 15th anniversary as executive director of EHFC. | Submitted  

Five Fitness tips Tips for getting back into shape: 1: Find a fitness buddy. Having someone counting on you to show up can do wonders to guarantee you make it to that workout. 2: Fuel up. Make one or two changes at a time for a healthier diet. If you usually eat three fruits and vegetables a day, try upping that to four. 3: Enjoy it. Make time for activities you love. Garden, play ball with your kids, take a hike in the local forest preserve, go dancing. There are lots of ways to stay active, even if you have no interest in running or weight training. 4: Stretch. To improve flexibility and prevent injury, remember to stretch before and after exercise — but only after you’ve warmed up. 5: Set goals. Personal trainer Carol Teteak, fitness coordinator at Edward Health & Fitness Centers, suggests kick-starting summer fitness by signing up for a race. “There are races and fun runs of varying distances for people of all fitness levels,” Teteak says. “Start off small, build your stamina and remember to have fun.”

I love being outdoors. There’s nothing like feeling the sun on my face. But this past winter, with its long stretches of frigid temperatures and icy streets, sent even this diehard outdoorswoman indoors more than usual.

And I wasn’t alone.

The typical January surge in people at the fitness centers doing weight training or using treadmills and other equipment was noticeably greater this year.

I suspect that, in warmer months, many of these people are out walking, running, biking or otherwise moving their bodies while enjoying some fresh air.

But other warm-weather fitness enthusiasts take a break from their active lives once winter hits.

After long, tiring commutes in stormy weather, they come home, grab the remote and curl up on the sofa until spring.

Even a trip to the gym seems unappealing.

Well, spring is here and safely getting back to your sport — whether it’s running, golf, weight-training, or whatever — might be trickier than expected, especially if you’re older than 40.

Going from an active summer and fall to a primarily inactive winter means your flexibility, muscle mass and tolerance for exercise might not be what they used to be.

But don’t beat yourself up.

Taking a few precautions can get you back to enjoying your favorite activities without injury, and even setting new, more ambitious goals.

When making a comeback, keep in mind the difference between weight-bearing exercise, such as jogging, walking or using the elliptical, and non-weight bearing exercise, such as biking, swimming and rowing.

The non-weight bearing exercises can be a good stepping stone to getting back to the weight-bearing variety.

The former may burn fewer calories, but you can probably do them for a longer period of time and with less risk of injury.

And listen to your body — something I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older.

I’m not afraid to cut back on my runs on days I encounter pain, even if I’m training for a race.

Whatever your activity and fitness level, look for options that won’t be discouraging as you build your aerobic capacity.

Instead of signing up for one-hour classes, look for shorter “express” classes. To get back to running and other cardio activities, try run-walk or other hard-easy intervals.

An example would be a 30-minute brisk walk that includes running for a minute every four or five minutes.

Gradually increase intensity over a period of several weeks.

A personal trainer can help you transition back to your optimal performance at a level that’s safe for you. Or try a course on conditioning for your favorite activity, such as golf.

Groups are another good source of support and information.

For some, that might mean a mall-walkers group.

Runners or would-be runners can find groups and online information through CARA (Chicago Area Runners Association).

Also, check the training guides on the Runner’s World magazine website.

The most important thing is to get moving.

You’ll enjoy the return of spring and a healthy, active life.

Cindy Eggemeyer is the executive director of Edward Health & Fitness Centers, with locations in Naperville, on the campus of Edward Hospital, 801 S. Washington St., and in Woodridge, 6600 S. Route 53. For more information, visit Cindy can be reached at 630-646-7915 and