By Chrissy MacDonald
Injuries can happen by jumping into an exercise program too fast and without proper planning. Just like building a house, we need to build a solid foundation when starting a new activity or sport. Increase the intensity of an exercise gradually.
Before you start a weight training program, for example, make sure your joints are strong and stable and able to handle the additional weight. Practice the exercise in front of a mirror to make sure you are using the proper technique. Start by doing one set of an exercise for each muscle group at a light weight. Increase the intensity gradually by adding more weight every couple of weeks. Doing too much too soon can result in sore muscles, aching joints and frustration.
If you want to run, first practice walking faster for longer periods of time. This is building a solid base. When you’re comfortable walking regularly at a good brisk pace, start inserting one minute runs into your walks (or even 30 seconds to start) until you can go longer. It’s important to plan this increase gradually so the knees are not put under sudden stress. It’s also easier on the heart and lungs.
If an exercise doesn’t feel right or causes any type of pain, stop and re-evaluate what you are doing. You should never feel pain while doing an exercise. If your neck hurts when doing abdominal crunches, you are either doing it incorrectly or it is just not a good exercise for you. There are many ways to strengthen the abdominal muscles without lifting your neck off the floor. Check out Pilates which focuses on strengthening the core of the body – the back and abdominal muscles which form a “girdle” around the middle.
When starting a new exercise program, be patient and start slowly. Learn the proper technique and add intensity gradually to help ensure a safe and productive workout with less risk of injury.
By Chrissy MacDonald
If you’ve been in hibernation all winter avoiding icy sidewalks and snow drifts, now there’s no excuse. It’s time to get outside. Spring is finally here!
It’s been a long cold and snowy winter here in Nova Scotia. Now the grass is showing some green and tiny buds are forming on the trees. I’m finished with the snow shoes – finally.
Walking is a great way to get in shape. Since walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it can help increase bone density and help prevent osteoporosis. Walking is a good way to lose weight since every mile you travel burns about 100 calories. Think of that as a medium cookie or half a chocolate bar. Since metabolism is boosted after exercise, your body will burn calories more efficiently after a walk.
Whether you enjoy a leisurely stroll in the evening or walking through the malls, walking is a great exercise. Any type of walking is enjoyable and contributes to active living. Fitness walking or speed walking is more vigorous. When you breathe harder, it gives your heart and lungs a workout.
Here are a few ideas to help make your fitness walking more efficient.
- Wear sturdy and comfortable shoes. If you have knee or ankle issues, it’s especially important to have good support.
- Warm up by walking slower for the first five or ten minutes, then pick up the pace in the middle of the walk, and end your walk with a cool down or slower pace. If you get calf pain after walking, warming up will help prevent this.
- When picking up the pace, make your strides faster instead of longer.
- Drink water before and after your fitness walks. If you are going for a long walk, bring a water bottle.
- Pay attention to your breathing and keep it controlled. Try breathing with your steps –in with two or three steps – out with two or three steps (depending on how fast you are going).
- Keep your posture upright. Relax shoulders. Swing arms forward and back. Don’t use ankle or hand weights which throw the body off balance and makes it hard on the joints. Do strength training separately.
- Eat a healthy diet with a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Stay away from high protein, low fat or any deprivation fad diets. A healthy balanced diet will help maintain a healthy body and provide energy for exercise.
- Incorporate some simple stretches after your walk. Speed walking tightens the hamstring muscles in the back of the legs. A good stretch is to lie on your back, put a belt under your foot, extend the leg and feel a gentle stretch behind the thigh without pulling behind the knee. Hold for about 20 seconds and then do the other leg.
- To stay motivated to walk for exercise, get together with a friend for a walk instead of talking over coffee. Or take your backpack and do a few errands.
- Check with your doctor before you start any new exercise including fitness walking.
Walking is a great way to stay in shape and enjoy the fresh Spring air. And it makes you feel good. Happy trails!
By Chrissy MacDonald
Strength training, or resistance training, will tighten a flabby body and help create a lean and firm physique. It will also strengthen muscles and bones and can help performance in sports. Resistance training is an important part of a complete fitness program.
Resistance training can be done using weights or tubing or your own body weight as in push ups and pull ups. Practicing Yoga is also a great way to get the benefits but, in this post, we’ll focus on using weights and resistance tubing.
Keep in mind, these are guidelines. Before beginning any new exercise program, be sure to check with your doctor if you have health concerns.
- Learn the proper form and technique for the exercises. Paying for even one a session with a qualified personal trainer is a good idea to get a program and learn proper technique.
- Include an exercise for each of the major muscle groups. You don’t need to do several different exercises for the same muscle group.
- Warm up your body for five to ten minutes with an activity such as walking before beginning your weight training session.
- Use good posture. Keep the abdomen contracted and spine in good alignment, chest wide and shoulders relaxed.
- Start with a lighter weight and focus first on strengthening the joints so they will be prepared to handle increasing intensity over time. Many people get started on a program and end up quitting because of sore elbows, shoulders or knees. Don’t be in a hurry to use heavy weights. You will see results with a consistent and well planned program.
- Move the weight slowly. It should take about three seconds to lift the weight and two to three seconds to lower it. By going too fast, you may be using momentum and not getting the full benefit of the exercise.
- Do eight to ten repetitions of each exercise. If you cannot do eight repetitions slowly and with good form, the weight is too heavy. If you can do more than 12 with perfect technique, increase the weight by 5%.
- A set is a group of repetitions. Start with one set and add a second set after two or three sessions.
- Reassess your program every two or three weeks. Challenge the muscles by increasing the weight gradually for best results. Sticking with the same weight for too long will not give you much benefit.
- Generally, breathe out on the exertion although the main rule about breathing is to keep breathing. Don’t hold your breath.
- Allow 48 hours before you train the same muscle groups again. Muscles need time to repair since resistance training is actually tearing down muscle fibers. Resting muscles will give you better results and help prevent injury.
- Listen to your body. If you feel pain during an exercise, stop and reassess your form or the amount of weight you are using. A few sore muscles the next day means you’ve challenged your body but this soreness should go away after a couple of days.
- Spend about five to ten minutes after your session stretching to help keep muscles from getting tight.A total body weight training program for general fitness can be completed in about 20 to 30 minutes twice a week.
Be consistent, don’t do too much too fast and enjoy the benefits of a beautiful, strong and lean body. Happy training!