Throughout the state of New York, thousands of residents are celebrating the dawning of spring.

After all, months of cold, blustery weather have kept may upstaters cooped up for far too long _ making this the perfect time to get outside and enjoy the springtime thaw.

There are several ways to be active outdoors this time of year _ hiking, walking and running, along with biking and skating, just to name a few.

However, before hitting the outdoor trails, parks and roadways, there are several ways to prepare for your adventures.

It is highly recommended that before beginning any type of physical exercise program, individuals receive a complete physical from a trained medical professional.

Heidi Brantley, group exercise director at the Oneonta Family YMCA, also recommends individuals of all skill and ability levels get an "assessment for any muscle imbalances by a certified personal trainer."

Then, if needed, begin a "corrective exercise phase to work to remedy any such imbalances."

Being prepared for your outdoor adventures is one way to help to ensure your safety and enjoyment.

To begin, Brantley recommends that getting your "power house" in shape is vital. "A strong midsection is key," Brantley said. "After all, most if not all exercises require the use of the core muscles."

A strong core will help to make any exercise endeavor more fun and enjoyable. In addition to your core muscles, Brantley also advises individuals to strengthen their "stabilizers" _ such as ankles, knees and the lumbo-pelvic-hip area, to help reduce the chances of injury.

"Outdoor terrain can sometimes be rough and abrupt," Brantley said, which is why speaking to a personal trainer or fitness instructor can help you figure out what exercises are best for you in preparation for outdoor fitness.

Also, don't forget to stretch commented Brantley. "Flexibility is one of the five components of fitness that can reduce your risk of injury, when done correctly." Brantley highly recommends yoga for "everyone and everything."

Not only is it important to be prepared physically for outdoor activity, it is also important to be prepared with the proper gear, whatever the sport may be.

Bike riding, according to Ed Lorenz, co-owner of Sport Tech at 166 Main St. in Oneonta, is a very popular sport.

"Cycling is something that anyone can do regardless of their age," Lorenz said. "It is also a sport that is great when done individually or with a group and is fun for the whole family."

There are several items available on the market for cyclists, very elaborate or basic, depending upon the needs of the rider. However, there are some specialty items that Lorenz recommends to make any biking experience more enjoyable. Cycling shorts and gloves, along with clothes made with a "wicking" material, to keep moisture away the body, will make any ride more enjoyable. Lorenz also suggests that individuals, whether bikers or joggers, be sure to wear bright-colored clothing or reflectors, as well. This is especially true at daybreak and dusk, but highly recommended for all times of day.

Yet, before heading out to your local trails, roadways and neighborhoods with your bikes, Lorenz recommends having a "spring tune-up" in which brake pads, tires, wheel alignment, handlebars and more are thoroughly inspected for optimum performance and safety of the cycle. Tune-ups are generally done within 48 hours, depending upon demand.

For anyone interested in learning more about bicycle maintenance, Sport Tech will offer a "Bicycle Maintenance Seminar" soon, which will be open and available to the public.

Bike repair kits are available as well and are recommended for any unexpected turn of events that may happen _ as are headlights and taillights. "The lights are great to help see where you are going," Lorenz said, "but are great for allowing motorists to see you as well."

Helmets are essential for cyclists of all ages and abilities. They can be the difference between life and death, should a serious accident occur. Helmets are also advised for use when skateboarding and in-line skating as well, as are knee and elbow pads.

Cyclists should remember to obey all traffic laws, Lorenz said, and motorists should allow some extra space when passing a cyclist, as they should with individuals who may be running or walking.

Don't forget water when you are out and about this spring. Generally, most bikes come equipped with a water bottle holder (if not, install one) and there are several easy-to-grasp water bottles on the market for the runner or walker to take along.

"It's a good idea to carry along an ID tag also," Lorenz said, "simply use a tag from an old suitcase or obtain an ID bracelet." Carry some extra change, a cell phone or dog repellent, such as pepper spray, if you are prone to be in areas where they may be beneficial.

Also _ whatever outdoor activity you may be participating in this year, proper footwear is essential. For an evaluation and suggestions, see a trained professional for advice on the best shoe for your body type and sport. After all, not all shoes are created equal.

So, lace up your shoes, fill up your water bottle, grab your tennis racket, helmet, skateboard or what have you and, as Lorenz said, "get out there and have a good time."

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