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Shed Your Winter Coat and Get Fit

Did you pack on a subcutaneous winter coat these past five months? It's time to get your fitness regime back on track for the imminent bikini (or skort ) season. Having been cooped up inside staring at snow since December, why not take your workout outdoors?

"The two biggest times of year to ramp up a fitness routine are New Years' and spring," says personal trainer and exercise physiologist, Dan Zahler. He adds, "On December 31, everyone has that sudden motivation --'this is the year I put on the bikini ' -- and then it's spring and people freak out that summer is coming."

Don't freak out, but do make a plan. Dan stresses caution when approaching a fledgling program, but carefulness should be tempered with hard work. "When starting any new activity it's important not to overdo it," he says. "Always work in a steady progression, which gradually increases the workload on your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints." But, he adds, "'Looking good' is not easy, and your workouts shouldn't be either."

Many New Englanders had no choice about exercising inside versus out this winter. While 45 minutes on an elliptical trainer is beneficial, machines have limitations, says Dan. "The elliptical has a machine-defined range of motion ( ROM ) as opposed to user-defined ROM, such as walking or running," he says. Whereas the elliptical has benefits – it can be used forward or backwards, hands or no hands and with minimal or no impact on the joints -- running is more of an aerobic challenge, and it burns calories at a higher rate.

Dan, co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Wilton, suggests beginning with a progressive walking/running workout program. Then, he says, you can continue using the elliptical to build the body's tolerance level up from the impact of that workout. Over time, a buildup to more aerobic exercise, as well as consistently working out at a challenging level for a sustained period of time (for four days per week or more) will help you reach your fitness goals. But once you're there it doesn't mean you should stop exercising. "You have to not only get to work, but you have to keep working," says Dan.

Whether you're intent on wearing the perfect skort or you just want to shed your winter coat, outside is the right place -- and now is the perfect time -- to start.

What are your outdoor fitness plans for the spring? Are you raring to go? Have you already begun? Let me know.

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