Whether you are new to the gym or a seasoned gym-goer, beginning any new exercise program should start the same way – safely. There are a few different things you can do to ensure that you are working out in a safe manner.
1. Don’t copy what you see someone else doing. You don’t know why they’re doing it, You don’t know if they’re doing it correctly, or if they have modified it for any reason. Just because someone who looks “fit’ is doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for you and your body. Proper execution of an exercise trains the targeted muscle(s). Improper execution can create imbalances and lead to injury.
2. Ask us! Staff in gyms are extroverts, we want to talk to people. We thrive on sharing our energy and enthusiasm for wellness. We’re looking for you and want to answer your questions; we want to see you succeed.
3. Work on the basics – posture, body alignment, core engagement. If you want to do an exercise correctly, these are part of the package that reduces the risk of injury.
4. Get the Sets and Reps right. The number of repetitions within a set, and the number of sets completed makes a huge difference from one program to another. Learn what the difference is between low reps heavy weight, and high reps lower weight – dialing in the correct combo will guide you towards your ultimate goal.
5. Stretch! Most of us are in a rush and want to get as much packed into our workout time, then off we go to the next part of our busy days. Take the time to cool down and stretch, it increases range of motion, reduces soreness in the day(s) to come, and reduces risk for injury.
You train hard and recovery is an important part of that program. Recovery is important for many reasons. Recovery allows the body time to adapt to a workout program. It allows time for the body to repair tissue that has been damaged working out as well as replenishing depleted energy stores. It also allows the body the rest required to keep from over training and eventually burning out.
Active recovery really means a day off – from your program. That means that you take a day to live your life actively or doing a workout that is less intense. This could be walking the dog, enjoying a yoga class, going for a swim or bike ride, hiking, stretching, or even grabbing a foam roller for some much needed self-myofascial release (SMR).
Rest and relaxation refers to the down time away from training altogether, allowing the body the needed time to do those tissue repairs, strengthen, and replenish.
Setting a SMART goal is more than just something you think is manageable, a SMART goal has defined parameters. Goal setting is a major piece to the fitness puzzle, It provides you with direction, motivation, and a vision of what you want to achieve.
SPECIFIC – Set a specific goal, for example instead of saying you want to “run better”, focus on a specific piece of the puzzle. For example, running for a longer amount of time (45 minutes instead of 30), or running at a quicker pace (move from 5.0 to 6.5 on the treadmill).
MEASURABLE – by setting a specific goal, you have unknowingly set a goal that is measureable. Staying with the running example, running faster, longer or at an incline are all things that you can track and watch your progress.
ATTAINABLE – Choose a goal that is something you can physically achieve. I have severe arthritis in my knee, I’d love to be able to do higher box jumps, however I know that this isn’t the goal for me. Keeping my quads as strong as possible without high impact is something that is attainable for me.
REALISTIC – Realistic and attainable sound like the same thing, I like to look at “attainable” as big picture. Realistic can be a breakdown of mini goals within that large goal. Small realistic goals are stepping stones to reach that finish line. For example, adding five minutes to your run every two weeks.
TIMELY – give yourself a realistic timeline to accomplish your goal; setting too quick of a time line can set you up for failure.
Remember that the pieces to this puzzle can be adjusted at any time. You can add to your goal, adjust your timeline. Making sure that whatever you adjust is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and can be completed in a timely manner will ultimately lead you to success.
Any workout program you choose, any training style you choose, resistance training (weight lifting) is beneficial to you. There are two ways to accomplish resistance training, Machines vs. Free Weights. Machines are stationary, usually plate loaded or have a weight stack and pin system for choosing the amount of weight you wish to lift. “Free weights” is a broader term, and refers to things like dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, body bars, and body weight resistance tools such as a BOSU, stability ball or TRX.
Which is better?
Well that depends. Both have a role in training, and it really depends on what you are looking to accomplish. Stationary machines are a wonderful tool for beginners, and they help to teach the body about postural awareness, what an exercise should feel like and where exactly you should be feeling it. Machines are also useful for intermediate and advanced lifters, as they work to isolate specific muscles or muscle groups. Machines may also facilitate the ability to lift more weight, as you are more stable and controlled. Stationary machines hold your posture, thus they take out the necessity to have an advanced body awareness, and it can be easy to forget to activate your core muscles. Because a weight machine keeps the body in a stable position, it usually only works the muscle in one plane of motion at a time.
