bookmark_borderGood Workout At Home

  • Jumping rope – while most of us forgot about jumping rope the second that we got out of grade school, it is truly a great workout. Studies have shown that a mere five minutes of jumping rope is equivalent, calorie-burning-wise, to jogging for a full mile! What’s more is that you can jump rope in your house and it costs very little to get your own rope. Just be sure that when you are jumping rope that you keep it high-intensity, spinning the rope quick enough to generate some real movement of the body.
  • Climbing stairs – do you have a stairway in your house, or do you live in an apartment building? If so, congratulations – you’ve got your own stairmaster! Few people realize the merits of simply walking up and down a flight of stairs when it comes to fitness. While plenty go on stairclimbers with reckless abandon, roughly the same workout can be attained by just walking up and down flights of stairs. Once you feel that the benefits of stair climbing aren’t enough for your workout, try carrying weights, or even soup cans, as you climb the stairs. This added weight, although small, helps your body to get more in shape.
  • Sit-ups and push-ups – these two exercises help you to tone the muscles in your chest and abs while burning calories. They don’t require any equipment, and you can even do them while you’re watching TV! If you’re watching television and a commercial break happens, take the opportunity to do a set of push-ups and a set of sit-ups. In no time, you’ll notice a lot more tone to the muscles in your body.
  • Cleaning – cleaning around the house is actually quite the aerobic activity. In addition to burning calories, you’re also performing some house work that can really pay off. Be sure to keep a steady pace while cleaning, ensuring that the exercise that you get from the process is intense enough to make a difference.

bookmark_borderGet Bigger Arms

Here’s why – Your upper arm is made up of two major muscle groups — the biceps and the triceps, and many lifters make the mistake of only training the biceps, failing to realise that the triceps only make up two-thirds of the upper arm mass. The triceps are a beautifully-shaped muscle when well developed. Surprised?

I’ve had friends who want bigger arms but only ask me what the best biceps exercises are. I normally end up giving them my favourite triceps exercises instead.

For good arm development, allocate a few more sets for your triceps rather than biceps. If you always start your arm training with your biceps first (almost everyone I see in the gym does this), try switching the order. Train your triceps first before you train your biceps.

Though you should always strive for a balance of all muscle groups, trust me when I say that if your biceps development are weaker but if you possess well developed triceps – your arms would still look spectacular! The same can’t be said for the reverse.

The bottomline? If you want big arms, get big triceps!

bookmark_borderBallet Barre Stretching

Some basic movements in the barre routine would include:

  1. PliĆ© – These are the very first exercises done at the barre. This means ‘to bend’ in French. Exercises such as these are to develop balance. Dancers are to bend their knees while keeping their feet pointing outwards. The lower they bend, the more precarious, hence training their balance. It also keeps the joint and muscles elastic.
  2. Tendus – Dancers use this training to compel their instep in an outward direction. It also helps them to master the arches as it is focused on the movement of the ankles and feet, and training the muscles in the area.
  3. Degage – The degage is a continuation to the tendus. It also aids in ankle joint suppleness while targeting toe strength.
  4. FrappĆ© – A movement where the foot is elevated from a fixed position and then straightened. It trains dancers in strength and balance as they elevate their foot and in strengthening the instep.
  5. Rond de Jambe – This can refer to either (i) Rond de jambe a terre and (ii) Rond de jambe en l’air. Rond de jambe a terre bring the toe and heel into line, and perfects the balance of a ballet dancer. Rond de jambe en l’air relaxes the joints of the hips and turn the legs outwards, preparing the dancer for other dance position.
  6. Developpe – The target areas are the muscles at the back, the legs and the abdomen. The dancer lifts the leg up, and maintains the elevated position in the air while extending the foreleg. This forces the dancer to try to maintain balance.
  7. Fondu – Dancers need to get used to jumping high up in the air, and these movements are designed to strengthen the leg muscles, by the slow bending of knees.
  8. Grand battement – This forms the last in the series of the barre and is performed after stretching exercises. The main focus is on the alignment of the legs and hips while dancers have to raise their leg as high as they possibly can and the supporting leg is supposed to remain straight.

