By Wenham resident, Regina Baker RN and Certified Personal Fitness Trainer (Ipswich Family YMCA)
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, that is even true for your fitness routine. Not only in what you choose to do to create your work-out, but in the types of exercises and when. Combining cardio, strength, and flexibility into your schedule will maximize your results as well as decrease your risk of injury. Now that you’re motivated, let’s look at how it should be done.
Cardio is any rhythmic movement such as brisk walking, running, dancing, swimming, etc. sustained for at least 30 and up to 60 minutes for weight loss at an exertion level ( i.e. how hard you think you are working) of moderate to hard intensity. Heavy breathing and able to speak in 3-5 word sentences means your in an “aerobic” state. This should be done 5-7 days a week.
Already overwhelmed and can’t possibly fit it in? Try 10 minute bursts of cardio 3 times a day to achieve the same results. Also, mix it up with different activities. If you are in the fitness center, do different machines for 10-15 minute intervals or do something different on different days. Our bodies were designed to move and the health benefits prove it. Not only in weight loss, but a healthy heart seen by improving and reversing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, etc. You are worth it!
Strength is described as resistance training or muscle conditioning. This involves applying a force or workload on a muscle group in a series of 8-15 repetitions, at a pace of 2-4 counts for at least 2 sets. Allow the muscle to contract and flex (release), resulting in that muscle becoming lean and strong.
Building stronger muscles creates stronger bones and not only decreases but prevents injury. The goal is to work the 8 major opposing muscle groups to enhance muscle balance : Biceps /Triceps; Chest/ Back; Shoulders/Lats; Quads/Hamstrings. The resistance/workload should be hard enough that by the 6th repetition you are able to keep your form but the muscle is getting fatigued. If your reps are so easy you feel as though you could go on forever it is not enough resistance and may lead to over-use, causing injury.
Weights, bands and machines are standard resistance options but don’t stop there, you have what you need right at the Y or at home. Your own body resistance can be used for things like push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, and tricep dips. Milk jugs or water bottles can be used for bicep curls, shoulder presses, and chest flies. Explore which options you would most likely commit to, mix up a variety to avoid boredom and find a work-out buddy to help stay motivated.
Challenge yourself! Incorporate the strength training portion of your work-out on 2-3 non-consecutive days (allowing muscle recovery and change to take place) . This can be on your days off from cardio or you can do upper body one day and lower body the following. Once you build that lean muscle on your body your metabolism can increase to burn up to 400 calories a day more!
Flexibility is explained by stretching. We tend to skip this portion of our workouts for convenience when in fact it is one of the most important. From avoiding injury from tight muscles to improving range of motion and ease in movement, flexibility contributes highly to our success and commitment to a healthy exercise routine. In all your workouts, cardio and strength, after a 5-7 minute warm-up be sure to take the time to stretch each muscle group and then again at the cool-down phase. Each stretch should be 10-20 seconds and breathing is very important. Not only is this a great stress reducer but also muscle soreness can be diminished while the recovery phase of the work-out is enhanced. You will be glad you stretched!
Great job in your commitment to your health. Utilize the resources and guidance you receive along the way, have fun and stay strong in your journey to fitness success!
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