Free weights generally require heightened body awareness, as proper posture and core activation will reduce the risk of injury. When beginning to lift with free weights, you can start by doing many of the exercises seated as opposed to standing which keep a greater amount of control. Seated vs standing free weight exercises also allows for heavier weights to be lifted safely. Moving to dynamic equipment such as a TRX suspension system, a greater awareness of proper posture and core activation is recommended. Free weights also train the body in more than one plane of motion at a time. The body moves dynamically, and free weight training is more functional in terms of movements in every day life.
There are definitive benefits and drawbacks to both – mix it up and try something new. Remember that if you need help with any of the topics discussed, spotting, or an idea for a different exercise, please ask us!
The overall picture of wellness can be daunting, but don’t let that stop you. Your wellness can be tackled one small change at a time, and a big change for your health that really takes little effort is drinking more water.
Don’t underestimate the wonders that water can do for your health. Water cleans your dishes, car, and your clothes, and who out there doesn’t appreciate how good you feel after a shower? When you drink water, you’re doing that for your insides. Water is a key component in your overall health. It aids the body by flushing out toxins, regulating body temperature, assisting in digestion and relieving constipation, as well as aiding in weight loss.
Flushing out Toxins – Water allows the body to remove toxins through sweat and urine. Water also allows for greater function of the kidneys and even helps to reduce the chance of kidney stones by diluting those toxins.
Regulation of Body Temperature – When you get hot, you sweat. The sweat evaporates off your skin and leaves you with a more balanced body temperature.
Digestion – Water aids the breakdown of food and promotes regular bowel movements. Allowing our body to become dehydrated forces the body to extract water from the colon, leaving stool harder to pass. Adequate water consumption stops this process, thus relieving constipation.
Weight Loss – Drinking water in between and before meals makes the stomach feel full, reduces the urge to snack, and limits the amount of food we eat at meal times. Water is also has no calories in it, and replacing soda and other sugar filled drinks reduces our caloric intake.
There are a lot of words and phrases in the fitness world that can be confusing to even a seasoned gym-goer. I’m hoping to take some of the mystery out of your workout, and define some terms and equipment that can trip us up.
Sets – The number of cycles of repetitions of an exercise performed.
Repetitions (reps) – the number or times an exercise is executed in one set.
BOSU – Blue half ball with a rubber dome and hard black bottom. BOSU means BOth Sides Up, meaning you can exercise and do balance work on it dome up and dome down.
TRX – A portable suspension training system that leverages gravity and body weight. Traditionally black and yellow.
Fusion – Fusion Fitness refers to a blend of two forms of exercise. Most commonly we see it as a blend of Yoga and Pilates.
Plyometric – also known as “jump training” or “plyos”, are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (speed-strength).
HIIT Training – High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT mixes traditional strength exercise with high intensity cardiovascular intervals and plyometric exercises
Once upon a time, I was busy. I worked full time, participated in not one, not two, but three team sports. I walked the dog, I cooked, I cleaned, I did the laundry and grocery shopped, I prepped meals for days in advance, I did it all! I was Superwoman and conquering the world. And then it happened, I had a kid.
Once my daughter came along, the entire world as I knew it changed. At the beginning it’s all about the physical world around you. You’re no longer working and are suddenly up two, three, four times a night to feed this screaming little “bundle of joy”. You’re tired, you eat anything that’s easy to grab with one hand, and you watch horrible daytime TV without even realizing you’re doing it. What you may not see immediately is that your emotional world has completely shifted as well. You’ve put this new tiny person before yourself. Baby always eats first, sometimes two and three feedings go by before you even have time to drink your cold decaffeinated coffee. The fur-baby that was rapidly demoted to dog waits to go outside as patiently as she can, and when you stop long enough to notice what smells, you realize you haven’t had a shower in three days. Myself, I’d stopped working out regularly, ate fast, prepackaged and processed foods, and didn’t sleep nearly enough to get as much cleaning, laundry, etc… done in a day as I could.
Of course it gets better, but the theme stays the same unless you acknowledge and change it. The kid(s) is always going to be number one now, but part of making sure that you’re being the best parent you can be is to take care of yourself. That looks different in each of our individual lives. I chose to return to work on a part-time basis and I’m lucky that this was an option with my employer. Of course there are days where I’d do anything to be in a quiet office with a Starbucks, but overall I feel like I have found my balance.
My balance looks like this: I’m a full time parent with a little bit of help. We don’t have family living close by for assistance, so YMCA Child Minding sees my daughter twice a week. This allows me to get in two solid gym workouts a week, all my other workouts happen at home – that’s my “me” time. She participates in activities twice a week, and I try to schedule those on days where I’m already at the YMCA to give us some free time other days. We camp, hike, and bike as a family so she sees an active family lifestyle every day. Although she’s still pretty small (just two), I let her cook with me. I feel like this teaches her that we cook healthy meals together at home. I work three to four evenings when my husband gets home from work which allows me to still have time to be me instead of Mommy. I’m able to utilize my education and to socialize with adults and not have the conversation turn into whatever the heck Curious George got himself into that morning. I also let perfection go, I no longer live in a pristine house – it’s messy (not dirty!) and cluttered with toys. Now my home is filled with love and laughter, so that’s a trade off I accept happily.
