Jewish World Review Jan. 6, 2003 / 3 Shevat, 5763


Bodylessons: Workout tips for maximum effectiveness, efficiency

By Judi Sheppard Missett

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Everyone wants to experience quick results from a New Year's fitness program, but to achieve long-term success, it's really best to concentrate on health benefits rather than weight loss. Exercise should be a lifelong commitment, not a temporary obligation that ends once a weight-loss goal has been met.

That being said, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most from your fitness efforts:

-- Set specific, measurable goals. For example, ``I will exercise for 40 minutes five times a week for five weeks.'' Or ``I will train for eight weeks to complete a 5K run, and I will try to maintain a pace of 9:30 per mile.''

You'll notice that neither of these examples mentions losing a specified number of pounds. The goal is to change your daily habits to incorporate regular exercise, and these types of goals will serve you better. Weight loss is likely to accompany your efforts, but think of it as an added bonus. Once you've reached your exercise goals, evaluate your progress and set new goals.

-- You may find it helpful to invest in one or two sessions with a personal trainer. He or she can help you to clarify reasonable goals and present options that you may not have considered.

-- Create a plan to meet your goals. If you committ to that 40 minutes of exercise five times a week, you should design a workout schedule that incorporates aerobic, strength-training and flexibility exercises into those sessions. You could walk briskly for 40 minutes on Monday, attend a yoga class on Tuesday, lift weights on Wednesday, take Thursday off, attend a dance exercise class on Friday that combines aerobic and strength training, walk briskly for 40 minutes on Saturday, followed by 10 minutes of stretching. And then you could take Sunday off.

-- Begin at the right place. You shouldn't start training for a marathon if you've been inactive for the last five years. Be realistic about your current fitness level, and choose goals, fitness classes and activities that are appropriate.

-- Cross-train. Do a variety of activities, instead of just one. You'll challenge different muscles, prevent overuse injuries and avoid burnout.

-- Make sure that your heart rate reaches the training zone. (Subtract your age from 220 and multiply it by 0.6 and 0.8 to determine your training heart rate zone.) You will not achieve cardiovascular benefits unless you increase your heart rate to that level.

-- Don't cheat while using the cardio machines at your health club. Leaning on the stair climber lightens the load and negatively affects your form, which robs you of a full workout.

-- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Chronic mild dehydration causes fatigue. Advanced dehydration causes muscle cramps, lightheadedness and a slew of other problems, so be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after your workouts.

-- Get the right apparel -- especially appropriate shoes -- for your chosen activities. You'll have a more comfortable workout and avoid injury.

-- Warm up and cool down after every workout. Include stretches for all the major muscle groups in your cool-down.

-- Listen to your body. While a certain level of fatigue and discomfort is common when you embark on an exercise program, major aches and pains are warning signs. Try switching to different activities, backing off on the intensity or taking a day off. Likewise, when you feel good, go for it.

The basic abdominal curl is a staple of any fitness program, and with a few technique tips, you can be assured of getting the maximum benefit from your efforts.

Begin by lying face-up on an exercise mat or other padded surface. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart and a comfortable distance away from your hips. Place your hands behind your head for support, with your elbows out to your sides. Exhale as you curl your head and shoulders off the floor and look toward your knees. Pause briefly and lower slowly to the floor. Try not to pull with your hands or tuck your chin to your chest as you curl. Aim for two to three sets of 15 to 20 slow, controlled repetitions, but feel free to start with as many repetitions as you can complete with good form.

Judi Sheppard Missett is CEO of Jazzercise Inc., an international aerobic-dance instruction company. Comment by clicking here.

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