Now is the time to rethink which athletic activity you plan to do in the next season to stay fit and healthy. First of all, let us consider your goal. Is this a time to improve your stamina, your flexibility, your abdominal strength, or simply adapt your current program?
You may wish to scale back the intensity of your workouts or step it up a notch. If you have an old injury that you are fearful of aggravating, it is a good idea to get a check-up first. Then select a modified activity that allows you to exercise possibly in a different context. For example, a nagging back or painful shoulder may do well with swimming versus weight lifting. Stationary bicycling may be just the right medicine for a sore foot. The idea here is to be smart about your revised or new exercise program.
The ability to exercise a different set of muscles than what you are used to doing is known as cross training. Some examples were mentioned above that indicate a change or reversal of exercise choices. Not only does this prevent your routine from becoming stale, it also keeps you hopping! As in jump roping! Or dancing hip hop! Have your kids join in and make it fun for the family.
Cross training allows muscles that are regularly used for one activity, a given rest period, while other muscles are being utilized in another style or choice of exercise regimens. This can be very healthy 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. I recommend this for those who have experienced back pain in the past. Another option for stamina enhancing 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.
If your goal is to improve your flexibility, you may wish to try a Yoga class, or Tai Chi instructions. If you wish to work on those forever-tight hamstring muscles, use your own belt. (Your hamstring muscles run along the back of your thigh). Stretch your hamstring muscles by lying on your back, and placing the belt under the ball of your foot. Your hands should now be grasping onto the ends of the belt. Lift your leg slowly straight up with the belt pulling on the ends, while feeling the stretch on the back of your thigh, and even behind the knee. Hold the stretch for 5-10 seconds and stretch each leg 5 times. This is a profound 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, then 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, either end. You must exhale to shorten the rectus abdominus muscle 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 intervertebral disc pressure. This can potentially lead to a bulging disc in the lumbar or low back region. 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 the rectus” from a curl-up to the famed Pilates exercise tapes/DVDs.
Exercise with a goal in mind is a big positive for sticking with it, while finding the winter months inviting to a change in sport or venue. This can be very satisfying and pleasing versus drudgery. Enjoy and have fun. Include a family member. Remember, don’t hesitate, participate.
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