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Spring renews energy, initiates a desire for self-improvement

| Tuesday, March 25, 2014, 7:40 p.m.
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Mark Brewer illustration
MARK BREWER | Tribune-Review
Mark Brewer illustration
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class, including Sandy Sosavicka of Natrona Heights (back left) and Sam Burkett of Lower Burrell, focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class, including Sandy Sosavicka of Natrona Heights (back left) and Sam Burkett of Lower Burrell, focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Joseph Reinard, an instructor at the Allegheny Valley YMCA, leads an exercise class focusing on abdominal muscles at the Natrona Heights facility on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

With the dawn of spring and the burst of energy we get from warmer weather, this may be a better time than January to follow through on life improvements: starting a fitness program, accomplishing a work goal and overcoming a bad habit.

“Everyone sees the ... trees are coming back with the greenness. Everything is fresh and new,” says Joseph Reinard, senior program director for the Allegheny Valley YMCA in Natrona Heights. He sees increased traffic at the Y in March and April, when many people feel more eager to get out and exercise.

“The whole family has been cooped up for those cold winter months, and there's something here for everyone,” Reinard says. He is a trainer and teaches classes, including one focusing on abdominal muscles.

“Everyone is getting ready for summer,” he says. “They want to have an active lifestyle and make the most of the months we could be outside and do physical activities — prepare for vacations.”

And, looking good in a swimsuit this summer gives people motivation to cash in on that spring fever, Reinard says.

The rush of spring — the light, the warmth, the burst of energy and optimism — gives people the perfect opportunity to channel those feelings into breaking out of a rut and making positive new changes in all areas of their lives, experts say.

“The idea really is to give yourself as much room as you can to make the improvement in your life if you want to,” says Barton Goldsmith, a Southern California psychotherapist and author of books including “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence: Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too.” “The energy of spring ... really makes it a lot easier. It's a lot harder to clean out the garage in January than it is in March.”

Spring, Goldsmith says, is the mating season, and the season of rebirth and new beginnings — a theme reflected in Easter and in the secular world. It's also a time to check in with yourself about any New Year's resolutions you may have made and dropped.

“It's the time of year of new growth, and that's in our DNA,” says Goldsmith, of Westlake Village, Calif. “Many people want to come out of hibernation and start blossoming in whatever area they're focused on at the moment.”

Spring fever affects people in different ways, Goldsmith says. For some people, that restlessness can lead to a desire to goof off and enjoy being lazy, rather than to work hard on something. But even that can lead to growth and pleasure, he says.

“You want to use the energy of spring to enjoy your feelings about who you are and what you're doing, and that will help you enjoy your life more,” Goldsmith says. His latest book, “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time,” came out in December.

The spring energy rush seems mostly biochemical; yet, it has a strong effect on our emotions, he says.

“I really think it's in our body chemistry that this time of year ... we have more energy and more light to do things with,” he says. “It wakes up our intellect, romantic emotions and desire to go out and frolic. I also think that it has a lot to do with creativity.”

Dave Wheitner — a life, career and transition coach who was based in Squirrel Hill for more than a decade — says spring gives people a second-chance opportunity to improve their lives and get out of ruts.

“Something that happens with all of us, if we're not careful, is that we can beat ourselves up for not attaining our New Year's resolutions as planned,” he says. “Rather than seeing it as a black-and-white thing where I totally succeed or totally fail, we can say to ourselves, ‘Here's a second opportunity to give myself a new start.' ”

Just getting outside — to walk, garden, ride a bike — gives people a sunny lift emotionally and physically, says Wheitner, who moved to Portland last year but still counsels many Pittsburgh clients by phone.

“You can really sync up with nature and come out of that hibernation,” he says.

Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at kgormly@tribweb.com or 412-320-7824.

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