What do you miss? What is it that you slowly gave up but didn’t even realize until now? What are you going to take time to do for you and only you?
Whatever your situation is, I’m here to tell you that you need, and I mean NEED to take that time for yourself. Life is really busy if you let it be, and finding balance is an absolute essential to having your life be a happy one.
As the summer winds down, a fair number of us we will be heading back into our favorite fitness classes. It’s going to be much busier than it has been all summer, and all of these people are going to be at different fitness levels. Pack your patience with your shoes and post-workout snack! We will have participants that have kept it up all summer, returning participants that enjoyed a summer off, and new participants that want to be the best version of themselves. As our classes begin to thrive, please take a moment to reacquaint yourself with five Fitness Class Etiquette Tips to make the experience smooth for everyone.
1. Arrive on Time – joining a class late* can be both distracting and unsafe. Please respect your fellow attendees as well as your instructor and arrive to classes a bit early or right on time. This will also allow you a proper warm-up, reducing your chance of injury. *If lateness is unavoidable, please go to the back of the class.
2. Choose Proper Footwear – closed toed shoes (running shoes, cross-trainers etc…) will provide a non-slip grip on the floor and any equipment utilized in your class. Ensure that your footwear is clean of all dirt and debris. If you wouldn’t wear it in your house, please don’t wear it in our workout areas.
3. Make your Workout Your Own – The instructor is there to guide you through YOUR workout; listen to your body and modify as you see fit. If you are going to modify your workout significantly from the instructor’s planned program, please move to the back of the room as to not distract others from the instructor’s guidance.
4. Socializing – should be done either before or after the class. Talking throughout the class can be viewed as disrespect to not only the other participants, but to the instructor as well. If you can talk, you’re not working hard enough!
5. Stay for the Whole Class – Flexibility is a large part of your overall wellness! Be sure to take the time to stretch out the muscles you’re worked. Not only will it reduce soreness in the day(s) after, but it will reduce risk for injury down the road.
Eating clean means different things to different people. For some clean eating may mean a vegetarian or vegan diet, switching to gluten free, removing processed foods, or choosing organics. For some, eating clean can be as simple as removing junk food like chips and candies from our diets.
Eating clean is subjective, and is based on what our current diet is. For me, clean eating is all in the pronunciation. Being able to pronounce all of the ingredients in what I eat, and knowing what each ingredient is. When I think of clean, I always think of water, water washes away the dirt and grime on our cars, our floors, our clothes so it stands to reason water will wash the toxins out of our body as well.
Any change that you can make towards cleaning up your dietary intake is a positive one. Remember that it doesn’t have to be a huge change, and that small steps forward are more successful changes than making a drastic change all at once.
Weight-Room etiquette is basically the same at every gym or club. At the YMCA we like to base our etiquette on four core values displayed prominently in every location across Calgary and Canada alike. Following the basic idea of these core values both personally and within the facility allows all members to show one another the kindness of these core values in our workout areas.
Honesty – Personal – Listen to your body and acknowledge what your limits are; push yourself to those limits. Hitting below won’t give you the results you desire, and above may lead to injury. Facility – There isn’t a sign-up for our cardio machines as there once was, but we do ask that members honor the 30-minute maximum during busy or peak times when someone could be waiting.
Caring – Personal – Care for yourself by eating well, sleeping well, and creating a wellness balance in your life. Facility – allow others to work-in between your sets. Working together can help build new relationships and friendships within our YMCA community.
Respect – Personal – Acknowledge that you are being the best version of yourself and stop comparing yourself to others. Cherish the uniqueness that is you! Facility – wipe down equipment after use, no one wants to use equipment that hasn’t been cleaned! The staff and volunteer team has a cleaning list that covers all equipment in the gym and we do our best to keep things are clean as possible for member use.
Responsibility – Personal – Hold yourself accountable, don’t blame external forces if you stumble. It happens to everyone; own it and move past it. Facility – Clean up after yourself; put weights away, cable attachments back to where they belong, and take pride in being part of our YMCA community.
The YMCA prides itself on delivering four core values in our every day engagements. As a member of the YMCA, we hope that you feel those core values every time you are in our facilities, as well as paying it forward to one another.
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