Getting back to Exercise in Shanghai: The Smart Way
The spring could not be a more welcome time after the brutal Shanghai winter. After trying to cope with blustry winds, buildings without proper heating systems, and wearing your jacket seemingly everywhere, spring is perhaps better appreciated for people living in Shanghai. Yet just around the corner lies spring, and with it comes the promise of better weather, more sunlight, and the storage of the winter jacket, long johns, and gloves.
After a winter of admittedly too much food and too much lethargy it is time to get back to exercising and being outside. And with the better weather it should be easy. It officially comes in late march, but I am too excited to wait until then. Undoubtedly, there will thousands of people doing the very same thing. But maybe, just maybe I should be a bit more measured in my return. So you may wonder, what can I do to have a healthy return to physical activity?
To get to the bottom of this question I went out to visit Dr. Ozgur Surenkok, the senior physiotherapist, at SinoUnited Health, Shanghai's only specialized physical therapy and orthopedic clinic. Dr. Surenkok has a lot of experience working with professional football, basketball and volleyball athletes in his career, so he was able to give a lot of good advice as well as dispell a lot of the fitness myths that I asked him about.
Tip 1: Train lightly for 2-3 weeks in preparation for returning to full activity levels
This is one of the toughest tips to follow because most people, myself included, just want to jump outside and start playing or start running. But it is best to build up nice and slowly. Your body loses muscle strength and flexibility over time if you are not maintaining it, so make sure to give yourself a chance to retain some of that.
Tip 2: Stretch-Passively and For Long Enough
Stretching is always a hot topic, with people always giving conflicting information. But here is what Dr. Oz had to say on the subject. He said stretching is critically important to prevent injury and improving performance. If you can warm up a bit by slowly jogging or doing jumping jacks and then stretch each muscle gently until you feel a bit of a pulling feeling. Hold it for 15-20 seconds and do it about 8 times. Common mistakes include: not stretching for long enough and stretching to the point of pain.
Tip 3: Wear the right clothing for the weather
This is always a bit tough. The weather is improving, but it can still be a bit tough to judge what to wear exactly. Dr. Oz recommended wearing enough clothes to keep you warm when you first get outside and wearing layers so that as your body core temperature increases you can take off layers if you want.
Tip 4: Get in a routine and stick with it
So much of consistently exercising is getting in a routine. If you can do it the same time of day for about an hour. Depending on your goals (weight loss, increasing strength) you can better determine what types of exercises to do and how to divide up that precious hour.
If you can exercise for about a month, it has a better chance of becoming part of your routine and really part of your life. And with this regular exercise will come greater strength, flexibility, and endurance. Although, if you want to build muscle it will take about 6 weeks to see some results, but toning can happen in as little as 2-3 weeks.
Tip 5: Cool Down and stretch
The all important cool down. A lot of times it gets skipped due to time limitations, lack of a place to stretch or whatever, but it really shouldn't. One of the best ways to help your muscles actively recover is to do a bit of a cool down (like jogging slowly or walking) and then stretching. Your body will be feel better, your muscles will get the chance to release tension and you will be better able to exercise the following day.
Tip 6: Mix up what kind of training you do and have fun
Keeping it fun is often a lost art in the exercise world. People do the same routine or activity for so long and become bored or burnt out. Physically, repeating the same movements over and over can lead to overuse injuries such as the commonly known tennis elbow. So mix up what kind of exercise you are getting and this will better help your training, your body, and it will be more fun.
Thank you to SinoUnited Health physicians for sharing their expertise. Cory Kutcher is an Associate Editor for ShanghaiExpat. If you have any comments or questions about this article, he can be reached at: email@example.com.