By Joli Guenther, MSSW, NASM-CPT
It’s a natural fit to start your workout routine with activities that feel approachable and familiar. Cardiovascular activities appeal to many new exercisers and can offer the benefits of weight loss and improved overall fitness. So why would you consider changing things?
The biggest reason to round out your workouts is to make them more effective. Keeping your body and your mind guessing will ensure that you continue to adapt by getting stronger and fitter. It’s also likely to keep you from getting bored with your routine. Adding new activities to your routine can yield enormous benefits, including:
• Improve Function: Strength training and body weight bearing exercises, including those found in yoga and other disciplines, teach us to use our bodies in multiple planes of motion. As we introduce our body to lateral and diagonal movements, we mimic the more demanding moments of our lives. This reduces our risk of injury and improves our efficiency in completing those movements.
• Get Stronger: Have you noticed a bit of a plateau recently? Adding strength and flexibility work to your routines can lead to a more effective cardiovascular workout as well, resulting in greater gains from the time you spend. As we get stronger, our muscles are better able to keep up with the potential of our cardiovascular systems.
• Prevent Injury: Adding flexibility training to the mix can help to address imbalances that develop through the repetitive movements of our training and daily routines. Additionally, regular strength and flexibility training also improve the efficiency of neurological responses so that they are more likely to be activated when we need them in a demanding situation.
• Reduce Stress: We all know that exercise is great for stress reduction, but different types of activities impact us differently. The equalizing effects of our cardio workouts just feel different than the accomplishment and thrill of challenging ourselves with weights or the centered calm that comes from quiet observation of our bodies at work.
• Enjoy Yourself! Adding variety to our workouts is likely to keep both our minds and our bodies engaged in getting fitter and healthier. If your regular cardio routine just isn’t holding the same challenge and interest for you, learning a new skill can add variety and interest to your weekly routine.
If you find that you’re overwhelmed by adding these new challenges in to your routine, consider starting with small changes. You can begin adding a couple of twenty minute strength training sessions to your workouts and focus on the major muscle groups, including squats, chest presses, rows, and core work. If you feel overwhelmed by learning the exercises, check with your local gym and consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two to show you where to start. Take a look at your local library for books or DVDs that can help you get started. If you don’t feel ready to start a full yoga practice, try adding a few evening stretches to your bedtime routine. You’ll sleep better for it and will find yourself more refreshed in the morning.
Check back with us next week to find out how you can begin your own strength training program.