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.
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!
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.
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!
Part Two – Putting One Foot in Front of the Other; the Beginning of Cardiovascular Wellness.
Getting yourself moving sounds like an easy step, but for someone who is beginning their wellness journey for the first time, or someone who is starting to work out again after some time off, it can be really daunting.
Try Different Things The first place a beginner heads to when they walk in the door is the treadmill. Keep in mind that there are a lot of different things you can try when getting started, but overall the best place for anyone new to the gym is the place that makes you feel comfortable, safe, and secure. I’m a fitness professional, and the idea of hanging out on a treadmill for an hour sounds absolutely dreadful to me. The key to finding a successful cardiovascular program is to change it up and find something that you like to do. The treadmill might be your favorite place in the gym, others will find the elliptical, track, or bike your happy place. If you want to try something and don’t know how or are intimidated by it, please ask us! There are staff working in the weight room at all of our facilities and as active people, we would much rather talk to and help our members than sit at a desk!
Not Everyone is Built to Run Every single one of us is different. Our body’s physiology and genetic code plays a great deal into what our optimal style of workout is. There are different muscle fibres in each of us that will make certain styles of physical activity easier than others. If you absolutely dread long distances, try inserting some higher intensity intervals into your workout. An example of this is to run a lap, do a set of jumping jacks, running stairs, or jump rope etc… in-between resistance training (weight lifting) sets. So of you don’t like to run, don’t stress! There’s always something else to try!
Find Your Target Heart Rate Zone, and Stay Within It! An individual’s target heart rate zone (THRZ) is based on age. The easiest way to figure out your THRZ is with this basic equation: 220-(age)= Heart Rate Max (HRM) This is a number that we should aim to never surpass when doing cardiovascular activity. Multiply that number by .6 and you will get 60% of your HRM. Multiply that first number again by .8 to find 80% HRM. During your cardiovascular workout, you would want to monitor your heart rate and keep it between 60% and 80% of your HRM For example, if you were 25 years old, your math would look like this:
- 220 – 25 = 195 beats per minute (BPM) as your Heart Rate Max
- 195 x .6 = 117 BPM
- 195 x .8 = 156 BPM
This would mean that you want your heart rate somewhere in between 117 and 156 BPM during your cardiovascular workout.
Other Options Hiking groups, team sports or group fitness classes are an amazing way to sneak in a little cardio without even noticing it! It’s fun, it’s interactive, and you can meet new people who are living a healthy balanced life to help keep you on track. Here at the YMCA there are numerous different options to get involved in both aspects. There are registered and drop-in group fitness classes offered at every branch in the city. We also offer climbing wall classes, swim and aquatic fitness classes, as well as some sport options. These can differ from branch to branch, so check what is offered at your home branch. A lot of towns and cities have different recreational organizations to help people get involved with team sports as well. In Calgary, a great resource to check out the Calgary Sport and Social Club. You can join a sport by registering a full team, partial team, or an as individual to make up a full team.
Build the Habit If you miss a day, don’t get discouraged! It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other, and sometimes a stumble will happen. This is where you need to pick yourself up, dust off those hands and take another step. Think to yourself the number twenty one. 21. XXI. It takes twenty one days to build a habit. Twenty one days to notice a real difference in your physiology. Twenty one days. Keep putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll hit your stride. You’ve got this.
Due to the immense popularity of our Youth Hap Ki Do programs we have created an additional class on Fridays from 6:45-7:45pm for children aged 6-11 years. If your child missed out on the 5:30 class here is your second chance!
Parents – this is a great opportunity get your own workout in while your child is busy learning new skills!
Youth Hap Ki Do (6-11 years)
Starting January 16th
M$90 NM$120 (10 classes)
Call 403-237-2393 to register or visit Member Services.
I attended the Fitness Kickboxing demo class here at Saddletowne a little while ago and I found the class to be invigorating and fun. After the warm up, the instructor taught us a variety of punching techniques and combinations which we then got to practice with a partner using gloves and pads. Afterwards she led us through some kicking techniques and combinations which we practiced again. By the end of the class we put it all together in punching and kicking combinations with our partners.
I worked up a good sweat in the class and definitely felt my muscles the next day. The exercises especially helped to challenge my core strength and coordination as well as my mental focus and reflexes. I loved being able to engage in a contact sport with another person, express some playful aggression and let off steam in a way that was safe, fun and empowering.
I definitely recommend Fitness Kickboxing as a different kind of fitness class that will produce great results, increase your confidence and challenge you in new ways.
Fitness Kickboxing is offered at the Saddletowne YMCA on Sundays from 6:30-7:30pm beginning January 11th. To register call 403-237-2393 and quote barcode # 96569.
Beginning April 5
M: $108 NM: $162 (12 classes)
In the interest of serving our members better, and at the same time remaining in line with the best practices in our industry, the Eau Claire YMCA recently sponsored the four full time staff members of the strength and conditioning department to attend a 3-day certification course on delivering and programming the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).
What is the FMS?
The FMS is a quick and easy tool comprised of 7 movement patterns which identify deficiencies, asymmetries (left/right imbalances) and indicators of pain across multiple joints and planes of movement e.g. shoulder issues that may be causing low back pain or vice-versa. It was developed in the late 90s by Gray Cook and Lee Burton, both physical therapists, and has since been adopted by professional sports teams, the military, police and fire services, EMS, and a growing number of commercial fitness facilities.
What does this mean for my training?
Primarily, it empowers your trainer to identify and work towards correcting deficient patterns in your everyday movement that if unaddressed may lead to injury, or most likely re-injury, since we typically develop asymmetries during injury recovery. Overall, it means that your trainer is better equipped to make you stronger, leaner and more fit to keep you running, swimming, biking and hiking for many years to come.
Where do I go from here? How do I get involved?
To get screened, register your interest with one of our member services staff*. You can also contact Geoff Starling (see below) or speak to one of the weight floor staff.
For more information on the FMS, check out: www.functionalmovement.com
*Please be aware that as a pilot program only full time staff of the Eau Claire Strength & Conditioning department are presently capable of delivering the FMS. Other branches will likely complete the necessary training as demand grows.
Strength & Conditioning Director
Eau Claire YMCA
Beginning January 18
M: $90 NM: $135 (10 classes)
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