The barre and the list of exercises are almost seen to be compulsory before any serious ballet lessons or practice commence. These ballet stretches can be used to help those who want to get back in shape for dancing after a period of convalescing from injuries, since the exercises are specific and targeted at the important joints and muscles needed in dance.

bookmark_borderFirst Physical Therapy Visit

You will, of course, need to expect to have all of the pertinent information any medical facility would require when you arrive for your first appointment. Any information from previous doctors who have treated the injury will be requested. You will likely be asked a series of questions upon your first visit. The physical therapist should be thorough when he or she inquires about past and present physical problems.

The objective is to evaluate a comprehensive of sorts concerning your muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons, your current range of motion compared to your usual range of motion. You should leave with the confidence that your physical therapist has a clear idea of your injury, as well as your normal range in strength and function to which you want to return through treatment.

You will walk out of the medical facility feeling better about a solution. You should have a sheet or pamphlet listing and diagramming several exercises you can begin to do to strengthen your injury and return to your “old self” again. When you decide to see a physical therapist for a sports injury or any other kind of injury, it is nice to know what to expect. This article will review the basic assessments that will be determined upon your initial visit so that you will know the very best way to treat your injury.

There are a wide variety of sports injuries and other physical injuries from conditions such as lateral epicondylitis, to simple but painful muscle strain, to the rebuilding of muscles after healing severely broken bones. Nonetheless, medical science in the field of muscular and activity-related injuries has made great strides – and sometimes your injury can be completely overcome. However, even if it can’t be a full recovery, increasing your mobility will increase your health and your overall freedom – therefore, physical therapy is just as important.

bookmark_borderStart a Walking Program

The most important piece of equipment you will need is a good pair of walking or running shoe. Most shoe stores and sporting goods stores should be able to supply you with a good selection. You can also check out some of the online stores, you will find some good sources at DrLeonards.com or FootSmart.com. You may also want to think about getting yourself a pedometer. Pedometers are handy little gadgets that can measure your distance and time and help you keep track of your progress.

Now that you have your equipment and are ready to go, it might be nice to know why you are starting a walking program. The health benefits of walking are many and include the following:

  • Helps with weight loss.
  • Helps to reduce blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Relieves stress
  • Boosts overall energy levels
  • Strengthens the heart and reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Studies have shown that walking relieves depression and anxiety
  • Strengthens your body
  • Burns almost the same amount of calories as running

Since walking uses almost all 650 of your muscles it is a very good idea to warm up before you begin a walk. This will loosen up your body and help to avoid injury.

You should build up to walking for about one hour. Your current fitness level will determine the length and time of your first walk. Some people will only be able to walk around the block, others will able to walk the full hour. Do what you feel comfortable with and build from that point. Keep a log to measure your progress. As you become fitter, increase the pace and distance.

Personally, I like to measure my walks in distance. A pedometer will be of great assistance. Measuring your walk in distance helps to compensate for days when you might walk a little slower or faster. After your first few walks try to achieve a brisk pace where you may be puffing a little but you can still talk. Remember, there is not much difference in the amount of energy (calories) expended by walking or running a specified distance.

After you have finished your walk don’t forget to cool down. Try to spend about 5 minutes walking slowly. This will allow your heart, lungs and blood flow to return to normal gradually. This decreases strain on your heart and can help to prevent muscle strain and soreness.

JUST DO IT!!!

bookmark_borderMake Exercise Easy

  • A level of exercise that is relatively easy, yet effective, at one stage of your personal fitness or weight loss program may be worthless at another stage.
  • Exercise is one of those things where you get back what you put in, in terms of health, fitness, weight loss, energy, or combinations of those.

In other words, what is “easy” exercise for you might not be what is easy for your neighbor, or vice versa. Also, what is “easy” exercise for you when you begin it may provide you rewards in terms of health, fitness, weight loss, or energy at first. However, if you stay with that easy exercise, eventually your body will make changes within itself, and it will be necessary to adjust upwards.

