Good Form: The Key to Quicker Progress

People vastly underestimate the power of good form. But it’s amazing how this one little thing can make such a big difference.

One of the most important things to focus on not only when you are new to exercise, but at any time, is the positioning of your body – what is commonly referred to as your “form.” It’s an easy way to make your workout more effective, lessen your chances of injury, and, quite honestly, keep you from looking like you don’t know what you’re doing.

I’ll admit to being a bit of a stickler for form. If you’ve ever taken a class with me, undoubtedly you’ve had to endure the repeated chorus of “use your muscle, not your momentum,” “tuck your bellybutton into your spine,” “drop your shoulders down into your back pockets,” “keep your heads up,” “make sure your arms line up with [fill in the blank],” or one of the many other form cues I have a tendency to throw out there. I can blame – and thank – a particularly fantastic trainer I worked with several years ago, who to this day I still credit for teaching me all the little form, routine and nutrition tricks that really do have a huge impact on my workouts today.

That said, here are a couple quick little fixes that can help you get the most out of your workouts, with less chance of ending up with an injury:

  • Stand up straight. It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting, running, walking, or doing something else upright. It makes me INSANE when I see someone crunched over a cardio machine (You know why it feels easier? Because it is. Don’t be lazy.) The more you focus on your posture, the better your body will feel both during and after. Remember: pick standing over seated when you can – it engages the core muscles for a little extra work.
  • Think about your joints. Keep your elbows tight to your sides for bicep curls. Focus on keeping your shoulders down and lifting with your wrists for lateral raises. And whatever you do, don’t let your shoulders creep up into your ears (it’s terrible for your neck)!
  • Be aware of your core. There’s a reason it’s called a core – it is the center of your body, the powerhouse for everything you do. A tight core means stabilized muscles … which are easier to control … which are easier to keep in good form. This is exactly why I recommend Pilates for everyone – it strengthens the core (abs, back, hips), which is only going to make it easier for you to strengthen everything else.
  • Don’t be afraid to start light. I know, women are constantly being told not to be afraid to lift heavy, and men aren’t going to be seen lifting 10 lb. weights. But it’s always best to lift a little lighter than you think you really need to if you are new to something (or trying to correct form). It’ll help you build muscle memory … meaning good form can come naturally from there on out.

Take a little time to focus on your form during your next workout. It may feel a little different at first – but that’s a good thing! And please, PLEASE … stop hanging all over those cardio machines and throwing your weights. You people make me nervous.

All You Need to Know About Sports Nutrition

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You can see the original and find out more about Now Foods and Now Fitness here.

The Gym in January: People Watching Gold.

I love people watching. I always have. One of my favorite classes in college was an interpersonal communication class, in which the teacher sent us out one day with instructions to watch people – and then report back the next class (I’m pretty sure we were looking for something specific, but it’s been like 12 years, so give me a break). The gym can be a great place to people watch – for numerous reasons. And it tends to be even better in January.

Tonight’s post was inspired by the girl I witnessed doing something that looked like a cross between the Chicken Dance and jumping jacks. Now, I’ve taken a lot of classes (and taught a lot of classes) that required me to do some odd thing from time to time. But in the middle of the gym? Not usually. Which got me thinking about some of the top “what are they thinking?” moments I’ve encountered throughout the years.

Cirque du Soleil. Now that football and pool season is behind us, I’m not getting to the gym quite as early on Saturday mornings … but for a while there, I’d get a (people-watching) treat on my way out. There were three people who, for some unknown reason, would practice what I can only describe as Cirque du Soleil … in the middle of the cardio floor. Not in a studio, not even in a somewhat less-traveled space, but right in front of the escalators to the cardio floor. Weird.

Old Lady REALLY Likes Her Weights. This one dates all the way back to my Clemson old bookstore while the real gym is under renovation days. This woman enjoyed lifting weights. REALLY enjoyed lifting her weights (think Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”). It was uncomfortable to be around. I may still have nightmares.

Competition Prep. I get that fitness competitions require participants to strut around in a couple sequins and sky-high heels that would make a stripper blush.  But do you really need to “practice” (strut around) the gym floor? At least go into a studio. And please… keep the lights dim. Because I can’t decide if I want my body to look like yours or I want to give you my sweatshirt.

Overzealous exercisers. Yesterday morning, I saw a guy I actually feared would fly off of the elliptical he was working – at about 100 miles an hour. Here’s the thing … the resistance is adjustable on those things. You’re going to get more out of it if you slow it down and add some resistance.

