What Makes A “Great” Workout? Part 2

Last week, I wrote about several so-called “requirements” we at Fitness on the Run (FOR) hear are key to a great workout. I outlined some of the facts and fallacies and raised questions.

Today, I dive into what I personally view as key ingredients for a great workout. The complete list is below. Today’s article is about the first two.

1.  I feel more energy after the workout than when I started

2.  Most of the movements felt simple, easy to complete and left me feeling like I had one thing in particular to work on

3.  I feel no pain or soreness that day or following days

4.  I did something well. I felt like I accomplished something 

 

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#1 Energy Increase:

We are all tired. We tend to choose to place a lot on our “daily plate”.  We get drained. We feel tired.

In fact, take your own individual survey. For the next week, ask your family and friends, looking them in the eye, listening intently, “How are you doing?” I’ve been doing this for some time since I learned the skills of the 3 Levels of Listening. (That’s another post for another day!)

It is quite enlightening. 90% of the people you will ask will respond with one word answers:  “Busy” or “stressed” are often the answers.

What comes from being too busy? Exhaustion. So why are we all choosing to feel like this? Taking stock of our activities, prioritizing according to their necessity in our lives and making healthy choices may be in store.

A workout can remedy that feeling of being tired, overly busy, with too many things on our plates.

In a study published in the October issue of Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior, kinesiology researchers in University of Georgia’s College of Education found that a single bout of exercise consistently increases feelings of energy. Additionally, they found that inactive people who normally complain of fatigue could increase energy by 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by participating in regular, low intensity exercise.

Professor of Psychology, Dr. Robert Thayer, is the author of a book on how to regulate moods. He said, “It’s now been shown in many studies that once you actually start moving around – even just getting off the couch and walking around the room – the more you will want to move, and, ultimately the more energy you will feel.”

More specifically, for those inner-nerds, like me, who want to know how energy increases with exercise. What is really going on in your body when you exercise to give you that energy boost?

Regular physical activity increases the blood flow to your body and improves your cardiovascular fitness.  This allows more blood and oxygen to get to the body providing energy to do the work. Regular physical activity also increases production of hormones like thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), testosterone, human growth hormone and others which help increase your metabolism and give you more energy.

Additionally, regular physical activity also makes you more efficient at utilizing your body’s stores of fat and sugar for fuel. This allows you to burn them for energy and regulate blood sugar levels preventing the often experienced “peaks and valleys” that can cause fatigue.

Once you begin a regular program, the combination of all of these systems at work will help you see an increase in energy.

#2: Most of the movements felt simple, easy to complete AND left me feeling like I had one thing in particular to work on

Many studies have shown the benefits of “choosing” to achieve something tangible in your fitness program as a means to achieve improved body composition. In life, we can “choose” to do or not do something (gain confidence in my balance) or we can fill our heads with “I should (fill in the blank)”. Which do you think sees better results?

How about this one: “I want to run a sub-30 5K” instead of “I need to (or should) run to lose weight.” Associating your fitness with tangible goals will not only take the stress off of the result, but when the goal is achieved, you will see the results in your body composition too. A two-fer!

Making every exercise look easy is not only reasonable but should keep that stress level at bay. It means the time spent exercising will be fun (hint: enjoyable means you will keep it up). Shouldn’t exercise, by nature, be fun? It means you will continue the journey to find ways to complete the exercises efficiently and correctly. Try smiling during the most difficult part of your workout. This takes the energy away from the grrrrrimace and puts it in the area you most need it: the movement.

 

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I’ve mentioned before: adding more stress to your life by making your workout stressful can’t be good on your overall health and longevity.

Next up: working on one area of my fitness (instead of 10). So if you know you are tight in the upper back and neck, making this a priority can be hugely rewarding for several reasons: 1) you will be able to complete more exercises pain free 2) you will stay away from the orthopedist, chiropractor or any specialist because of an injury and 3) your actual range of motion (ROM) for the exercise will be greater, making the muscle build correctly and bigger and burning more fat, and finally our most important reason 4) you will not be sidelined due to an injury resulting from neck and back pain.

Another way to look at one part of your fitness program is to choose a tangible goal. For example, do you want to complete a real pull up? Then, every workout and every movement you make in your daily life can be to compliment the necessary strength to achieve a pull up.

If so, then the progressions it takes to get to a pull up will all 1) increase your heart rate, 2) build muscle, 3) burn fat AND 4) result in a pull up!

We teach the progressions, or steps, from StrongFirst including The Hollow Hold, The Hang Position and the actual Pull up. Each one of these steps takes patience, focus, and likely eliminating any mobility issues you may have. Karen Smith, Chief SFB and SFG Master SFG Instructor demonstrates the steps it takes here.

For me, my journey to get so many of my movements in the gym out of my neck and triceps and into my latissimus dorsi and scapula has been the most rewarding journey (of course other than having my beautiful children!) I can complete push ups, pull ups, carry things like cases of water or new equipment and nothing affects my neck.

What did I do to get here? At least three years worth of seeking the help of trusted specialists and coaches who either manipulated the soft tissue or schooled me on their skilled perspective, and just learning to move better. I incorporate (warm them up first) my scapula and latissimus dorsi each session and each movement not only in the gym, but more important, in my daily life. Sitting in my car for typically 1-2 hours a day, I constantly squeeze my glutes, press my chest out and my shoulders back, and work on pulling my neck into its natural position. And, I even breathe, deeply while I am.

I was and am laser focused on entering my 50’s pain free. In my work, I see many over 50-year olds with poor posture, experiencing neck pain and being sidelined.

Find your motivation and choose that one movement you want to do – to perfection.

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