Monday, November 26, 2007

And Snap! The Job's a Game!

The hardest part about sports and fitness is deciding what you like to do.

Think about it: you will not continue with an activity if you do not enjoy it, no matter how "useful" or "rewarding" it is supposed to be. If it's not fun, it's not worth your time.

But how do you decide what you like? Try it all. Sign up for tester or sample classes, no matter how weird the activity sounds. If it interests you, give it a fair shake. Only once you've tried it can you decide you don't like it.

While I now know my first love is running, I didn't always know that. In junior high, I was subject to oodles of sports I could cross off my list:
  • basketball (the hoop was way too high for this vertically challenged person)
  • volleyball (how do other people manage to volley in the direction of the net?)
  • tennis (tiny ball, small racket: need I say more?)
  • badminton (see reference to tennis above, but add a giggle when thinking about the word "shuttlecock")
When I finally got to sports I liked, it was hard to choose the final one. I was on the eighth grade soccer team but discovered long distance running in high school. I stayed with it for years, took time off in college (when the dogs would let me) then started up again soon after beginning my life in the workaday world.

So, I found out what I liked to do. Then came the question: when?

I never thought I couldn't exercise while working for a living. Time might have been at a premium and my schedule prevented it for a while, but I figured the opportunity would arise. After all, my dad ran every day at lunch for decades — so what was my excuse? Being winded after walking up one of the steepest staircases in the Metrorail system was my anti-excuse.

Now, I try other things from time to time. When the weather is bad or when I want to give my spine or neck a rest from its daily five-mile pounding, I climb on the stairclimber or the elliptical. I have tried zumba (very cool!) and bellydancing (very fun!), kickboxing (which threw out my back, bless its heart) and step aerobics (snoozeville).

So find something that you find fun and use that as your excuse to get fit. Chances are, you'll succeed if you enjoy what you're doing.

- Chris

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Right Time

I was in the gym this morning to meet with a client and, as usual, I perused the room to make sure no one was doing anything dangerous.

Really, almost every day, someone is doing something dangerous. Today was no exception.

A guy on the cable lat pulldown machine was pulling the weights down way too fast, then letting them drop when he put them in the reset position. This wrenched his shoulders.

Too many people exercise too little control over the weights they try to lift.

The proper timing for each repetition is five to seven seconds: two to three seconds on the contraction (shortening of the muscles), and three to four seconds on the ecentric motion (lengthening of the muscles). Remember: always breathe out on the exertion.

If you remember only one axiom, let it be this: it's not about how much you can lift, but how much you can lift safely.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Change Up Your Routine

Has this ever happened to you?

You want to add some muscle or maybe lose a couple of unwanted pounds, so you go to the gym and put together a routine.
You work out two, three, four times a week. Within the first couple of weeks, you see results.

Because this routine is working for you, you keep at it exactly the same way. For the next three or four weeks, the routine does its magic, and you are pleased.

Right around week six, the magic ends. The results that came so quickly and easily at first suddenly come to a screeching halt.
(Remember: your mileage may vary.) You stay at it for another month, but you're having a Barry Manilow moment — trying to get the feeling again. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. You're at a standstill.

Less than three months in, you're out. Why put in the effort if there's nothing to be gained? You let your gym membership lapse in disgust.

Next thing you know, the weight slowly comes back. All that work for nothing.

Here's how to get back to the fast track: change your routine. Sure, it worked at the beginning, but that was then. This is now, and your body has smarted up and acclimated to the amount of stress placed on it.

One of the best ways is to constantly keep your body off-balance by cross-training. By doing different sports, different exercises, you constantly put different stresses on different muscle groups. That's the difference.

So, instead of lifting first before a cardio session, mix in the cardio by jumping rope between your weight lifting sets. This keeps your heart rate elevated for maximum fat burning — and may shorten your time at the gym.

Or completely reverse your routine. For example, if you lift large muscle groups to smaller (like you should have been doing to begin with), lift smaller muscle groups to larger from time to time. You'd be surprised how different it feels.

It doesn't take much, as you can see — just be sure to try anything you can think of to successfully and safely keep your body off-balance.

If you have questions or suggestions, leave them in the comment section below. Let me know how this works for you.