Sweaty twins. For a while there, I thought there was only one of them … but they are in fact two. These girls spend at least an hour on the stepmill, going pretty quickly, and sweating EVERYWHERE. Never a towel in sight. Wearing long sleeves. Mind you, these girls are extremely thin. There is no reason they need to be working that hard or losing any extra water weight.

So … what have you seen around the gym? Is January your favorite people watching time, with all the Resolutioners running (or panting, or wandering confusedly) around the gym?

For When Your Workout Motivation is Lacking…

Most people can come up with a good excuse to skip a workout. When faced with one of these times, it can be smart to follow this easy flow-chart to help you get a little more motivated to get yourself to the gym:

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See the original here. Thanks to my mom for sending it my way!

GUEST POST: Overcome Exercise Shyness with Eight Tips

Getting into exercise can be intimidating … but it doesn’t have to be! Check out this guest post from Sharon Freeman on how to overcome exercise shyness, and get started on building a better you!

 

Women are shrinking violets when it comes to exercising outdoors.

According to British non-profit Mind, nine out of 10 women refrain from outdoor physical activity due to low self-esteem coupled with high self-consciousness. They tend to exercise late at night, if not pass up entirely.

Mind’s findings back up a report by Deadline News contending that more and more Scottish women are patronizing 24-hour gyms to exercise at ungodly hours when crowds are sparse.

Psychologists have long compared the effects of outdoor exercise to those of antidepressants, which are used in treatment of anxiety and mild or moderate depression. But it can be hard to drive this fact to women, especially those who are stubborn.

Surveying 1,450 women aged over 30, Mind estimates that two out of three women feel conscious about their body shape when exercising in public. Sixty-percent of respondents feel nervous about their bodily reactions to exercise e.g. blushing, sweating and farting, as well as how their movements look like to others.

To cope with such insecurities, more than half of respondents admitted to exercising late at night or in the early morning hours.  Nearly two-thirds prefer locations where they are least likely to meet people they know.

Hugh Mullan, who runs an all-day and all-night gym in Glasgow, was initially surprised by the late-night turnout in his facility. But he eventually figured this phenomenon.

“What we find is that a lot of women in particular are self-conscious and the idea of a 24-hour gym where they can come either early morning or late at night when it is quieter is definitely something that appeals to them,” he said.

The question is – are you one of these women? Do you feel shy exercising around other people? Conquer your fears with these tips:

1.    Try changing your mindset. Resolve to improve your health and practice ignoring your negative thoughts. Motivate yourself to exercise by thinking of family and friends, many of whom would want to see you live a long, happy, and disease-free life.
2.    Get some company. Exercise with a friend. He or she can give you moral support and help you commit to your goals. There is strength in the proverbial numbers.
3.    Enroll in a beginner’s program. To minimize feelings of embarrassment, take a class tailored to your fitness level.
4.    Practice at home. Do your moves in front of a mirror, if only to prove you don’t look stupid. Doing your moves before you hit the gym also serves two other purposes. First, you improve your form. Second, you can plan what workouts to perform at the gym. (The Internet, books and magazines are rife with free workout ideas.)
5.    Skip the gym entirely. The money you cough up for months-long membership fees and travelling to the facility might be better spent on home equipment. You can work out in your own time, at your own pace, and without a trainer to micromanage you.
6.    Don’t forget dumbbells. In addition to resistance equipment, dumbbells are important to activate stabiliser muscles, resulting in muscle mass gain and enhanced metabolism.  Start with light weights and work your way up; lifting heavy weights too soon only leads to torn muscles.
7.    Some exercises can be done at home anyway. Jumping jacks, crunches, and band pulls can all be done in the comfort of your home. They are the perfect cop-outs from exercising outside.
8.    Run inside. If you’re not ready to jog outside yet, try doing it indoors. The trick is to run in place as fast as you can for 10 minutes. But you can always invest in a treadmill for your home.

 

Conclusion

When you’re overweight or obese, you may feel being excluded by society because of your condition. But you aren’t. Mind’s survey underscores the fact that 90 percent of women, fat or thin, can empathise with you.

Even if other women don’t share your timidity, choose to ease yourself into a healthy attitude of not caring about what others think. With your health on the line, strive to move just a bit every day. For now, it is better that you’re exercising in the wee hours than not at all.

Just remember: Don’t look pretty to exercise, exercise to look pretty.

 

 

Sharon Freeman is a fitness specialist writing about companies like North Shore Health and Fitness