You’ve Dedicated Precious Time to Exercise . . . but Are You Doing More Harm Than Good?

Today’s wellness message builds on the previously-posted idea of being intentional. It’s all about making sure that you are maximizing the very limited and precious time you have to dedicate to exercise. First, kudos to everyone who heads to the gym, pops in that workout video, or gets outside for a bike or run. Prioritizing this time can be very challenging, especially for working professionals, moms & dads. Unfortunately, far too many folks who prioritize exercise in their lives are just maintaining current fitness & weight levels, or worse, are actually doing more harm than good. Think of it like this: you can improve, maintain, or head backwards as a result of working out. Here’s what I mean:

  1. Improve – you’re pushing yourself beyond what your body is used to (ie – it’s uncomfortable, your winded, your muscles burn – you know the feeling). To improve fitness levels & lose weight, you must tell your body: “Hey – I need you to do more than what you’re used to.” This forces your body to say: “Ok, let me strengthen my muscles, heart, & lungs, improve my balance, flexibility, and ability to use oxygen so that I can do more next time.” The goal is adaptation – that is, if you want to improve, you must force your body to adapt to new challenges. Guess what? This holds true in nearly every aspect of our life. We need to get uncomfortable, (ie do new things we’re not used to), if we want to continue to learn & grow.  Our character is getting uncomfortable at the gym, and in the office 🙂

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 Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/David Castillo Dominici

  1. Maintain – A good majority of exercisers fall into this category. First, any activity, even low intensity or moderate, is great for our health .  .  . WAY better than nothing, and important to battling heart disease among other things. That being said, don’t expect much change if you’re spending your time in this category. I am often saddened when I see the same gym-goers peacefully gliding along on the elliptical while carrying on a conversation with the person next to them, week-after-week, month-after-month. If you aren’t challenging your body (or mind) to do anything new or different from the norm, expect . . . well nothing.
  1. Head Backwards – Unfortunately, far too many people risk stepping into this category. There are two approaches to heading backwards:
    1. You stop exercising. It only takes a few weeks for your body to begin to lose the benefit of any previous workout regimen. The popular saying “use it or lose it” is pretty accurate. If you don’t tell your body that it needs that muscle, lung capacity, flexibility, or general stability – it won’t trouble itself to maintain these capabilities. This is important to remember if you become injured. We get hesitant and baby those ankles, knees, etc. after we tweak them (or worse), but this only leads to more injury. We need to build these muscles & joints back up & let them know they are needed for many more miles (at a pace approved by your doctor, of course).
    2. Poor form. This is SO important, and SO blown off by too many people! Poor form is a big contributor to aches, injury, and long-term pain. Personal trainers have detailed knowledge on correct form for both injury prevention and maximum performance. I’ll just give you the basics: Take notice when lifting weight if you are rocking, swaying, leaning, or otherwise moving a muscle that shouldn’t be involved in an exercise. At a minimum, this rocking & swaying will cut into your results because your muscles don’t have to work as hard: you’re cheating. More concerning though, is often these “cheats” place stress on muscles that shouldn’t be worked during an exercise. Repeating this movement over & over (as most exercisers do), can cause serious pain and lasting limitations. The most common example is doing a squat where your knees go way past your toes. This engages the quads (where as the exercise should primarily work the glutes). The biggest issue is the stress that is put on your knees, which they are not made to handle.  A rounded, or unstable back is a big one to watch out for as well.

Our time is precious. Our health is critical to our performance and happiness at work & home.  Unless you have a medical limitation, let’s push ourselves. Let’s not stay stagnant, but improve. Let’s make it count!

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