So, the groundhog saw his shadow. This indicates there is six weeks left of winter before spring arrives. Which activity are you engaging in to keep fit and healthy? Don’t let those New Year’s resolutions fade away. Maybe you’re still finding your groove. Consider your goal. Is it to lose a few pounds, increase your stamina, fend off the ill effects from lack of activity, or simply tightening those abdominal muscles?
You may wish to step your workout up a notch. If you have an old injury that you are fearful of aggravating, it is a good idea to seek your doctor’s help first. Consider inquiring about the role of physical therapy to help you mend an injured part. Physical therapy can help you get your life back by teaching you how to overcome an injury or a painful or stiff part. Then, select a modified activity that allows you to exercise without aggravation. For example, a nagging back or painful shoulder may do well with swimming versus weight lifting. Stationary bicycling may be just the eight medicine for a sore foot. The thought is to be mindful about your new or revised exercise program.
The ability to exercise a different set of muscles, than what you are used to doing, is known as cross training. For instance, if you are a runner on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, try a completely different exercise on your off days. Such examples are Pilates, weight training, cycling, or Tai Chi. Not only does this prevent your routine from becoming stale, it also keeps you from overuse syndromes. Try jumping rope, bounding on a Minitramp or dancing to Hip Hop! Have your kids join in and make it fun for the whole family.
Cross training allows muscles that are regularly being used for a particular activity, a given rest period, while other muscles are being utilized in another fashion depending on the exercise you engage in. This is very healthy for your body, especially if you run the risk of a repetitive injury. Also, this allows you to build a more balanced body, even toned and a healthier stronger you.
If you wish to build your stamina, or your cardiovascular endurance, consider the Nordic Track cross-country ski machine. This machine works your entire body, using your arms, legs, back, and trunk muscles. We recommend this for those who have experienced back pain in the past. Another option for stamina enhancement is the elliptical machine. This is a cross between running and bicycling without the pounding. It is a great alternative for those who need to buffer a sore knee or a stiff hip but still crave a good workout.
Another endurance builder is the ol’ treadmill. Treadmills have been around for decades. They have made excellent clothes racks for those of us who threw the first towel over its’ arm to show that there once was a workout that lived there! First thing to do, if you have a treadmill, is to clear off all the clothes and extra stuff. Make it more desirable by dusting it off and changing the scene around it. Place it in a new location more amenable to you, which will excite you to get on and walk at a good pace. Possibly near a window? Dust if off and get reacquainted. If you are in the market to purchase one of these cardiovascular pieces of equipment, go to a fitness store and find one that fits your needs. It should fit your space. Try it before you buy it. Go to the store dressed for exercise.
Any treadmill will make less impact on your joints than walking or running outside. Most treadmills come equipped with the ability to adjust the speed and level of grade (how high an incline). They also have a series of customized workouts that act as a personal training coach that is on the visual screen. Some even come with contact heart-rate monitors to keep you aware of your safe hart rate range. Treadmills help you get into shape and stay fit, especially during the winter not-so-friendly-weather for walkers. Most reasons why people purchase a treadmill over any other piece of home equipment is because they have done it before-they can walk! They outsell any abdominal roller, glider, or exercise bicycle. People use treadmills on a regular basis, a staggering 3.6 Million people! Nowadays, families are time-crunched. They like to exercise at home on their own time. There is no waiting for a machine to become available at the gym or worry abut getting to the gym.
If your goal is to improve your flexibility, you may wish to try a Yoga class, or a stretch and tone class. If you wish to work on those forever-tight hamstring muscles, use on of your own belts to stretch with. Place the belt around your foot, lie down and then pull the belt with your leg up straight. You should feel a stretch on the back of your thigh, and even behind the knee. Go slowly, hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds and stretch each leg five to ten times. This is a magnificent stretch that is great for those who suffer any hip or low back pain.
If you wish to obtain a six-pack from your six-pack flabs, than abdominal conditioning is the workout for you. Any abdominal exercise such as “The Crunch” is beneficial if only you exhale while lifting your head, or your knees. You must exhale to successfully build your abdominal muscles. The most prominent muscle is the rectus abdominus that runs up and down the front of your trunk. If you hold your breath when you exert yourself; you will only increase the intra abdominal pressure. This increase in pressure can be harmful due to the increase in inter vertebral disc pressure. This can potentially lead to a bulging disc in the lumbar or lower back region, especially when performing crunches at a rapid rate. If you perform abdominal exercises properly, this benefit can decrease your back pain and slim your abdominal shape all in one! Remember to exhale with exertion. Abdominal exercises can be done in almost any position, with any machine or with a physioball. There are numerous ways to ‘crunch’ from a curl-up to the famed Pilates exercise videos/DVDs.
Neck pain or injury can deter you from the ability to perform abdominal exercises. Speak to your doctor about this and how you can develop these muscles. This is where a physical therapist can help. Exercising with a goal in mind is very positive for sticking with it, while the winter months can invite a change in sport or venue. This can be very satisfying and pleasing. Enjoy and have fun. Include a family member or friend.
Remember, don’t hesitate…participate!
First Physical Therapy, LLC
Jan Chamberlain, P.T., A.T.,C., Owner
85 Beach Street, Building D
Westerly, Rhode Island 02891
phone: (401) 348-8112 | fax: (401)348-7009