MAKING TIME FOR FITNESS :: Fit (in Yeg) on Whyte

Len believes that the positive influence of exercise on your mental well-being contributes to your overall health and wellness.  The physiological benefits of being active are further enhanced through the change-of-pace and mental 'release' which regular daily fitness brings to living.

by Len Panchuk, MSc, PTS

Watch out! The season of the cheeky #fitnessmeme has arrived with the intention of providing the motivation you need to become more active - and, of course, shredded.  Exhibit A: an Instagram post of a super-fit woman squatting down, poised to (supposedly) lift a ludicrous amount of weight overhead, with the banner caption reading: "The only thing holding you back is you." 

But, exerciser-to-be beware... below are the results of a Google search exploring the likelihood of sustaining an injury, or re-aggravating an old one, when becoming physically active after a period of prolonged inactivity.

Google search of the percentage of people that get hurt when returning to exercise.jpg

The WebMD article: Workout Injuries: Prevention and Treatment provides a very basic set of guidelines to help you get safely back into a sensible fitness routine.  

Some of WebMDs recommendations include:

Is it time for your yearly check-up?

WebMD: Check in with your doctor before embarking on a fitness journey if you are a woman over 55, or a male over 45

A PREVENTATIVE ACTION you can take today: In Canada there is a PAR-Q (Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire) which asks 8 simple yes-no questions to determine if a change in your current activity level will result in you needing to consult with your doctor before getting significantly more physically active.

yes, you need to warm-up and gradually come back-down-to-earth after your workout

WebMD: Warm-up and cool-down to prepare for the demands of your workout

Rule-of-Thumb: The more intense your workout, or the less fit you happen to be at a particular moment in time, will result in you having to increase the duration of both your warm-up and cool-down phases.

is it important to take rest days? should i mix up what i do and add variety?

WebMD: Cross-train and take days off

Rule-of-Thumb: Your muscles need 24-48 hours to recover from the strain you have put them through, and the damage they have accrued, which will result in the strength gains and hypertrophy (i.e. muscle fibre growth) you desire.  It is as easy as planning two or three, 20-40 minute entire-body resistance training sessions a week and interspersing your varied cardiovascular endeavours (such as, swimming, biking, walking or running) amongst your workout days.  And don't forget those rest days.

Ease into it. When you begin an exercise routine or start a new workout program, start slowly. Then gradually build up the intensity, duration, and frequency.
— - Workout Injuries: Prevention and Treatment

HOW SORE SHOULD I BE AFTER A WORKOUT? how hard should i push? is proper form of paramount importance?

WebMD: The 'No Pain, No Gain' philosophy should be a thing of the past

Rule-of-Thumb: Yes, pushing your body to adapt to physical stressors such as lifting heavier weights or climbing up an extra 5 flights of stairs during your next cardio session is exactly what is needed to produce the changes you desire:

...but, all within reason...

...and always building over time in a logical, incremental manner...

...starting from a solid fitness base...

...while employing proper technique at all times...

...and definitely not pushing 'through' when you hit the proverbial wall.

To [failure], [but never] beyond!
— Buzz Lightyear, Toy Story (1995) [artistically paraphrased]

When starting a new exercise program, speed bumps & obstacles abound. Try to find the way through at a reasonable, safe, and maintainable pace.

Further recommendations from WebMD, which are also great Rules-of-Thumb:

Drink an adequate amount of water

Wear proper attire; and safety equipment, when necessary

Use the RICE method to treat injuries (Rest - Ice - Compression - Elevation)

Pay attention to areas in need of improvement

Meet with a trainer

Build a safe, realistic exercise program

learn the basics: a great place to start

If you have no idea how to get started with an exercise program that is intense enough to get results, yet sensible enough to not have setbacks, then join a fitness class catering to your current skill and intensity levels. When you are concerned with the possibility of aggravating an old injury, or seeing no results and getting discouraged, then hiring a personal trainer or consulting with a fitness coach will get you started properly and help provide the motivation to keep you on-task.  

The vast majority of people who are getting back to the gym in September are doing just that - getting back to the gym - after a few months, or maybe even a few years , with virtually no regular exercise in between. So....start slowly!  Maybe a good starting point is to simply bend over and (attempt to?) touch your toes.  How did it go?  It may seem like an overly-simplified test to 'see' if you are ready to exercise, but by checking-in with your joints, mid-section, hamstrings and lower back muscles, you can at the very-least self-assess your ability to bend over and put your running shoes on... CHECK?!?! - now get started with a walk...maybe even a brisk one, if you are ready for it.

Don't put your fitness program on hold, and your health and well-being at risk.

Don't wait for January and your New Year's Resolutions...


...and, remember, September is the new January!