The Importance of Stretching

The reason we go to the gym or workout is to exercise, right? We often forget to stretch prior to exercising. It is almost as if you’re trying to eat a muffin without taking off the tin foil wrap making it more difficult to access the muffin. Stretching mirrors the role of the tin foil thus by stretching, it is easier to exercise. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think tin foil chews well or tastes very good in my mouth, Ha ha.

Different studies prompt different results of stretching. Some studies show that stretching has no benefit, but for the most part, stretching is a useful part of working out.

Results of stretching include:

  • Improvement in performance
  • Decrease in risk of injury
  • Reduced soreness in muscles
  • Increase of blood flow

However, I believe the most important effect of stretching is the increased range of motions. Flexibility is a luxury and I forget that because I’m always working my flexibility by stretching. It takes time and consistent practice, but I couldn’t imagine living with constant soreness and difficulty in bodily movements.

Stretching isn’t the most comfortable thing at the beginning since you will feel burns in places you didn’t even know could burn. However, it will be worth it once you have an easier time moving around.

When muscles are tight and then used for an activity that can be strenuous to them, they become damaged from suddenly being stretched too far. Then, they become unable to support the joints prompting joint injury. Stretching beforehand gets the muscles warmed up so they don’t become damaged when moved a certain way too quickly.

Stretching can be overwhelming at first, but all body parts don’t need to be stretched. Some of the critical places to be stretched are your calves, hip flexors, quadriceps, shoulders and hamstrings. You can find stretches for these areas on Google or YouTube, but if you are interested in finding a stretch program to fit your condition, consult a physical therapist.

References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/stretching/art-20047931

 

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Load-a Yoga

Over the summer, I work at a theater camp where main role is to teach dance, but my job includes leading any physical movement for the kids. Each session I receive about 20-25 kids which can become chaotic when I’m by myself.

Two years ago I began incorporating yoga into the daily schedule at the camp and I then realized the power of yoga and meditation. It kept the kids focused and concentrated and worked to mute the sound of children.

Yoga is underrated because people see exercise as something that makes one breathe hard. However, yoga contributes to fitness by working other areas such as flexibility and balance even though some types of yoga can get you breathing hard or help with weight loss.

Many local gyms and community centers offer yoga classes to adults. There is an instructor that leads the yoga routine and often times yoga mats are supplied. However, I’d advise bringing your own yoga mat since you don’t know who used the public yoga mats previously. Always bring a water bottle and wear tighter fitting clothing so it isn’t hanging all over the place and doesn’t get in the way of the movements.

Yoga classes aren’t for everyone. It is okay to be embarrassed and rather not do yoga in front of a class of people. If you have an open area and yoga mat at home, you can move the class to your own home, minus the other people of course. Grokker has yoga videos for almost any type of yoga desired. Whether it is weight loss or cardio or meditation, Grokker has a yoga video for it. Youtube also has tons of yoga videos and meditation music as well.

The Gym & Memberships: Dun Dun Dun

After recently getting my driver’s license, I took a drive to the local YMCA. My intention was to workout and use some machines that I don’t have access to at home. I accomplished my intention while becoming interested in why and what people use the gym over home fitness.

Normally I see many young people or people around my age at the YMCA, but according to Credit Donkey, the average age of people that go to the gym is 40 years old. That being said, much of this high average age is due to group workout classes at the gym such as Zumba, yoga, barre, kickboxing, etc. Many adults tend to engage in these and 2 out of 5 health club members are involved in a group workout class.

The number of health club members around the United States is continuing to rise and currently stands at just over 50 million. You would think the reason for choosing a gym membership would be the quality of equipment or access to personal trainers, but the top reason is the proximity to wherever one lives. I mean a home gym is even closer, but the equipment for that can begin to break the bank.

Sometimes a membership can break the bank too. People that paid per visit (~$10) are generally able to save more money that those with a membership. If you’re paying for a $70/month membership, but only go to the gym four times that month, you’re paying an extra $30 than you could’ve paid if you paid per visit. However, many gyms won’t let you pay per visit or use the gym unless you have a membership or are accompanying a guest.

If you are considering getting a gym membership, don’t start at the beginning of the year. New Year’s resolutions to lose weight or to use the gym more flush people’s minds causing the gym to become very crowded during January and February. Consider holding your membership off until the end of February or even March because 14% of the resolution seekers stop attending the gym by the end of February. By waiting, you’ll be able to find that open spot on the treadmill with no line!

You don’t need to be the hulk to lift

I, for one, would never consider myself strong, but I had the desire to tone my arms a few months ago. I didn’t even know where to begin because I had no clue how to use any of the equipment at the gym and I refused to ask for help because I was embarrassed.

One of my friends is a gym addict so I asked her what her secret to her toned arms was and she told me light weightlifting. I was shocked at how someone was able to achieve nice arms with small weightlifting.

She gave me insight to her arm routine at the gym and it is a routine that can be done at home with a few weights. I’d advise getting 2 7.5 pound weights, 2 10 pound weights, and 2 12.5, 15, or 17.5 pound weights to begin. You can even begin with 5 pound weights if that is more comfortable for you.

Here are some ideas for small arm exercises with the recommended weight:

*Recommendations are for the beginner/intermediate level

An important component of fitness and the FITT Principle is intensity. In weightlifting, intensity refers to the number of reps made and amount of weight you lift. Reps are the number of repetitions of an exercise within each set. The typical number of reps is between 8 and 12 and the number of sets is normally 3 or 4 and there is a small rest period between each set. You don’t want to perform too many reps as it could wear out your muscles.

Performing small arm exercises with dumbbells a few times a week can work to tone your arms in a short amount of time. The weight of the dumbbells can be changed over time as one becomes stronger. Dumbbells can be found at your local gym or you can buy your own online at Amazon or SPRI.

For more exercises, search “Small arm weight workout” on google and you will surely find more 🙂

Zumba!

In my opinion, there is nothing better than dancing and jamming out to loud music. But there is only so much space for me to do that in my room until I knock something over. Zumba is a great way to channel that inner energy and have a really enjoyable time.

The concept of Zumba comes from having an instructor lead a series of dances or dance moves to the beat of energetic music. There are many different types of dance incorporated into Zumba including hip hop, tango, salsa, samba, mambo and other styles reminiscent of South American cultures.  

Zumba was first founded by Alberto Perez, a Colombian choreographer, in the 1990s. There is no history behind the name “Zumba” so it was decided upon for the brand name. Since the program is trademarked, all the instructors are licensed by Zumba Fitness, LLC.

15 million people around the world in 180 different countries have taken advantage of this program. Many local gyms and community centers offer Zumba classes, but if you don’t want to get a gym membership, you can also do it at home!

If you search on YouTube one of your favorite upbeat songs with “Zumba” after it, you will probably be able to find a Zumba dance to the song. If not, just search “Zumba Workout” and click on one that looks the most fun to you. 

To get yourself burning the 500-1000 calories burned in a normal Zumba class, find Zumba videos on YouTube where you can follow the moves of the instructor for about an hour. The moves don’t need to be performed perfectly; however, they do need to be performed at the highest energy and effort to reap the benefits.

Zumba, in my opinion, is one of the most enjoyable forms of physical activity since the music is playing loud and there is so much focus on following the instructor, you almost forget you are exercising.

For more information about Zumba classes in your area or about Zumba in general click here.

*If you are looking for an extra Zumba challenge, see if your area offers water Zumba classes at a local pool. The resistance of the water makes it more difficult, but it’s a nice way to get exercise and cool off during the hot summers.