Another aspect of easy exercise, however, is the idea of activity that you will stay with. This implies finding something interesting to do. Still, a drawback here is that although you may be really interested in some activity, you might not presently be fit enough to pursue it. Also, there is the fact that if you are not fit at this time, there are a lot of activities that might not appeal to you at all. However, were you to become fit through exercise and proper nutrition, you may find yourself interested in some of those activities.

So, the idea is to find something that is simple to do, that you can fit into your schedule, and that you can stay with. It possibly might not be appealing to you at the moment, but it needs to be something that you can decide to do and keep at with the idea that when you do progress to another level of fitness, you can add to or change that exercise completely.

For many people, one of the best exercises to get started with is walking…although not the only one.

Walking is something you do every day, something you know how to do, and something, that at the beginning, at least, requires no real preparation or equipment. Of course, at any level, a good pair of shoes is recommended.

Walking can be considered an easy exercise because to get started, all you have to do is increase the amount that you already do each day. In fact, at a beginning level, it is not necessary to do all your “exercise program” walking at once. If you need to deliver papers to someone at the other end of the block, why not walk around the block? If you have two parking places to choose from and one (which yesterday you would have dived for) is near the door, why not pick the one farther away? Walking for weight loss or exercise also gives you the option of simply getting up from what you are doing (or not doing) at any time of day and taking a walking break instead of a coffee break or grazing through the leftovers in the fridge.

By the way, I do not recommend skipping lunch in order to walk. I DO recommend taking a walk on your lunch break, but leave yourself time to comfortably enjoy your meal. It is the accumulated activity of each day, rather than a lot of activity on one day, that produces the most overall health benefits…particularly for the beginning exerciser.

In time, if you want to escalate your program, you can find some hills to walk up and down, you can climb stairs at work instead of taking the elevator. More than one out-of-shape individual went from walking to the mailbox to running marathons. However, and particularly at first, be careful not to task yourself too much. Any one who has not been exercising needs to ease into it and not try to go too fast. If you are doing more than you did last week and are eager to keep adding, you are at a good level.

One point to remember is that thing about getting back what you put in. When you begin walking, or gardening, bike riding, swimming…whatever, you will be at a level that will not cause huge weight loss or make you into an Olympic athlete. However, if you are doing more than you were and are doing it regularly, four or five times a week, your body will be making adjustments to your level of health and fitness even if you cannot see them yet. Keep at it and keep moving forward and the adjustments will become visible and you will be shopping for new clothes, and maybe some new sporting equipment as well. That’s okay, because you will possibly be saving on medication and doctor’s visits.

Another important point is that no one activity or exercise is the “perfect” exercise. Walking, while a great overall conditioner and contributor to general health, and cardiovascular health in particular, does little for upper body strength or flexibility. Weight training and other forms of resistance training, as most people do it, can do wonders for upper and lower body strength, but might not contribute much to cardiovascular health by itself. A good set of stretching combined with common calisthenics might contribute to flexibility with some strength benefits, but the cardiovascular benefits might be lacking.

Almost any of the activities mentioned above can be combined or alternated in ways to produce all the desired and anticipated benefits. In fact, having a large number of exercise options open to you not only creates opportunities to affect all aspects of fitness, but makes exercise easier in that you have a selection to choose from and can vary your healthful activity based on the day’s schedule or circumstances and your particular needs and wants at the moment.

bookmark_borderMuscle Cramps and Exercise

A muscle cramp is defined as a painful, involuntary, spasmodic contraction of a muscle. The muscle remains contracted and may last for a few seconds to several minutes. The muscles most prone to EAMCs are those that cross two joints – for example the calf muscle called the gastocnemius (crosses the ankle and knee joint) and the hamstrings (cross the knee and hip joint).

There are many theories surrounding the cause of muscle cramps. Some proposed causes are fluid loss and dehydration, electrolyte imbalances (sodium, potassium, magnesium), heat and congenital/inherited conditions. Recent evidence collected by Professor Martin Schwellnus at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa indicates no strong relationship between these causes and exercise cramps. After completing several studies and studying the results of other experiments using electromyography or EMG (measures muscle nerve electric activity), Schwellnus has proposed a novel model of the cause of EAMCs.

