Can you feel it? It’s a magical time of the year. Nature is bursting with miracles – flowers blooming, there is new life all around us, longer days are evident and there is a warmth in the sun on your face.
I love to embrace the Eastern wellbeing principles of yin and yang, and the flow of Qi (energy) both within us and the world around us. All change – in the universe and in our body – occurs in five distinct stages with each stage being in sync with a particular time of year, a specific element in nature, and a pair of organs in the body. Spring time signifies growth and is the perfect time for rejuvenation of overall health and well-being. The "Wood" element represents Spring and includes the liver and gallbladder organs. The liver is accountable for the smooth flowing of Qi and when it functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly. To optimise your health this spring, you need to move your Qi and outside air helps liver Qi flow.
But hold your horses! Remember that we are emerging out of winter mode during which we naturally tend to hide away and conserve energy. For many of us this means we have been less active than usual and now that spring is here we are rearing to go and ready to make time for ‘movement’ once again. At Evolve, this is the time of year we see numerous amounts of unnecessary injuries and strongly encourage people to take into consideration the amount of inactivity you might have had over winter for it could take at least six weeks to prep the body for an increase in loading. Muscle tendon junctions (in particular) weaken due to periods of inactivity and are vulnerable to sudden increases in loading, therefore avoiding ‘all out efforts’ at this time of the year is key to minimising your risk of injury.
Here’s a few tips to help you get the most out of spring training:
First and foremost – learn the value of celebrating the gift of movement! Exercising is a celebration of how incredible your body is, and should not be a punishment for what you ate or because you don’t like how you look.
Be proactive. Seek out a clinician or personal trainer who is trained to assess and optimise movement patterns. A minimum competency in movement is essential to starting out right and avoiding unnecessary injuries! At Evolve we prescribe corrective exercises which clean up compensatory patterns before they become problematic!
Start off slowly and choose activities you enjoy. You’re more likely to bring movement into your life if you enjoy it and feel recognise that it feels good!
Outside air helps liver qi flow. If you have been feeling irritable, find an outdoor activity to smooth out that liver qi stagnation. Try some of the amazing trails, beaches or your local parks that our wonderful country has to offer! You’ll feel like a champion.
Remember that incidental ‘exercise’ counts! Taking the stairs, walking to work, gardening etc are great ways of moving a bit more than usual.
Not long ago I embraced the beautiful weather with a renewed enthusiasm to get outdoors with my four-legged best friend Dexter and so I ventured out on my first run in months! While it was a totally exhilarating run around Cornwall Park I paid the price for not honouring the incredible ability for the body to adapt (either for better or for worse) and hobbled around with sore calf muscles for days following and grateful I didn’t do anything serious! Ah, you’d think I would know better but remember - as humans, we are strongly driven by our limbic system (which connects all feelings and experiences good and bad) and for me, spring time triggers thoughts of the near return of summer and how I love the sun on my face, the sea salt breeze in the air and I can almost taste how good it felt. So, if you’re feeling a new-found energy with the change in seasons it is more important than ever to build slowly and not start at the same level of activity as where you left off before winter set in so that you aren’t side-lined before you start.
Gemma Monachino is the director of Evolve Health Integrated Health Specialists providing physiotherapy, acupuncture, functional movement systems, yoga and pilates. For more, visit evolvehealth.co.nz