If you are anything like me, you feel the challenge to get or stay in shape as time progresses – and you may be asking yourself; What is the right amount of exercise? And maybe more importantly, what is the right type of exercise? Can I take a day off? Yes, of course… But first, lets address the questions at hand..
As a group fitness instructor who has taught a wide variety of cardio, strength and mind-body classes, I’m always searching for that perfect mix to get the best results. And by “results” I’m not talking about a perfect six pack and gravity defying butt, and although I’d certainly be happy with those results, what I’m looking for is overall health and well being. I recommend considering the following when choosing an exercise regimen;
- Is the activity (or class) something I will enjoy and therefore, stick with? If you hate running but are determined to train for a 10k because your best friend convinced you to do it, you will dread your exercise sessions. On the other hand, if you have alway loved riding your bike, you can take that to another level and set some training goals that involve cycling. Indoor cycling classes perhaps? Or maybe join a group that rides outside. For me, teaching classes has become my favorite way to exercise. I love the participants – we motivate and encourage each other and there’s always laughter and comeraderie. Others like the attention and motivation of a personal trainer. Find what works for you and you’ll stick with it!
- Do I feel good after I exercise? If you are taking a class that always leaves you limping and feeling like a failure, it’s time to move on. If you are a runner and your knees (or hips, or back) protest with every stride, maybe it’s time to reconsider. If, on the other hand, you leave your Full Body Challenge or BalleYo class (shameless plug here) feeling accomplished and energized – and maybe actually look forward to it, you’ve found a good fit.
- Am I addressing all areas of fitness? It’s easy to focus only on cardio and strength but there is more to exercise than pumping iron and getting your heart rate up. I try to work on all aspects of fitness, which include;
- Cardio – important for strengthening the heart and lungs, weight control and releases “feel good” endorphins. If, like me, you find running painful, there are many ways to get a cardio workout that don’t involve high impact, joint jarring activities. Cycling, elliptical and other cardio machines, power walking, hiking, water fitness, etc.. All elevate the heart rate with minimal impact. I try to get some cardio in 4-5 days a week.
- Balance & Focus – as we age, we tend to lose our ability to recover from falls. Working on balance in classes such as yoga, BalleYo and strength moves that incorporate balance, can help prevent injuries caused by falls and, for all ages, improve athletic performance. Practice a few balance poses daily and you’ll be amazed at the results. Try tree pose for starters.
- Flexibility – along with balance, we tend to lose flexibility over time. Fear not, people of all ages can greatly improve their flexibility with regular stretching (another benefit of yoga). I’ve worked with college athletes and people in their eighties who have made remarkable improvements after just a few classes. Stretch after exercising please!
- Strength – research has shown that we start losing muscle mass in our thirties or earlier! This translates to a lower resting metabolism because each pound of muscle requires more energy to maintain than a pound of fat. Simply put, people with a higher muscle to fat ratio can eat more! Weight bearing exercises also strengthen our bones which is so importance for women. And having a healthy, toned body makes everyone feel better. Ideally, strength train no more than every other day to allow muscles to recover (the building phase) and prevent overuse injuries to the joints. My goal: 3x per week.
- Core stability – a strong core is a key component to preventing back injuries and improving posture. I incorporate core work into all of my classes. Not just ab work, the core includes the back and hip muscles as well. A strong core is a strong foundation for many lifelong sports including golf and tennis. Pilates and strength yoga classes provide great core strengthening exercises.
- Mind-Body – if this brings visions of hours of mantras and scary yoga poses to mind, trust me here.. Yoga and meditation are for the masses! There are so many beginner friendly yoga offerings and online (short) options for meditation (I like Oprah’s collaboration with Deepak Chopra for 20 minute meditation challenges) and time and time again, studies have shown the many benefits of mind-body exercise on overall health and well being, including; stress reduction (bingo!), weight loss, lower blood pressure, better sleep, increased productivity, and the list goes on (look for my future posts on yoga and meditation for more details). Even a few minutes of meditation (quieting the mind) can do amazing things for your mood.
So, get out there and find a program that works for you. Exercise should be a fun part of a daily routine, not a chore. By finding something you enjoy (or at least don’t dread) you will be much more likely to succeed. And remember exercise includes going for walks (with or without your four legged friends), playing a round of golf, splashing in the pool, hiking, biking through the neighborhood and (surprisingly enjoyable to many) vacuuming and yard work. And yes, by all means, take a day off when you need it!
Exercise in balance.. Striving and thriving!