The How to Exercise (Part 1)
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Yay! It's that time again! The moment for which you've been waiting. And the reason you subscribed or have followed this page up to now. My How To Exercise will bring out the hidden fitness professional in all of you and teach you how to use the ideas and suggestions you have been given thus far and put them into practice. Sounds fun, right? One, two, three...go!
Since becoming a group exercise instructor and personal trainer, the most frequently asked question I get is "How do I work this area?" Well, this post, like others that have come before, will be a multi-part series so my hope by its finale is to answer this and show you different formats and styles you can use to design your own unique head to toe workout to target troublesome spots. Keep in mind though that trying to work one specific area of the body is virtually impossible due to how the entire kinetic chain and muscle groups are intertwined and work together to allow numerous movement patterns. For example, the mere act of walking uses over two dozen muscles with every step. So you see, what seems simple is really a lot more complex than you probably realize. Ok after a minor derailment we are getting back on track and returning to the main event...
First off, let me say that this is my favorite part of what I do because it allows me to explore my creative side and keep workouts fresh. My goal over the next few months is to encourage you to add your own twist to what is covered and be able to personalize a program that suits your taste.
Enough about me, lets get to the real reason we're here...fitness. As I briefly mentioned before, there are several different ways you can incorporate exercises to change up your routine. Each one is beneficial in its own way and serves a specific purpose. One is no better than another but, when combined or occasionally mixed into your regular routine, can keep you motivated and leave muscles "you didn't know you had" begging for mercy.
Those of you that have taken a class from me or used my personal training services frequently hear me use the word balance. In this aspect I am referring to the connection between mind and body as well as being as equal as possible in flexibility and strength on both sides (left and right).
But what about the other balance...the ability to stand on one leg w/o falling or the awareness of where you are in space while performing movement? This, my friends, is what this week's post entails. It is essential (especially in our golden years) in preventing potentially catastrophic falls so is crucial to add to whatever program you follow.
Balance focused workouts can range from something simple like raising up on your toes and maintaining the pose to standing on one leg holding onto a chair or staircase rail for a period of time to walking a jungle zipline or thin circus tightrope. Obviously beginners would start with the first suggestion before progressing to the more skilled maneuvers.
Any activity that requires a split stance (one foot in front of the other) will engage the core and improve overall balance. Doing a bird dog pose, Frankensteins, heel raises, heel walks, lunges, pistol squats (adv), and side planks to name just a few are valuable in establishing and maintaining an appropriate level of balance. Why is activating the core so important here you ask? Maybe the use of an analogy will help. Think of anything familiar that has a solid center...a piece of fruit or even the earth. What happens to the outer portion when the inside becomes squishy? It caves in and can no longer support it's own weight. The human body is no different..strong core muscles allow us to stand erect whereas a Jell-O middle teeters and wobbles. Therefore, the firmer your abs are the less likely you are to fall.
In performing the aforementioned exercises, you may notice that it is easier to balance on one arm or leg. That's perfectly normal so don't worry too much about it unless the difference is drastic. Even then there might be a good reason (such as an ankle, hip, shoulder or knee issue) that limits your ability to do the activity equally on both sides.
There are also tools found in most gyms that will fire up the extrinsic and intrinsic muscle fibers even more and challenge your body in ways you never imagined. These specialized pieces of equipment will be introduced in future writings, but understand they too are a worthwhile resource instrumental in maintaining spacial awareness and steadiness throughout our lifetime. Many assisted living facilities, physical therapy clinics and top athletes alike use them to prolong current balance, regain lost stability and/or attempt to gain an advantage over a competitor.
In conclusion, balance is not just a component of of fitness but rather a way of life. Without it, many of our Activities of Daily Living would be made far more difficult or not possible at all. It cannot be emphasized enough how pivotal it is to a healthy lifestyle and continued longevity. So next time you get up, get out and get moving, try this....
How long can you balance on one foot without grasping on to a stable object?
Hint...while balancing, squeeze your tushy, slightly bend your knee of the support leg and focus downward on something stationary about twelve inches in front of you. Did you notice a difference in how long you could remain still?
*****Extreme balance challenge....try balancing with your eyes closed!*****
Explore your inner child by experimenting with balance. How many different ways did you find? Have fun and see you next time!