Dr. Schwellnus identifies two possible factors that may affect nerve activity – causing excessive muscle stimulation to contract and resulting in a cramp. The first suspected factor is fatigue; since motor nerve firing patterns have been demonstrated to be irregular during conditions of fatigue. The second factor is proposed as resulting from the muscle working too much on its “inner range” or “on slack”.

To explain this concept it must first be understood that a muscle cannot work efficiently if it is not at its optimal length – a muscle works progressively less efficiently when overly stretched or overly loose/on slack. The protein filaments (actin and myosin) that make up muscle fibers require an optimal “overlap” to be able to generate force.

The position of the body’s joints determine muscle length, so it follows that muscles that cross two joints like the gastroc and hamstrings might be more likely to operate in the slackened position and experience a cramp. For example, consider a free-style, swimmer who performs flutter kicks at the ankle with a slight knee bend. The flutter kick involves the ankle flexing and extending in a small range very near the plantarflexed (toes pointed) position. Couple this with a slight knee bend, and it makes the gastrocnemius muscle even more “passively insufficient”.

Muscle physiology plays crucial role in the understanding of EAMC’s. Most significantly, the small cellular bodies of the muscle spindle and the Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO). The muscle spindle is a tiny cellular structure usually located in the middle portion of each muscle fiber. Very basically its role is to “switch on” a muscle and determine the amount of activation and the strength and speed of the contraction. The GTO is a small structure located in the tendon that joins the muscle to a bone. This structure senses muscle tension and performs the opposite role of “switching off ” the muscle in order to protect it from generating so much force as to rip right off the bone.

Dr. Schwellnus suggests that when a muscle works within its inner range and/or when fatigued, muscle nerve activity shifts progressively toward muscle spindle activity (contraction) and less toward GTO activity (relaxation). More specifically, the nerves that control the muscle spindle (Type IA and type II nerves) becomes overly active while the nerves that controls the GTO (Type Ib nerves) become under active or inhibited. The result of this nerve activity imbalance is an uncontrolled, painful cramp.

If you should experience an EAMC, the best solution is to perform a gentle, passive stretch of the affected muscle. Do not attempt to walk or run it off. Slow, passive stretching will act to restore nerve balance to the muscle by increasing the activity of the GTO, while simultaneously minimizing that of the muscle spindle. Stretching increases tension in the tendon, which is sensed by the GTO.

The result is a relaxation of the contracted muscle and a breaking of the muscle cramp. For example, in the case of the swimmer mentioned earlier, to stretch the gastrocnemius he or she may perform a standard calf stretch while pushing against a wall or use a stretching strap or cord to pull the foot up toward the shin. To accentuate the stretch, it is important that the knee remain straight, since as mentioned this muscle crosses the knee joint.

The best way to control and prevent EAMC’s is to begin a regimented stretching routine. It may be beneficial to perform dynamic stretches after a brief warmup at the beginning of the exercise session or workout. Dynamic stretches involve using functional movements such as lunging, squatting and reaching and can be used to simultaneously train balance and core stability while sensitizing the muscles in preparation for exercise. In fact, dynamic stretches if performed correctly, may actually serve as a warm-up in themselves.

Static stretching may be more effective at the end of the exercise session as part of the cool down, as the muscles will be warm and more pliable. The best long-term solution to control EAMC’s however is to restore muscle balance throughout the body by combining stretching with a well-designed functional strength training routine -concentrating specifically on core stability.

In conclusion, muscle cramping is a complex condition and this article has hopefully provided the reader with a new perspective on the scientific relationship between exercise and muscle cramping. The fact that cramps occur most often in the situations described make this model a very plausible and practical one. It is hoped that this information will assist the casual exerciser and professional athlete alike in understanding and dealing with exercise related muscle cramps.

bookmark_borderEat Before Exercise?

Whenever your stomach fills with food, its muscles contract and require large amounts of blood. When you exercise vigorously, your heart pumps large amounts of blood to your skeletal muscles. If your heart is not strong enough to pump blood to both your stomach and your skeletal muscles, blood is shunted from your stomach muscles, the muscles lack oxygen, lactic acid builds up in muscles and they start to hurt. However, most people can exercise after eating without suffering cramps because their hearts are strong enough to pump blood to both their exercising muscles and their stomach muscles.

