As temperatures begin to rise and gray skies turn to blue, we feel the urge to get outdoors and get active again after another long winter. There is weight to be lost, muscle to be toned, and work to your home and yard that must be addressed; but if you’ve neglected to do anything remotely physical during the winter you’ll have to warm up the engine before kicking things into high gear.

Springtime injuries are no joke, and those who sprint from the starting line without being physically ready to do so run the risk of getting hit with a dose of reality. To avoid unnecessary pains, strains, pulls or tweaks that might keep you sidelined, here are a few recommendations to make sure your spring activities go over smoothly.

Don’t overdo it

Your first instinct may be to make up for lost time. All those days cooped up indoors has to be converted to exercise, right? Well, if you think you’ll bench the same weight or run the same distance as you did four months prior, you’ll be sorely mistaken. Exercise patience and start at a comfortable benchmark. Slowly progressing is the best way to reconfigure your body without putting too much strain on it. A good rule of thumb is to follow the 10 percent rule: When getting back into the swing of things, don’t increase your level of activity by more than 10 percent each week.

Mix It Up

It’s best to keep an arsenal of activities under your belt. Even if you start at a reasonable pace, using the same muscle groups every day will do more harm than good. Overuse will leave muscles fatigued, sore and stressed, and at the very least can result in a less impactful workout. At worst you could injure yourself, setting you back even further. Rest is an equally important process to staying healthy, so employ a variety of exercises and alternate days between using muscle groups to attain an effective full-body workout.

All About Technique

Make sure you understand the correct technique before exercising, especially when it comes to weight training. Improper form is likely to cause pain or muscle damage. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can lift; if you’re doing it wrong it can be counterproductive or injurious.

Body Prep

Hitting the gym or going for a run with no preparation is bound to bite back. To get the best results, you have to prepare your body before diving back into physical fitness. Stretching seems like a fundamental starting point, but it’s also important to know what kind of stretches work with each situation.

For full-body aerobic activities, dynamic stretches will help loosen you up and give your limbs their full range of motion. Dynamic stretches include arm and leg circles, lunges and spinal rotation, to name a few. For activities more focused on specific muscle groups, a static stretch is a great way to ensure your muscles don’t tighten up after a good workout. There’s plenty of differing opinions on when you should stretch, but it’s best to get the blood pumping with dynamic stretches before a workout, and with static stretches after.

Spring Cleaning

With the changing of seasons, it’s not uncommon to feel like you need a fresh start. One of the ways we mentally reset for the season is with some good old-fashioned spring cleaning. But don’t take that too lightly. It’s easy to get it in your head that you can do it in one fell swoop, but all that’ll do is earn you a one-way ticket to back pain.

Think of spring cleaning similarly to your exercise routine. Don’t do all the heavy lifting at once; instead, split it into several smaller loads. Diversify the type of cleaning to avoid overworking one muscle group. It wouldn’t hurt to get some stretches in, either. If you treat spring cleaning like exercise, you’ll be more fulfilled with the end result.

Yard Work

Getting flower beds and gardens ready for planting and getting your seeds and plants in the ground seem like innocuous activities, but they can be particularly tough on the knees, back and neck. Kneeling, crouching or otherwise being on your hands and knees can leave you stiff, and increases the risk of tweaking something.

Stretch and warm up before heading out to the yard. Simple static stretches will limber you up, or you can go for a walk or short run to help get loose. While working, shift positions frequently and try to maintain good posture, and get up when necessary to walk around and shake off any stiffness. Regular daily stretching and light exercise will make the kneeling, crawling and rising easier for the body to bear.

Care is also essential when using maintenance equipment such as lawn mowers and all types of cutters, choppers and trimmers. Stretching is a good start, but the pushing, lifting and carrying of these tools also necessitates proper movement and technique. Lifting and pushing with the legs is the most basic principle and will save your back from unwanted abuse. Sudden twisting or jerking movements while carrying heavy objects should also be avoided, as these can lead to sprains and pulls in the knees, elbows, shoulders and torso.

The proper preparations and a healthful approach to your springtime activities and chores can help avoid those inconvenient and bothersome aches and pains.