Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Focusing on Flexibility in Fitness: Stretching’s Role in Workouts

ThinkstockPhotos-607478378.jpgAfter a workout, it’s important to relax your mind and body. A great way to make sure the muscles are relaxed after a workout is to stretch. Many people overlook the importance of flexibility in fitness, not realizing that with improved flexibility you can enhance your workouts.

Even just adding in 5 to 10 minutes of stretching after a workout is better than nothing! You do not have to set aside 30 minutes a day for flexibility; quick sessions after a workout are great to relieve the tension in your muscles. When I stretch after a workout session, I can tell I have a better range of motion, my muscles are pliable, and the stress from the workout eases tremendously. Most mornings when I wake up, it’s a struggle to even be able to touch my toes. With a quick stretch, I am instantly moving better.

Flexibility’s Role in Functional Movement

Flexibility is often overlooked because it’s not something seen as a component of health and wellness. When it comes to exercise, most people are looking to lose weight, run faster, lift heavier weights, and become a stronger person overall. They fail to realize that when you improve your flexibility, you will also increase your workout performance as well as increase your ability to tackle everyday activities (functional fitness).

As we age, we know it becomes increasingly difficult to be as mobile as we were before. Bones become more fragile and muscles tend to lose elasticity. This is where flexibility really comes into play. When you keep up with stretching and loosening those muscles daily with flexibility, you are increasing your body’s range of motion. With a greater range of motion comes the ease of accomplishing everyday activities.

The Best Time to Stretch

When’s the best time to stretch? The best time to static stretch is after a workout. Many of us have been taught that it is important to warm up the muscles with stretching before exercise. Many scientists have determined that is not the case. Stretching the muscles before an intense exercise session can do more harm to them than good; it may actually inhibit the ability for the muscle to fire when it is supposed to.

It is important to warm the muscles up with dynamic movements versus static. Dynamic exercises will activate the reflexes in the muscles and tendons, whereas static stretching is just pulling on the muscles before they are warmed up. Static stretching is best after exercise during recovery because it helps the body cool down from a workout; the muscles are warm from the workout, making them easier to stretch.

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Topics: stretching flexibility workouts recovery functional movement

Tips for an Effective Exercise Program

ThinkstockPhotos-497351161.jpgYou know you want and need to have a regular plan for your exercise, but where do you begin to
 develop an exercise program? Here are my best tips for creating a workout regimen that will work for you whether you are in your corporate fitness center, or at home and on the go.

Setting Goals

Setting goals establishes a justifiable reason for consistent exercise. Having a goal in place can also improve commitment and has been shown to improve adherence to programs and routines. The SMART system was designed as an acronym to help with goal setting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Ideally, established goals should be characterized by these five words. Following the SMART guideline can improve the chances that you will achieve your goals.

The Mind-Muscle Connection

When it comes to resistance exercise, building muscle and strength is about much more than going through the motions. As you would imagine, concentration is an important part of achieving any goal, and focused concentration becomes even more important during resistance training. This focused concentration during weightlifting is the mind-muscle connection, and refers to contracting or tensing a muscle not only through physical movement, but also through thought. An example of someone incorporating the mind-muscle connection would be an individual performing a biceps curl and focusing their concentration on slowly flexing the elbow joint using the biceps muscle, as opposed to just going through the movement.

Variety

Whether speaking about aerobic capacity, muscular strength, or muscular endurance, fitness is all about adaptation. For example, the heart eventually adapts to aerobic exercise when it is performed consistently, and it begins to pump blood and oxygen more efficiently. Muscles adapt to strength/resistance training by recruiting more muscle fibers and possibly splitting the fibers to form new muscle cells. However, physiological adaptations do not always yield positive results, which is why variety plays an important role.

Adaptation to a particular exercise also translates to less calories burned performing that exercise, because just as the heart has become more efficient at pumping blood, the metabolism has become more efficient with burning calories. To avoid this, it is important to perform a variety of different exercises targeting different muscles and muscle groups. Doing so will not only prevent imbalances, but also ensure that all sections of a muscle get adequate stimulation.

Nutrition

There’s a well-known saying in the fitness industry along the lines of, “Abs are made in the kitchen”—referring to the well-tested theory that nutrition plays a larger role in muscle definition than exercise itself. But this phrase can be applied to more than just the aesthetic appeal of defined abdominals. Eating habits play an important role in achieving fitness results, whether these habits refer to the amount, quality, or time that food is consumed. Muscles require nourishment through food, along with adequate protein and carbohydrates to rebuild in the recovery after a workout.

Group Fitness or Personal Training

Getting up and getting moving is said to be the hardest part of staying active, but sometimes more guidance is required in order to stick with a healthy routine. Luckily, there are options for those who need a more structured and supportive environment to stay active. Your corporate fitness center may offer group fitness classes Monday through Friday at varying times, and these can be a great way to incorporate exercise and social time into your day. Personal training is a great option for those who prefer more detailed, hands-on instruction when performing exercise.  Be cautious when hiring a trainer and that they are qualified professionals.  

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Topics: nutrition NIFS goal setting group fitness exercise program muscles weightlifting recovery protein carbohydrates personal training