By Mark Brown Physical Therapist, Bozeman Health Rehabilitation Services, Belgrade

Whether you spent the winter sprinting along ski trails, ascending ice-slick rock, shredding slopes on your snowboard or sitting on the couch, it’s time to change course and get ready for warm weather sports and the pursuit of healthy outdoor activities.

Spring conditioning is the way to improve your success and enjoyment of summer efforts, whether you like to swing a club or racquet, swim laps, cycle trails or hike mountain terrain. No matter what outdoor activity you choose, conditioning will make you better at it.

In my experience as a physical therapist, I have found the best strategy is to condition all muscle groups, no matter what sport you are pursuing. This can prevent muscles you might ignore from becoming weak, which can lead to injury.

By getting in shape for the upcoming season, you can enhance your core strength, agility, accuracy, balance, endurance, explosiveness and overall athletic performance, as well as your mental fortitude.

Irrelevant of the sport or fitness level, we encourage clients to use these general principles to guide their conditioning program:

Progression – increase intensity (reps/weights) gradually to increase physical capacity

Consistency – regular exercise is more effective than sporadic efforts

Overload – work harder than normal to help your body adapt and improve while allowing for adequate rest

Intensity – work harder for short periods of time

Safety – focus on safe techniques and use proper equipment

Proper conditioning includes sport-specific techniques—ways of swinging a bat to best connect with a pitch or improving a rock climbing hold, for example—and building strength to improve performance.

There are three keys to increasing your power: resistance training such as working out with weights to build basic muscle strength, and stretching to increase flexibility and improve range of motion. Regularly practicing both develops the third key—improved endurance.

Aerobic endurance is the result of cardiovascular exercise, which allows your body to process oxygen and produce energy at a higher level, and helps you practice your sport at greater length with less effort and fatigue. Anaerobic endurance is muscle endurance, or your muscles’ ability to perform exercises repeatedly in quick bursts.

Good conditioning programs begin with a focus on these three key areas. We recommend that this part of the program be started in early spring and performed three to five times a week.

A month or two before your season kicks off, workouts can shift to sport-specific conditioning, agility drills and movement skills. Stability, action and reaction speeds, and accuracy and agility are movement skills that improve with practice. Together, these conditioning steps will help you perform well from the start of the season.

Remember, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from good conditioning. Better strength and flexibility make any activity more enjoyable, no matter your level of participation.

For more information, inspiration and healthy outdoor lifestyle suggestions, check out Bozeman Health’s #outdoorhealthylife on social media.

Mark C. Brown, PT, has 21 years of experience in his field. He has certification through the Duffy-Rath System of assessment, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal disorders and disability. Brown is IASTM certified and Level 2 certified for Functional Dry Needling. He provides orthopedic/manual therapy emphasis including spinal manipulation and BPPV/vestibular rehabilitation.