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Sunny, warm days are almost here again, and you're itching to get outside and get a taste of spring by jogging a few miles, teeing up for a round of golf, or playing a few sets of tennis. But before you do, you need to prepare your body for your exercise program, especially if you used the cold weather as an excuse to become inactive.

Even with the first warm days of the season calling your name, taking it slow means starting from square one. If you've been less active for a while, see your doctor before you start any new exercise program. After your doctor signs off on your health, start with a slow exercise program, an easy walking regimen and a stretching routine. This will help prepare you for most casual sports like jogging, golf and tennis.

Start your spring training by walking for 20 minutes every other day, and then the next week walk for 25-30 minutes. Stretch as well, using a proper technique. This is a lot slower than most people want to go. But after about a month of conditioning, you'll have built up enough flexibility and endurance to move forward with a more strenuous exercise program.

When you are ready to take your first jog or play your first game of the season, take it easy. You regress a tremendous amount over the winter if all you present to your body is a chair at work during the day and a couch at night. If you then go out and try to exercise right off the bat, you put your body at risk for some form of an overuse injury.

Golfers should start practicing at the driving range with slow and easy swings, and work their way up to a faster swing. Golfers should also incorporate stretching and strengthening into their exercise program to target the lower back, trunk and arms.

Tennis players should concentrate their exercise program on the upper body, work on stretching and strengthening the shoulders and arms, and prepare their bodies for the stop-and-go pivoting and sprinting actions of tennis.

If you're a jogger, you should start your exercise program with a walking regimen and from there, try to improve either your speed or mileage by about 10 percent each week.

This all sounds like a lot of work before you even start the spring sports season. But without the right exercise program and plenty of preparation, you're at risk for injury. After you prepare your body for spring sports, spend the warm-weather months healthy and active, and don't let it all go to waste by hibernating next winter. Stay strong for the next warm-weather sports season so you don't have to start that exercise program all over again.

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