Are Your Favorite Exercises Helping or Hurting You? (part 1)

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Not sure if your go-to moves are making things better or worse? We can help.

Between the number of gyms and studios and the number of free online workouts out there, there’s no shortage of places to obtain a workout or full exercise program. People choose what type of workouts they do based on many factors: from what they think sounds fun, to what they’ve heard “really works.” Everybody is different in what works for them, what they like to do, and what their goals are.

No matter what your goals are and how you’re trying to achieve them, there are three main areas to assess in order to figure out if the exercises you’re spending most of your time with are the ones you should be doing: performance, capability and energy.

Identifying a Problem: 3 Areas of Interest

1. PERFORMANCE – Are you actually improving?

Try to avoid assessing your progress by looking in the mirror or at a scale for this one… Think about how you’re moving. It doesn’t have to be loads of improvement – we progress incrementally – but you should be able to tell a difference in your performance within a couple months after you’ve started a workout program or new routine, if you’re being consistent. Whether it’s being stronger, racing faster, or having the capacity to just domore, are you actually any better now than when you started?

yoga mat

  • If the answer is yes, great! Keep going! (Even if you’re improving slowly, that’s still improvement and very good)
  • If the answer is no and you’ve just started… keep going. If you’ve been going for a while and the answer is still no, either ask a professional for some help or find something new to do. This doesn’t necessarily mean change what you’re doing completely – you may have just plateaued – but you will need to change something in order to see those gainz. ; )
  • Also take into account where your workout came from: Does the person that wrote that Pinterest meme workout actually have education to back up their programming or are they just somebody that looks good in their activewear?

2. PHYSICAL CAPABILITY– Are you feeling more durable?

Again, you should be feeling better, not worse. First, note the difference between soreness and injury: Soreness goes away after a couple days, injuries hang around for a while and need to be addressed immediately. Whatever you’re doing should make you more durable, not less. Assess how you felt when you started and compare that to how you feel now. Are you feeling better or do you have aches and pains all the time now?

  • If you’re feeling better, great! Keep going!
  • If you’re having aches and pains all the time, ask a professional for help with your movement skill and technique. You maybe be doing the slightest thing incorrectly, but doing it over and over again will set you up for bad movement patterns as you gain strength – which means more severe injuries in the future. Fixing it now (even if you have to back off your intensity) is better.
  • If you’re already working with a fitness professional, maybe try getting an opinion from another professional or a corrective exercise specialist. You’re either doing movements incorrectly (not your fault if you’re not being corrected), being trained incorrectly (also not your fault if the pro you’re working with doesn’t have enough education), or you could be over-doing it (that one could be your fault… depends).

3. ENERGY – Do you feel energized?

Exercise boosts energy by increasing your blood flow and metabolism over time. If you’re doing the right amount for your ability level, you should feel more energized as you go on. I’ll never forget one of my corporate class participants coming in (after her work started offering 30 minute fitness classes at lunch time 3 days per week – which I was teaching) after our first 6 weeks together. She burst through the doors one afternoon and said, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve never slept better and my house has never been cleaner!” It made me laugh out loud. Now, I’m not saying you’re going to feel like the Energizer Bunny right off the bat, but you certainly shouldn’t feel chronically fatigued from your program. So do you feel energized?

  • If the answer is yes, great! Keep going!
  • If the answer is no, try backing off the intensity. A common mistake is for beginners to jump into a moderate intensity program instead of a low-intensity one before they have the base to be able to handle it. They end up improving a little, but could feel as if they haven’t and get discouraged and quit.
  • Again, you should feel better, not worse.

There are many variables to consider when looking at your exercise regimen, and a lot of rabbit holes we could go down, but these 3 are quick ones that don’t involve complicated jargon or intense data collection (stay tuned, we’ll get there!). If you’re answering yes to all 3 of these questions, then great! If you’re answering no, you may need to change your approach, edit your intensity, or try something different altogether.

Kinesiology and Effectiveness

According to 2012 study, most individuals trying to lose weight will increase physical activity as part of their strategy. For many, however, adding structured exercise does not result in weight loss, according to research. Offsetting the exercise with increases in eating and decreases in non-exercise physical activity appear to be significant factors limiting the effectiveness of exercise interventions. The effectiveness of cardio and strength training exercises measured higher for those looking to slim down versus those seeking to bulk up.

With that said, the effectiveness of your exercise not only depends on having the correct form and posture, it also depends on your end game. Jumping up and down for an hour to burn hundreds of calories may be effective for someone who needs to shed a few pounds, but for someone looking to “build a booty?” Not so much..

In the following articles of this series, we’ll examine various workouts and test their effectiveness based on how they each fit into three general exercising objectives: Weight Loss, Cardio Training and Strength Training.

Avoiding Injury

No matter which of the previously mentioned objectives is most like your goal, every person that exercises fears getting that dreaded injury. Every beginner that is new to exercise has an overriding fear of getting an injury when they finally have the motivation to start a new adventure in exercise. Here are some tips and suggestions on how to keep the body going without it breaking down in the end.

8 TIPS TO AVOIDING INJURY

  • Visit a personal trainer or get a coach . If you don’t know how to start an exercise program or progress to that next level of anaerobic/aerobic exertion safely, a personal trainer or coach is the perfect option. They can give you safety tips and progressions to either get you started or accomplish your goal without getting injured.

  • Warm up . It is never a good idea to workout muscles that are cold. Make sure you are warming up your body to increase your body’s core temperature, blood flow to the working muscles, and also to mentally prepare yourself for the workout ahead.
  • Cross Train. Your body will thank you when you change up your routine by engaging in different activities. This will not only help you avoid hitting a plateau with your workouts, it will give your muscles a much needed break from the same routine day in and day out.
  • Be smart about your training Be realistic about your training and not focus on what you use to do. “Too much, too soon” can be the number one reason why injuries occur. Gradually increase your time and the intensity of your workouts to prevent those nagging injuries.
  • Wear proper workout attire. If you have to think about how long ago you purchased a new pair of running shoes, then it is definitely time to head to the store. So many injuries come from wearing worn out shoes without any support.
  • Eat a balanced diet and hydrate. What you eat and drink is just as important as your workout.Work with a sports nutritionist to understand when, how much, and what foods you should be eating to keep you healthy and energized for your workouts.
  • Add strength training and core work to your routine. Having a strong fit body is a great way to keep the injuries away. If your muscles are balanced with a strong core then your body will not wear down or have to compensate for being weak or tight.
  • Listen to your body with rest and recovery. Your body will give you the signals you need to know when to back off. If that knee is feeling a little achy, your soreness lasts for more than the recommended 24 to 48 hours, or you are just plain tired, then it is time to look over your exercise routine. Rest and recovery might be what your body is looking for. Make sure you take those rest days as your body is making actual gains during this time.

Next week, we’ll apply what we’ve learned to a few of your favorite exercises to test their effectiveness on your goals and your body.