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.
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
Inspiration comes in many forms, for me music is a huge motivator. I’ve always been a musically inclined person, even if I didn’t know it. I started in elementary school playing the recorder, graduated to the clarinet for junior and senior high school, and I still play the clarinet today, mind you not nearly as well anymore. I have always been able to feel and move to the beat of the song but don’t be mistaken, I dance like Elaine from “Seinfeld”. There I go dating myself again.
Music is an expression of feeling or mood, even an expression of identity for some. I have several playlists that I listen to when working out, and they’re all based what my program of the day consists of as well as the mood I am in walking into my workout. I edit my playlists about once a month to update my motivation and keep from overplaying these delightful gems.
When I want to hit the cardio hard, I focus on pop music, whether it’s current top 40 or from another generation all together, if it makes me smile and want to dance, it makes the cut. This week’s current cardio-killer favorites include Justin Timberlake’s “Cant Stop The Feeling”, Will.I.Am and Britney Spears “Scream & Shout”, Nicki Manaj “Super Bass”, and Men Without Hats “Safety Dance”. Love them or hate them my friends, but they make me smile and move a little bit faster.
Weight lifting/resistance training is a completely different beast for me. My focus and mindset changes, as I suddenly have to pay close attention to my posture and form as well as breathing and core engagement. With so many more factors to be considered, I need something rock to focus.. My favorite lifting anthems right now include Rise Against “Prayer Of The Refugee”, Metallica “Better Than You”, and Social Distortion “Story Of My Life”.
Cool down and stretching are important components of fitness that are forgotten or skipped quite frequently. I have made my self an amazing chill playlist to enjoy at the end of my workout to inspire me to stay those five minutes longer and work on my balance, range of motion, and relaxation. Current favorites include The Gaslight Anthem’s “Bring It On”, Pearl Jam’s “Release”, and Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.
I’m pretty passionate about both wellness and music, so I’m elated that the two can go hand in hand for me. I feel like my musical tastes are a part of me and I’m happy to share a snippet of myself in the form of musical identity with you. Take the time to build a stellar playlist. Keep a list in your “notes” app on your phone of songs you hear and decide you love so you can download and add it later. Something that makes you want to dance, sing and have a great time. It’ll brighten up your day, kick up the intensity in your workout, and leave you feeling refreshed and in a better mood walking out of the gym.
Shake it Off!
Fitness isn’t necessarily what it used to be. Fitness is a word that brings specific images to mind and for a lot of us, that’s a very specific image of the roots of the word fitness: leg warmers, spandex, and more spandex. Changing the idea of what fitness is has come over time but it looks like we’re going in a good direction, changing that image to one of overall Wellness. That wellness comes from five different aspects:
Cardiovascular Endurance – Conditioning of the cardiovascular system in the body. The ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and take waste materials away for a sustained period of time Example – biking, running, swimming
Muscular Strength – The maximum force that a muscle can deliver force in in one repetition
Muscular Endurance – The ability of a muscle to deliver force over a sustained period of time
Flexibility – The movement of a muscle around a joint in a full Range of Motion (ROM). Important to note: flexibility is different from stretching, stretching actually increases flexibility
Body Composition – The body’s make up of lean muscle, bone, fat mass, and tissues/organs. The ratio of these masses in the body is considered your body composition
So remember that fitness is more than spandex and leg-warmers. It’s about our overall wellness, including our cardiovascular and muscular systems, lifestyle, sleep and eating patterns.
Let’s be well.
You’ve packed your bag the night before, filled your water bottle, packed the kid’s snacks and booked her into child-minding. She wakes up with a fever. Sigh.
You got all of your paperwork filed, you’ve had your morning snack and have a packed lunch to eat at your desk after a lunch-time run. Your phone rings, and it’s a client crisis that just can’t wait. Sigh.
No matter what the scenario that you’re hit with, the one thing that gets missed in your day always seems to be you. For a workout veteran, this can be disappointing, frustrating, changing the mood and course of your entire day. For a rookie, this can be catastrophic, completely derailing your momentum.
How can you combat this? Here are five not-so-average body weight exercises that you can do at home or in the office with absolutely no equipment. Before you even begin, take a moment and focus awareness on your posture. Hold your core in tight (belly button towards your spine), open up your chest and pull your shoulder blades back. Bring your chin up and tuck your pelvis under just a bit to protect your lower back. OK, let’s go!
1. Sumo-Squat – Targets the Leg Adductors (inner thigh) – Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointing out towards “10 and 2 o’clock”. Raise your hands out in front of you as a counter-balance, and push your glutes (bum) backwards, bending at the knee. Be sure to keep your knees behind your toes and your head up. If you feel a strain in your lower back, come back to your starting position and reset your posture. Every time you get to the top of your range of motion, squeeze your glutes tight.
2. Plank Jack/Jump Jack – Targets the Core, Leg Adductors, Shoulders – Start in a prone plank position, on either your hands or elbows, knees or toes. Hop your legs out laterally and back in, come to a standing position and up for a jumping jack. Come back into that starting plank position and repeat. Be sure to watch that your glutes don’t pop up into the air, as that essentially deactivates your abdominal recruitment. To make this lower impact, walk out 1 leg at a time in both positions.
3. Roll-Overs – Targets Oblique Abdominals (Core) – Starting on your stomach, stretch out your arms and point your toes. Roll over onto your back without using your arms/hands to assist you. Roll back onto your stomach in the other direction.
