What Makes a “Great” Workout? Part 3

The past two weeks I’ve offered some ideas of what I personally view as a great workout. I’ve covered what we often hear from clients and friends and what we suggest as alternatives to consider as you embark on a fitness program.

What is often believed to be a “great workout”:

  • “I am so sore”
  • “I sweat like a pig”
  • “I burned 800 calories”

What I like in my workouts:

  • I feel an increase in energy
  • The workout seemed easy and I learned there is one thing on which I need to focus
  • I did a little of what I “need” and a little of what I “want”
  • I learned something new
  • I did something well; I feel as if I’ve accomplished something

I wrote about the first two points here.  Today we’ll address the rest.

What do I need? vs. What do I want?

Ah, so this is the big $1,000,000 question we face at Fitness on the Run (FOR). Daily. Some clients come to us for improved movement patterns (posture, gait, daily functional movement), improved balance and agility to age stronger and better every day. Others come for weight loss and to look better in the mirror and feel better in their clothes. Others for stress relief and finding balance in their seemingly never-ending hamster wheel we call life.  All three are reasonable and healthy goals.  Yet imagine if you simplified your fitness plan into what you “need” and what you “want”? Focused on it and gained expertise in it. How do you think you would feel?

We are continually balancing our clients’ sessions between want and need. What many want is “more cardio” and more “core work” to get rid of their belly. Some want to work off their bad sleep, stress and eating habits from yesterday or last weekend.

Together with your trainer, you can make a conscious decision about what you “need” and what you “want”.

In every client’s first session at FOR, we first take a hard look at how they sit, stand, walk and get on and off the floor. Yep, the last is a real indicator of mortality.

Cross your feet at your ankles, crossing your ankles-style, stand and sit. That’s it. Add six years to your life! The sit and stand test is key to functional fitness and safety.

There is research that the ability to get on and off the floor without the use of your hands is an indicator of mortality. In fact, there have been several studies. In one, a team of Brazilian researchers and published in the European Journal of Cardiology proved this test to be a predictor of how long you will live – or more doggedly put – won’t.

In this study, 2002 men and women ages 51 to 80 were followed for an average of 6.3 years. Those who needed to use both hands and knees to get up and down (whether they were middle aged or elderly) were almost seven times more likely to die within six years than those who could spring up and down without support. Their musculoskeletal fitness, as indicated by this test, was severely lacking.

“It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival,” study author Claudio Gil Soares de Araujo, Professor at Gama Filho University in Rio de Janeriro. He continues, “but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, and coordination also has a favorable influence on life expectancy.”

For me, what I need is gluts, gluts, gluts. They support the back and improve posture. Forever, I suffered from “gluteal amnesia” or the inability to fully contract or use my gluteal muscles, especially on the left side. So, I decided to make it a priority. I learned how to “squeeze” my glutes in every position. Standing, laying down, sitting and even when I was on the way down in a squat. I learned how to keep the quads loose and squeeze the gluts.

What do I want? A place for respite. A place where I can move in all planes: forward, backward, lateral, standing, supine (lying down face up), prone (face down on floor) and to continue to build my arsenal of posture improving movements. I want to be able to do anything my kids ask from me on the playground, swimming pool or baseball field. With ease…

What do you want? What do you need?

According to Coach Eric C. Stevens of Colorado, “The best exercises for losing and keeping (weight) off are hard and uncomfortable.” He adds, “…there aren’t ways to literally or figuratively have your cake and eat it too.” I like this point because so often what we believe we need to get to that place of comfort with our body image is different than what we truly need.

We are thankful, too, to have a Nutrition Therapist Megan Crozier who works with clients on regaining control of their nutrition needs.  Megan agrees the journey for clean and healthy living is as rewarding as the results. Although most want a quick fix, Megan delicately teaches what you need for improved wellness and body composition will fall into place.

I learned something new

Hmmm…we’ve talked about this before.  Learning a new skill is so incredibly healthy on the brain. It challenges our movements and may even teach you new patterns of movement that fully use your whole body, not just the parts on which you focus in your regular old fitness routine.

According to Dr. Arnold Lee, a physician at the One Medical Group in San Francisco, “There are numerous benefits to mixing up your workout routine. It’s the key to stimulating different muscle groups and preventing boredom.” Lee also extolls the value of shaking up your workouts as a means to prevent (RSIs) or Repetitive Stress Injuries, a type of injury that can occur from doing lots of repetitive motions like running, hitting a tennis ball, kickboxing or swimming. He says by mixing up your activities, you give those overused muscles, joints and ligaments a chance to rest and recover. If you do become injured, he suggests a different activity that doesn’t strain that same part of the body which will allow you to stay in shape and heal at the same time.

Learning a new skill in the gym promotes muscle growth in areas you don’t typically train and forces you to concentrate that much more.

I’m a learner. I am constantly listening to podcasts, audiobooks, going to seminars when I can. I want to be the best at who I am. Wife, mom, sister, business partner, company owner, daughter. If I find ways to make me a more empathetic and responsive mom helping to foster independence and resilience in our children, I’m happy. I’m re-listening to How to Talk to your Kids so your Kids Will Listen. How to Listen to your Kids so your Kids Will Talk for a third time. I’m learning new ways to look at it now that our children are two years older than they were when I last listened (and yes went to see the authors speak in person!)

I have a small pile of books I’m reading covering WWII, children’s physical and emotional development and a drama. My podcast list is long and ranges from Catholic Cafe to Stop Chasing Pain. It also focuses on my main areas of interest in our business: holistic approach to health. I take notes. I listen again.

So, when it comes to my workouts, I want to learn something new. Or, better said, a fresh perspective on a movement I may already know. If I can find ways to move this body in patterns that are healthy and promote longevity and correct posture, and become easier every time, I’m “in”.

I know this much: although I’ve owned a health and fitness business for almost 12 years, I am only scratching the surface of what there is to know and love about what I do.

I did something well…I accomplished something

Who doesn’t like the feeling of accomplishment? Who wants to go into your workout, do something really well, something you’ve tried time and time and time again (successfully or not) or something you haven’t done before and “kill it”?

Fun Fact: The “High Five” was invented by Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Glenn Burke when he spontaneously high-fived fellow outfielder Dusty Baker after a home run during a game in 1977

Instead of checking the box, going to your workout run or match and going through the motions, instead leave it focusing on that one thing you did really well.

The “win” can be a stretch of your hamstrings or a hip opener or what seems to many a simple yoga pose. But, this time you actually did it. You know it was better than before – or ever – and you are walking on air, baby!

It leaves me encouraged, happy and confident.

So there you have it.  A wrap up of my reasons for a “great workout”.  Don’t workout for the sake of working out.  It can only become another stressor and chore.  When you walk away from your next workout and learned something new, or are proud you accomplished a goal, or love that new boost of energy. . .  we hope you will say with pride, wow, that was a great workout!

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