Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What makes a workout good?

This is a question I find myself asking quite often, "how do I know if this is really a GOOD workout?"  In fact, it's been on my mind so much lately I decided to do a post about it.  So tonight I will share with you what I have learned about what makes up a good workout. 

Now I am in no way professing to be an expert on this subject.  Quite the opposite in fact.  I am just someone who enjoys working out who has done a little bit of research and reading.  That's all.  But hopefully some of the lessons I have learned along the way will help you out as well.  Which is why I am sharing them.

You do not need to join a big fancy gym or invest in ridiculously big fitness equipment for you home to get a good workout.   But it will take more then just running, jumping, squatting, doing a push-up, and lifting weights aimlessly.  You need to figure out how much time you are willing to dedicate per week, working out for hours on end will actually not be as productive as a dedicated 60 minute workout will.  You can certainly workout longer if you like, but its not necessary, so don't kill yourself.  You need to figure out what kind of results you want and what kind of exercises you enjoy. 

You need to decide exactly what it is that you want to get from your workout program.  For example if you want to run a marathon most of your workout program will include a lot of running.  If you want to be better at dancing  you may focus more on Zumba and Jazzercise type stuff.  If you want to be better at basketball you'll focus more on jumps, lateral movement, and obviously, the game of basketball.  Whatever your goal may be you'll want to include some cross training.  You'll also want to do resistance training to keep your body strong for running, swimming, dancing, basketball, whatever.

So make sure you work out with a plan in mind.  It can be tempting to just do whatever pops into your head at the time but sticking with a plan will show more results.  Repetition and good form are key.  If you are doing a movement and don't have the proper form you could be doing more damage then progress.

Okay, so here are some of the key elements you want to include in a good workout program:

Cardio/Aerobic activity:

This is often the cornerstone of most fitness programs.  Aerobic activity causes you to breathe faster and more deeply which causes there to be more oxygen in your blood.  The better your aerobic fitness the more efficient your heart, lungs, and blood vessels are at transporting oxygen through out your body.  Some cardio/aerobic activities may include: walking, jogging/running, biking, swimming, boxing, rollerblading, vacuuming, dancing, whatever makes you happy, as long as it gets your heart rate up and keeps it up for about 30 minutes at least.  I try to aim for 30-60 minutes every other day. 

Strength Training:

Strength training at least twice a week and help increase your bone strength and muscular strength.  It can also help you maintain muscle mass during a weight loss program.  Strength training can be done with weights, resistance bands, your own body, or your baby.  Whatever you may have on hand.  You can even fill old juice/soda bottles with sand or water and use that just as effectively.  Some great strength training exercises include: squats, push-ups, pull-ups, free weights done with repetitions, plank, among others.

Core Exercises:
You certainly want to make sure you strengthen your core.  Your core includes your abdominal muscles, lower back muscles, and pelvic muscles.  It's important to strengthen these to reduce your risk of injury.  The stronger your core is the less of a chance you have of straining your back will be much less.  Core exercises help train your muscles to brace the spine and enable you to use your upper and lower body muscles more effectively. So what counts as a core exercise? Any exercise that uses the trunk of your body without support, including abdominal crunches

Balance, Flexibility, and Stretching:

I know for me my balance and flexibility are probably my weakest point.  I am not flexible and the older I get the more my balance flies out the window.  So this is an area I really try to work on.  Well, at least its always going through my head but it doesn't mean I give it my all.  :)  This is the area that if you can really focus on it you will also prevent a lot of injury as you get older.  The more limber we are the less of a chance of pulling or straining something.  The more balanced we are the less of a chance of falling when we shouldn't. 

Okay, so there you have my novel.  Tomorrow will be another exciting post.  You see, we get to have an awesome guest blogger!  Tom Rogers, who is a certified personal trainer at Your Fitness Quest (yourfitnessquest.com) will be teaching us a little bit more about fitness.  And I, for one, am very excited!