4. Plank Kick-Backs – Targets the Core, Glutes – Start in a prone plank position, on either your hands or elbows, knees or toes. Tighten your glutes (bum muscles) and slowly lift your leg upwards and back towards the ceiling. Alternate sides. Be aware of hip positioning and try to keep the pointy bones on either side of your pelvis (ASIS) pointed down towards the ground. This will help to keep your hips from rolling open to the side
5. Incline or Decline Push-Up – Targets the Pectorals (chest) – Start with a basic push-up. You can do this on either the knees or the toes. Come down to the floor as low as you can go, and push your body weight back up. If you’re on your knees, try to keep the fleshy spot just above your knee cap in contact with the floor. This will keep your hips and glutes down enabling your core to stabilize your body. Incline: have your hands positioned 6-12 inches higher on a platform. The higher up you are, the easier the push-up becomes. Decline: place your feet up on a platform, with hands on the ground. When progressing from a knee push-up to toe, start with incline, progressing to flat or decline push-ups.
To add intensity, jog on the spot or add a set of jumping jacks in between each exercise.
No Excuses left, let’s go!
What a great day to change your life. So where do you start?
Part One – Overhauling Your Dietary Habits
This is a huge piece to the wellness puzzle, and oh my goodness is there ever a TON of conflicting information out there. It’s impossible to be able to tell the good information from the not-so-good sometimes, especially with all the different “fad” diets, cleanses, and restrictions that affect our eating habits. The resource that is recommended by Health Canada is Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating which includes examples of what foods fit into each of four food groups. It also offers tips on how to eat optimally for your age and gender, beginning at age two (younger children should follow the advice of their family physician to ensure all health requirements are being met).
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating also gives examples of proper portion sizes. The reality is that we could actually be over or under-eating certain foods and not even know it. Did you know that one bagel is actually two servings of grain products? That two eggs is one serving of Meat and Alternatives? That half a cup of pure fruit juice is one serving? I have personally found it helpful to have a food scale in my home. Having the visual really helped me to learn what a single portion looks like, and has helped me to ensure that myself as well as my entire family is eating a healthy and balanced diet. So much information is available just by going to:
Real change takes work, commitment, and willpower. Dietary habits are life-long habits which you have become accustomed to from a young age, and it can be difficult to learn a different eating culture. Changing small things (to start!) can help to find long-term success. A few tips that you can do to get started are:
- Choose whole grain bread products over white, it will help you feel full longer
- Increase water consumption – drink a glass of water before you eat a meal
- Choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice
- Trim visible fats from your meat and remove the skin from poultry
- Try something new! Tofu, quinoa, soy, brown rice, lentils etc. might sound bizarre to you, but you might amaze yourself with the items that you actually like!
It is important to note that that specialized diets do have a place in wellness, however if you are restricting anything from your diet (ie: dairy, gluten/wheat, sugar) My advice is to have a registered dietician or physician’s recommendation and guidance to do so safely.
It’s that time again – Mid January! Did you know, that mid-to-late January is called, “Blue Monday?” Yes! One reason is because it is during this time, that we start to fail, or drop our New Year Resolution’s (NYR) after the short period of creating them. Here’s a few ways to assist you in maintaining those fitness goals and New Year’s Resolutions!
Choose an Obtainable/Realistic Goal: One step at a time. Don’t set yourself up to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a month, or the next top model. Firstly, that isn’t healthy and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Break it down into small steps: Creating small goals throughout the month (Ex. running on the treadmill for 15 min. 3 times a week and making my way to running for 30 min. 3 times a week until the end of February) makes a much bigger difference in accomplishing your goals.
Tell/ask friend’s/family regarding your fitness goals: The great thing about telling someone about your fitness goals is you then have someone to be accountable to. Next time they see you, a simple, “Hey, did you workout this week? How’s the progress?” can greatly help in motivating you to keep at your goals. Personally, I know that when I have a major goal, I tell my close friends and family so they can help me stay on track as well as give me incentive to do better.
Write them down, display them: To help in motivating you to keep at it’ during this year, try writing your resolutions and goals down where you can see them. For example, the fridgerator, the pantry where the chocolates are… (haha), in your vehicle, etc. I find that material objects I use daily such as my laptop, and cell phone are great places to create a ‘note’ so it will stay in the back of my mind throughout the day.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, we all fall: It’s okay to slip-up and make a mistake. We all do! In Batman Begins, Thomas Wayne (Bruce’s father) tells him: “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” So don’t be too hard on yourself. As cliché as it sounds, Never give up! It’s okay to admit we need assistance or help. The staff at the YMCA will always be ready to assist you in attaining your fitness goals!
Reward Yourself: After setting those little goals for yourself, it’s good to reward yourself after every ‘milestone’. Treat yourself that white chocolate raspberry Crème brûlée you’ve been drooling over! Buy yourself those new sneakers. When you work hard, you deserve it!
YMCA Calgary will be waiving the joining fee in January!
This January, YMCA is making it easier than ever to get involved and make a difference in your health and wellness. For the first time ever, YMCA is waiving the joining fee! Join in January and you’ll save up to $75.00.
Because YMCA Calgary understands that every dollar counts, especially now. Take control and join a community that will keep you motivated to reach all your health goals.
Get started today!
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