As we head into spring cleaning season, most of us are focused on purging closets and organizing junk drawers, but this time of renewal can be about more than just conquering clutter and defeating dust bunnies. Spring is also a great time to step back and reassess other areas of your life—like your health and fitness routine. Read on for 20 ways to "re-spark" your motivation and fast-track your results.1. Start from the ground up. Have your shoes reached the end of the road? Athletic footwear could be the single most important piece of workout gear, especially for runners and walkers. The decision to replace your shoes depends on a variety of factors, including mileage, preliminary pain, sole compression and odor. When the time comes, visit a specialty store where you can get a professional fitting. You might even consider investing in a couple of different pairs—a study by the Sports Medicine Research Laboratory showed that runners who switched athletic shoes throughout the week experienced 39 percent fewer injuries than those who stuck to the same pair.
2. Make sure you're in good company. Finding a workout buddy significantly boosts weight loss success rates, but compatibility is key. If you already have an exercise partner or are part of a fitness group, take the time to evaluate what you're getting out of it. Are you leaving sessions feeling like you've done more socializing than sweating—or, conversely, are grueling workouts causing excessive pain or strain? If so, it may be time to seek out a partner whose goals are more aligned with yours.
3. Set a schedule. Are sporadic workouts keeping your goals out of reach? Consistency is essential to success. Create a workout schedule and post it wherever you’re most likely to see it, whether that's your fridge, a bathroom mirror or your phone’s calendar. Treat daily exercise like a requirement rather than an option.
4. Get a physical. Eighty percent of people don't get regular well checks. Even if you don’t have any overt health issues, it’s a good idea to schedule a physical to ensure that your blood pressure and cholesterol are within healthy ranges, and to gauge your risk of any future medical issues.
5. Take it outside. Now that snow and ice have given way to sunshine and flowers, it's the perfect time to move your exercise routine from the gym or living room into the great outdoors. Trade the treadmill for the sidewalk or the stationary bike for the real thing. There are countless ways to combine the benefits of being outside with exercise, such as taking your yoga mat to the park, introducing your dog to jogging or joining in a game of tag with the kids.
6. Do a skin check. While it's smart to wear sunscreen year-round, it's especially important in spring and summer, when you'll be spending more time outside in direct sunlight. If you haven't visited a dermatologist yet this year—or if you've noticed any new moles, marks or blemishes— make an appointment for a skin health check.
7. Try a new fitness class. Bust out of the winter doldrums by stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying a new group fitness class. Boutique fitness studios are popping up all over the country, providing a more intimate and personalized alternative to traditional gyms.
8. Dress for success. Fashion fitness is more popular than ever, and for good reason: A 2012 study explored the concept of "enclothed cognition," which is when certain clothing causes people to think and behave differently. By investing in flattering, high-quality exercise apparel, you'll be more likely to show up for workouts and push yourself harder. Inspect your current gym wear and ditch any worn, ill-fitting garments. Sports bras should be replaced every three to 12 months. And you don't have to spend a fortune: Check out our tips on building a workout wardrobe on a budget.
9. Refresh your tunes. If you've been working out to the same playlist all winter, mix it up with some fresh spring songs. Effective exercise music can significantly enhance motivation and results. Check out our tips on how to create the perfect workout playlist.
10. Ditch activities you dread. Although workouts should sometimes be challenging, they should ultimately bring you joy. If you find yourself constantly watching the clock during spin class or feeling miserable during every mile of your run, it may be time to seek out a new activity. When you enjoy your workouts, you'll be much less likely to skip them and will get more out of each session.
11. Stick it to the scale. If the movement (or lack thereof) of the numbers on the scale have you stressing, find alternate ways to measure your progress. For example, you can try on clothes to see if they fit differently, or use measuring tape to determine how many inches you’ve lost. After all, weight loss is not always the biggest indicator of fitness improvements.
12. Update your social stream. Social media can be a wellspring of positivity and inspiration. Keep the great ideas flowing by seeking out fresh sources of health and fitness motivation. In addition to our own Instagram and Facebook pages, we also like these 10 motivational Twitter feeds.
13. Show unhealthy snacks the door. When you've finished purging the closets, head to the pantry and fridge. Clear out any sugary sweets or high-fat, high-calorie snacks that add little to no nutritional value. Replace them with fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, dried fruits and other healthy snacks.
14. Bring Pinterest to life. Create a fitness bulletin board where you can pin “before” photos of yourself, inspiring pictures from magazines, your bib numbers from races, printouts of inspiring emails or message boards, or anything that gets you energized and excited about fitness.
15. Try a new workout tool. If you've been eyeing an abs machine or punching bag at the gym all winter, spring is the perfect time to take the plunge and try it out. Either watch other people and mimic their movements, or ask a personal trainer for a demo.
16. Plan a weekly menu. After you've purged the high-calorie culprits from your kitchen, sit down and plan a weekly menu of nutritious meals. Start by listing the healthy ingredients you already have and planning meals around those, then make a shopping list for the rest. Meal planning is essential to more efficient grocery trips and avoidance of unhealthy takeout.
17. Register for a race. Find a spring or summer 5K and recruit a friend to run or walk it with you. Setting a concrete goal will help boost your motivation, and it's also a great way to meet other fitness-minded people. Plus, many local races support charities, so you'll be doing good while checking an item off your bucket list.
18. Ditch the distractions. If you always read a magazine on the elliptical or scroll through your phone as you walk, make spring the season that you set these time-suckers aside. Without distractions, you can focus on more mindful exercise.
19. Ramp up the intensity. Break through a fitness plateau by boosting your workouts to the next level. If you typically run at a 10-minute pace, sprinkle in some fartleks (speed play) throughout. Instead of lifting the same light weights at high reps, try going heavier for slower, fewer reps. If you've always been a walker, sprinkle in some short jogging stretches. Look for any opportunity to stretch out of your comfort zone and make your routines more challenging.
20. Rest and rejuvenate. Just as it's important to schedule exercise, rest and recovery should be part of your fitness routine. Take the time to reward and pamper yourself between workouts, whether it's by taking a slow walk through the park, getting a massage or pedicure or spending an afternoon gardening.
Which of these have you already completed? What other suggestions do you have for refreshing your health and fitness routine for spring?