Some researchers believe that you shouldn’t eat sugar before you exercise because it will cause your blood sugar level to rise and your pancreas to release insulin, which will cause your blood sugar to drop too low so you will feel tired during exercise. However, the major cause of tiredness that you feel in your muscles during exercise is lack of stored sugar in muscles. Taking any extra calories before and during exercise helps to preserve the sugar that is stored in muscles and help you to exercise longer. If you are going to exercise for more than an hour, eat or drink anything you like before and during your exercise. Most people will not get stomach cramps while exercising, no matter what or when they eat.

bookmark_borderExercise and Injuries

So how can you continue being active after you’ve suffered an injury? After some injuries, you really shouldn’t be active at all. Depending on the nature and severity of your injury, you may need to take a good, long break from your exercises or at least modify. The most important step you can take is to check with your physician and heed the proper medical advice.

The worst step you can take is to ignore it. Many people mistakenly assume that all injuries just disappear after time. What really occurs is that the body attempts to heal but may “heal” completely out of place, creating an asymmetry in the bone structure of your body and changes in your muscle that may create a lifetime of tightness in that area. You have probably heard (or even said), “My wrist (or knee or elbow or whatever) just hasn’t been the same since I injured it. And that was years ago.” Sadly, that persistent bothersome body part could have been less bothersome had you treated the injury properly in the very first moments it occurred. But even the best of us stubbornly expect too much of our bodies and deal with a persistent bad knee, shoulder, wrist, or elbow.

If your injury is minor, you can continue exercising, but you will have to modify your regimen and again heed the advice of your doctor. Here’s a basic rule of thumb for post-injury exercise:

  • During the first 72 hours, REST! If you continue exercising with a new injury, you will inhibit your body’s natural healing mechanisms and possible exacerbate the initial injury. Don’t make it worse than it already is. Apply RICE- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
  • After the first few days, you may begin slowly increasing your activity, modifying your routine as necessary. The body is an amazing thing–if you listen to it, you will know exactly what activities you can and cannot perform.
  • Expect to feel post-injury pain and discomfort for weeks and even months. Take the appropriate measures to allow your body to continue healing–modify your exercises, keep the body part (wrist/elbow/knee) wrapped during activity, seek physical therapy, such as massage or adjustments, if that is recommended by your physician. There is also a new physical therapy technology out that uses laser to speed the healing of injured muscles. While it doesn’t perform miracles, it can aid in the healing process.

Above all, try to avoid getting injuries by exercising properly. Use control and correct form always. Let your personal trainer or group fitness instructor know of your injury so that he or she can offer appropriate modifications. And if, during a workout, any exercise causes discomfort, discontinue that specific exercise and opt for one that offers similar benefits without the impact or strain. Never “work” through a cramp or a pain, no matter how much pride you have. Stop, stretch, and modify. Remember, your body is the only one you’ve got, so be good to it!

bookmark_borderRope Jumping

Jumping rope has to be a vigorous sport, because you must spin the rope at least 80 times a minute to keep it from tangling. Most people use more energy when they jump rope than when they run. Jumping 80 times a minute uses the same amount of energy as running a mile in less than 8 minutes, a fairly rapid clip for most people. If you enjoy rope jumping, do it at a pace that is comfortable to you and stop when you feel discomfort.

To use rope-jumping for fitness, you need to be skilled enough to jump continuously for twenty to thirty minutes, and jumping that long and fast requires that you be in good shape. All you need is a ten-foot rope. The ends of the rope should barely reach your armpits when you stand on the middle of it. You don’t need special shoes, but sandals or loose shoes are likely to cause tripping.

Start out by spinning the rope forward so you can see it as it passes. Bend your knees to absorb the shock of landing and protect the force of your feet striking the ground. To keep yourself from falling, bend slightly forward at the waist. Start out gradually and work up to thirty minutes three times a week.