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Get the Fever: Mike Clausen's Tips for Spring Fitness

By Mike Clausen

As spring nears, we are able to get outside more—and we should all do just that. We have spent enough time inside the gym all winter building up our bodies and burning off the holiday pounds. Now is the time to refresh your relationship to your own fitness, with new goals, new friends, and a new set of activities. Here are a few tips on thinking fit for spring:

  1. Set new goals: Spring isn’t just the season of renewal, it’s also your chance to set some new goals. In the winter, we are constrained by needing to be indoors; this limits the kind of goals we can set. Your winter goals may have involved specific weights you wanted to push, or pounds you wanted to lose. But now that you can get outside again, you can turn your attention to more event-oriented goals. Aiming your training at an event is a great way to improve your fitness, because with a time-limited goal will come a targeted training program. For instance, if you decide to run a marathon, you should pick a couple of possible marathons to try to enter, and look at the intervening time. You will then develop a pre-conditioning and training program, including weekly runs. Another great goal is the AIDS LifeCycle, in which case you need to start biking every weekend over every type of terrain. The idea is to take your workouts outside— but with a plan and a way of measuring progress.
  2. Play a sport: Fitness should be functional. Ideally, what we do in the gym is meant to be taken into the world and used in real life. That is why, in my training, I focus on functional exercises that mimic the movements of daily life. What good are muscles if they can’t help you carry the groceries, or win a soccer game? So, it’s no surprise that one of the best ways to train your overall fitness is to play a sport. Sports are concentrated bouts of functional training, at least as effective as the gym. Many parks and recreation centers offer casual baseball, soccer or touch-football teams. Added bonus: new friends. Spring is a social time of year for many of us. Why not workout and get acquainted, all at once?
  3. Put your mind at ease: Now, many guys fear that if they skip the gym and the lifting, they will lose muscle mass. For most of us, this is simply not true. If you have spent a lot of time in the gym, your muscle mass will not diminish because you skip a couple days of lifting. As in everything else, you are looking for balance. Your outdoor training—running, cycling, sports, whatever—will be paired by days in the gym, lifting as you did all winter. But take advantage of your non-gym days to challenge your body in new ways, and to get serious about stretching. While this may not directly build muscle mass, the flexibility and functional training (including faster neural response) will only increase your ability to perform the next time you are in the gym. It is hardly a waste of time.
  4. Think outside the box: True gym rats can feel a little lost heading out into the great outdoors to workout. It sounds ok when I say it, but then you think about what you would actually do out there and you feel uncertain. But there are many resources you can avail yourself of to build an infrastructure to make the outdoors as user-friendly as the gym. Look for groups or classes you can join, including: recreation centers and public pools (enter either "recreation centers" or "public pools" into Google, and you will turn up a list of your local rec options); bootcamps; cycling groups; or running groups.
So, next time you think about going into the gym for another run on the treadmill or to do the bench press, think outside the box and outside the building. You won't regret it.

About Mike Clausen: Clausen is the founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006. He has been actively involved in sports and weightlifting since high school, and continues to use that knowledge when training his clients. Clausen is both A.C.E. and N.A.S.M. certified and has been training clients professionally for six years. He enjoys making his clients stronger, both physically and mentally, giving them the tools to create an efficient body and to do things they thought were not possible.