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Cross Training

I hope you enjoyed some rest and recovery time over the weekend. As you outline your attack plan on how to fit fitness into the week ahead, I offer this bit of advice: mix things up a bit.

Whether you’re a fitness novice, getting back to a routine or have been exercising for years, variety can make the world of difference when it comes to sticking with a fitness regimen and also preventing injuries. Doing the same routine day after day causes repetitive stress and can lead to overuse and stress-related injuries. Some of the more common ones include:

  • Chondromalacia patella (often referred to as “runner’s knee”): An overuse injury causing pain in the kneecap. Pain can occur from weight-bearing knee flexion activities like squats or sitting for long periods of time with bent knees. Symptoms may also include swelling or grating noises.
  • Stress fractures: Microscopic fractures usually to a weight-bearing bone like the tibia in the leg or metatarsals in the feet.
  • Tendonitis: Inflammation in the connective tissue that joins bone to bone. (One common form is “tennis elbow”)

If you love group exercise classes, one of the easiest ways to avoid overuse injuries is to mix up your schedule. For example, the twisting, dance-like movements executed in Zumba classes put extra stress on your knees and can be damaging if the surrounding muscles (e.g. the quadriceps) are weak. The same can be said of cardio kickboxing. Repetitive high kicks and other movements places stress on the hip region. If any of the above mentioned exercises are not performed in proper form, the risk of injury is even greater.

I am not saying you can’t take your favorite group ex class multiple times during the week, but try to give yourself a day in between to allow the muscle groups to repair and recover.  If you’re a five-day-a-week-group-ex “addict,” here’s a possible schedule:

  • Monday: Cardio kick
  • Tuesday: Pilates mat (Followed by 30 minutes of cardio)
  • Wednesday: Zumba
  • Thursday: Pilates mat or Yoga
  • Friday: Cardio kick or Zumba

The same can be said for strength training.  Most beginners should aim for a resistance training workout of two days per week and not on consecutive days.  If your schedule forces you to strength train on back-to-back days, split the muscle groups over two days.

Stretching is one activity you can do every day of the week. One of my personal fitness goals this year has been to incorporate more flexibility training into my routine. If only I had made that goal a priority earlier in my life, I’m sure I could have avoided many trips to the doctor along with multiple X-rays and MRIs.

That being said, we can all push ourselves a little too hard at times. However, if a couple days of rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories don’t alleviate the pain, you should talk to your doctor. Preventing injuries is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your body and mind are working together to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Importance of Rest

Take a Break from the Weights!

Earlier this week, I offered some cardio guidelines to help beginners get their heart rates going. Now that we’ve made it to another Friday, I thought talking about the importance of letting the body rest and recover was a good way to head into the weekend.

Whatever your fitness focus – running, weight training, participating in group exercise classes – rest is an essential component of your exercise routine. If you don’t allow your body to rest and recover, you’re simply putting yourself at risk for overtraining.  That can lead to a gamut of problems including injury and overall fatigue. AFAA’s Fitness: Theory & Practice (Fifth Edition) describes the following as symptoms of overtraining:

  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Amenorrhea (when a woman stops getting her monthly period)
  • Overuse or stress-related injuries (e.g. stress fractures, tennis elbow and runner’s knee)
  • Increased resting heart rate
  • Slower recovery of heart rate
  • Decrease in strength performance
  • Constant muscle pain or soreness when moving, bordering on pain

Avoiding these symptoms doesn’t have to be difficult. Just give yourself a break now and then! A rest day allows for muscular repair and recovery of the central nervous system. I always give myself at least one day off from the gym every week. For those of you who can’t imagine even one day without activity, you can still take a leisurely walk or bike ride, or maybe you can substitute that strength or cardio class with an extra-long session of stretching.

On the other hand, if you want to enjoy a rest day curled up on the couch in your kick-around clothes reading a good book or catching up with your DVR, go for it! Remember, taking a rest day doesn’t mean you’re being lazy. It only means you’re giving your body the strength to get back in the game so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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