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Finding The Best Workout

So here we are. It’s almost the end of February and two of the biggest ‘food holidays’ are behind us (literally!) Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukah. We also have one of the ‘candy’ holidays under our expanding belts. And, of course, who can forget the Super Bowl. Most of us don’t even care who is playing, but we have made it the second biggest food consumption day of the year! Now it’s time to get our butts in gear! I believe most instructors would agree that the most common question we get is ‘what is the best workout’? This is really the million-dollar question in the fitness industry.

Maybe you made a New Year’s Resolution to get dust off your gym membership, or maybe you are just beginning to analyze the fitness class options available to help you construct a plan, but can’t quite figure out where to start. After all, looking at the types of classes being offered these days is enough to scare anyone back under the covers. Names like Kempo, Tabada, H.I.I.T., Iron Yoga can be intimidating even to a well-seasoned gym rat!

Maybe you are longing for some of those workouts from days gone by. Let’s step into our time machine and reminisce! Anyone remember as far back as the days of Jack LaLane, a true pioneer of fitness, and his Saturday afternoon television exercise show in black and white in the 60’? Remember when we went ‘jogging’ around the neighborhood in the 70’s! Or how about those Jane Fonda style workouts in the 80’s, where we jumped as high as we could, landed as hard as we could, wore the wrong shoes, worked out on all the wrong surfaces and wore leg warmers, belts and shimmery spandex leotards with the thong on the ‘outside’! We thought we were so cool! Or how about those step aerobics classes where the instructor gracefully traversed the entire length of the step like a gazelle while you stumbled off the edge of yours! Remember working out lots of frustration while you were kicking and punching your way through a Tae Bo class in the 90’s with Billy Blanks and his perfect male physique? Anyone still have their Thigh Master? Feeling totally uncoordinated in that Jazzercise class? Who really needs to be reminded that they have no rhythm? Are you still watching ‘Gilad’ – he’s been around longer than all of us and hasn’t aged a bit!

Ah, fitness through the ages! And yet I have to admit I have done it all and actually enjoyed it – although I only remember Jack LaLane and his juicer!

So to get back to the big question – what is the best workout? The real question should be what is the ‘right’ workout for you! The best workout is the one that you will do and stick to. The right workout depends on several factors. With the overwhelming volume of information out there and the endless array of classes available, how do you know where to begin? Let’s try to make some sense out of the madness.

Your workout should include a combination of cardio, strength, flexibility and core exercises. Today’s fitness trends, as scary as some of the names might sound, are not all that different than what you may have done ‘back in the day’. We have just figured out ways to take a one-hour workout and condense it into as little as 4 minutes, in some cases. But remember, some of these programs are just that – trends. And just because something is trendy doesn’t mean is right for you. Here are some things to consider when planning your personal fitness program:

  1. If you belong to a gym or are considering joining one, look over the fitness class options carefully. Try them all, if you can. At the very least maybe you can observe the classes and decide if they are appropriate for you.
  2. Do what you like, not what is trendy. The adherence rate for participants in fitness classes is substantially higher for people who enjoy the classes they are taking. They will attend more frequently, work harder and improve their fitness levels much quicker than people who are doing it because it’s what everyone else is doing.
  3. Know the difference between impact and intensity. Impact is the amount of force applied to the body during a particular exercise. High impact exercises are movements where both feet leave the ground simultaneously. Examples include, running, box jumps, plyometrics, and jumping jacks. These movements can effectively put more stress on the knees, hips, ankles, feet and back. Low impact exercises are ones where one foot stays in contact with the ground at all times. Examples include, walking, biking, low impact aerobics, and dancing. Swimming is another excellent low impact exercises. Intensity is refers to the level of difficulty or level of power you apply to a movement. Basically, how hard you are working. Intensity comes from using your muscles to create power and increase your heart rate. The important thing to remember is that low-impact does not mean low intensity. You can get an excellent workout doing low impact exercises, by keeping your intensity level up. This can be achieved by taking bigger or wider steps, lifting your knees higher, using your arms more and lifting them over your heart, adding light weights or using weighted gloves or just moving faster.
  4. Form is everything! Make sure you are doing exercises in the proper form at all times. You will avoid injury by paying attention to form. Always consult your instructor or trainer when in doubt about proper technique or if any exercise feels stressful on your body. Ask for modifications for exercises when you feel it is necessary. As you get stronger you may find you need to rely less on modifications.
  5. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right stop doing it and evaluate what you are doing. Your body will let you know if something isn’t right. Know the difference between pushing yourself to a point of challenge and a point of pain. Progress slowly and build up to the next level of challenge safely. Your body will thank you for it!
  6. Know your limitations and respect them! If you have orthopedic issues or health issues that put limitations on your participation in particular fitness options, work with your doctor, physical therapist or trainer to help you modify the workout or possibly prepare an alternate but equally challenging option.

Hold on to those good intentions. It’s not too late. It’s never too late to take care of YOU! Now put on some spandex and GO!

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