Monthly Archives: December 2012

Sitck with that Resolution this Year

It’s a brand new year, and with that comes New Year’s Resolutions.  While people make all sorts of resolutions, ranging from quitting smoking (common) to learning a new language (less common), a perennial favorite is the “I’m going to get in shape this year” mantra.  The popularity of this resolution leads to the inevitable three week crush at the gym.  Packed with newbies, gyms are both raking in membership fees and facing big crowds.  All of the regulars start betting how long each newbie they see will last.  This is the year you outlast them all, and you’re about to learn how.

If you’ve made the very same ‘I’m going to get in shape this year’ resolution before and not been successful, it’s important to know why.  Examine previous attempts at achieving a resolution, both successful ones and failures.  Once you know how you did it or where you took a wrong turn, those right moves and mistakes will help you succeed this time around.

Start small.  While you may want to lose twenty pounds or run ten miles in the first two days, your best bet is to start small.  While enthusiasm is a must for beginning a fitness program, overdoing it too soon can lead to injury and, ultimately, failure.  If you can walk ten minutes a day for a week, walk fifteen minutes the next week and so on.  You will reap rewards without hurting yourself, while also learning how and when you are able to fit a workout into your day.

By starting slowly, you have an opportunity to try different things.  Because you aren’t ready to commit to a specific fitness program just yet, you’re free to take a different class each trip to the gym, work out alone, get together with a trainer, or check out different facilities.  Use the beginning of the year, when gyms are crowded with people who won’t stick around, to figure out what works best for you.  Find a place you feel comfortable, maybe even know a few people, and you’ll be sure to return.

While you’re trying all of the different and exciting fitness offerings in your area, write down what you’re doing.  Keeping a record of your adventures can help you look back and decide what you liked best, what the best location was, or how you felt when you finished a certain type of workout.

Most of all, be proud of yourself.  You have a plan you’re going to stick with and the results will come.  You won’t be a January Gym casualty and you deserve a lot of credit for that.

It’s Flu Season! Are You OK to Hit the Gym?

Sometimes hitting the gym makes you feel better, other times it lets your illness kick into overdrive.  Working out provides a natural immunity boost, and light exercise can relieve congestion and boost circulation, but doing too much while sick can cause viruses to spread into muscles and cause heart muscle damage.  So, how do you know when to go and when to no-show during flu season?  Any choice you make has to be based on your symptoms.

The best test of your symptoms is the ‘neck check’.  Symptoms above your neck, such as a slightly runny nose, sinus pressure or itchy throat, are ok to go with.  When you are coughing heavily, catching chills or facing stomach problems, stay put at home.  A fever, while an above the neck symptom, usually goes hand in hand with some full body symptoms and should always keep you home.  Your body temperature is already increased with a fever, and bringing it even higher with exercise can be very dangerous.  It’s almost impossible to get an effective workout in when your body can’t regulate temperature, breathe properly, or hold fluids.  Missing a few workouts when you’re not feeling great won’t set you back as much as you might fear.

If you’re feeling a little under the weather, but your symptoms check out, and you really want to hit the gym, make a few changes to your regular routine.  Bring the intensity of your session down, use a towel and clean everything with sanitizing wipes immediately after use.   Staying away from group classes is a must, and be sure to maintain hydration levels with help from water and sports drinks.

Of course, the best way to know you won’t miss any gym days with a head cold or the flu is to prevent them altogether.  Washing your hands consistently and getting a flu shot are both great preventative measures.

The Importance of Stretching

Stretching prevents injury and soreness, improves range of motion and circulation, and gives you time to cool down from your workout.  Any one, of any age, can see big benefits from adding a stretching routine to their workouts.

One of the biggest benefits of regular stretching is an increase in flexibility, and without good flexibility, movements can be slowed and less fluid.  Improved range of motion makes everything from tying shoes to lifting groceries easier, and also helps prevent muscle strains or tears, damage to ligaments and other soft issue injuries.  The bigger ranges of motion that result from increased flexibility around joints will also improve coordination and balance, which is incredibly important when trying to prevent falls, especially in older populations.  Stretching also improves circulation by increasing blood flow to the working muscle, helping them receive needed nutrients and remove waste, like lactic acid.  Better posture and stress relief are more of the wonderful benefits you can get from regular stretching.  Tight muscles are the enemy of good posture, so stretching out can help you sit up straight and limit aches and pains.  When you’re feeling stressed, a few minutes of stretching will help tense muscles relax.

You can stretch a little bit before you workout as part of a solid warm-up and after your session as a cool down.  When you stretch for a warm-up, make sure you’ve done something to get your blood flowing already, such as five minutes on an elliptical.  Stretching cold muscles makes them prone to pulling or straining, which is exactly what you’re trying to prevent!  After you’ve loosened and warmed your muscles, you can give them a nice stretch before you hit the hard stuff, then you can be sure those working muscles are getting enough oxygen.  A light stretch before the tough stuff will also raise your heart rate slowly and safely.  Be careful not to stretch too much prior to your workout, as there is evidence suggesting that long, static stretching before a workout can lower strength gains by straining, and therefore weakening the muscle before you train.

Stretching properly is the key to seeing benefits, so here are some tips on how to do it the right way.  Take deep breaths and hold each stretch three times for 30 seconds, making sure to stretch both sides evenly.  Long, steady stretches are the way to, with no tugging or bouncing.  You should feel a stretch, not a pain or pull, if you do, stop immediately.  Make sure to stretch all over!  Quadriceps, hamstrings, groin, calves and lower back are some of the most important areas, especially when you’ve put your legs through the grinder with some hard cardio or a long run.  Lower back pain is often caused by tightness in hamstrings, lower back and hips, so stretching these areas can be a huge help.

For questions about, or help developing, a stretching program, send us an email!