Monthly Archives: July 2012

Benefits of Stretching

There are three major components that measure fitness: cardiovascular endurance, strength and flexibility.  Flexibility is often the most overlooked and undervalued.  It is defined as the range of motion in a joint and the length of the muscles that cross the given joint.  While it varies greatly from person to person, the importance of including stretching in your fitness routine is undeniable.  Stretching should be done after your body is warm in order to prevent injury to cold muscles, and for the same reason, bouncing stretches should be avoided.  Add a little stretching at the beginning of a workout, a few minutes after, and you’ll see improvement in several fitness related areas.  Here are three great reasons to take the last five minutes of your workout to stretch:

1)  Stretching increases flexibility and better flexibility makes you less susceptible to strains, sprains, tears and pulls.

2)  Stretching increases blood flow to the muscle.  More blood and nutrients getting to the muscles aides with repair and cleaning out of any lactic acid build-up, which helps prevent soreness, and that’s always good news.

3)  Improve balance and posture by relieving tension in back muscles and releasing stress.  Having a larger range of motion allows your body to maintain its natural and proper alignment with less effort, helping to prevent falls and keep you sitting up straight.

So, whether you can touch your toes or not, give it a try.  Hold each stretch steady for 30 seconds, and remember not to bounce.  Stretch each and every time you work out to have fewer injuries, less soreness and better posture before you know it.

Hydration 101

The human body is two thirds water, and during toasty summer months, proper hydration is the most important weapon you have against heat related injuries.  Fluids before, during and after your workout or run are paramount to staying healthy and energized because they help the body regulate its temperature.  Hydration should be part of your everyday life, carry a water bottle and shoot for 60 ounces a day, drink water every time you drink coffee, soda, or alcohol.  The best way to gauge your hydration needs is based on thirst.  Drink when you’re thirsty, not a designated or predetermined times, since too much fluid can be just as dangerous as too little.hydrationBefore your workout or run you want to put both food and fluid into your system.  Have an energy bar or gel, making sure whatever you eat is easy to digest.  Back off fluids roughly 30 minutes before your long run, checking that you need to pee before you go and your urine is a light yellow color.

During your workout, especially if you are running, you want to take in approximately four ounces of fluid per mile. Don’t force yourself to drink, drink if you’re thirsty, but stay on top of fluid in-take; it’s hard to catch up if you fall behind.  Any drink you bring on a run should taste good cold as well as warm so you can drink them when you need it most.  It’s hard to suffer drinking warm water, so practice or pick a sports drink with a flavor you enjoy.

After your workout or run, you need to recover.  To do that, your body needs both carbs and protein, preferably in a 4:1 ratio.  Review how much fluid you took in, and determine how you did.  Post workout or run, have cool water or recovery drinks because you will be more inclined to drink them.

Stay hydrated during your regular gym workout to aid performance and get better results.  If training for a race, practice your hydration strategy by mixing it up with different types of sports drinks, recovery drinks, and temperatures of liquid.  Be careful not to force fluids, and listen to your body when it tells you to take some in.  Following these guidelines and listening closely to your body are the best ways to prevent heat related injuries all year long.

Beat the Heat This Summer

Working out in the heat can be dangerous, so it’s important to know the signs of potential situations and how to prevent them.  Risk factors for potential heat related injuries include high temperatures and relative humidity of 60% or greater, which hampers the evaporation of sweat and limits your body’s ability to cool itself.  Wearing light and sweat wicking clothing are good ways to aid your body in staying cool, in addition to being properly hydrated with water and sports drink.

  • Heat cramps are muscle cramps that occur during and after exercise, like normal cramps, they are caused by a lack of water and electrolytes, and a build-up of lactic acid.  Heat cramps are a cramp or spasm of the muscle that can show up while exercising or hours after, though they usually begin when sweating heavily.  Prevent heat cramps by ensuring hydration with lots of water or sports drink before, during and after exercise.  Should you get heat cramps, stop your current activity and massage the area while drinking water or sports drink.
  • Heat exhaustion is caused by a lack of fluids and the inability of the body to cool itself with enough sweat, and there are two types: water depletion and salt depletion.  Signs of heat exhaustion include weakness, dizziness, fatigue, heat cramps, and nausea.  To treat heat exhaustion, immediately get out of the heat and rest.  Replenish fluids, and use cooling methods such as a shower, ice towels, and fans.  Avoid any outdoor activity for a week, as you will be more sensitive to temperatures, and check with your doctor before resuming strenuous exercise.
  • Heat stroke, or sun stroke, is the most serious type of heat related injury and a medical emergency.  Heat stroke occurs when the body fails to regulate its own temperature and it continues to rise even though you may be producing lots of sweat.  A body temperature over 105 is a sure sign of heat stroke; others include red or dry skin, confusion, headache, increased heart rate and seizures.  If you suspect a heat stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately, get into the shade or air conditioning and apply ice towels until medical help arrives.

Any and all of these heat related injuries can be avoided by taking proper precautions, wearing the right clothes, and listening to your body.  Take what you’ve learned here to help you Beat the Heat this summer!