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Ask the trainer: When to stretch?

Question: Hi Ryan, I would like to know if it is better to stretch before or after I work out. People tell me different things and it can be very confusing. Thanks for your help.

Answer: The proper order of exercise, especially when it comes to stretching is one of those topics where you can ask 10 people and get 10 different answers. While I will answer your question, I will also try to answer the larger order of how to combine all of the different training modalities.

Warm up– When we work out, it is always important to warm up. The warm up can be a light jog or performing specific exercises or movments slowly or with little resistence. The idea is to get the body lose and the blood flowing in preparation for the intense exercise. Working out cold can sometimes lead to injury.

Resistence training– Resistence or strength training should be the first thing you do after the warmup if you are planning on it. The energy stores and muscle fiber types needed for resistence training will be the first to go so it’s important that if you are going to strength train that you do it first as you will likely not have as much energy later.

Cardiovascular training– Cardiovascular training relies primiraly on oxygen so it should always be done after your strength training. Some people prefer to do it first and while this is fine, it will take away from the energy needed for the workout.

Flexibility– Flexibility, or stretching should always be saved for the end of the work out unless there is a specific injury or severe tightnedd which needs work on prior to a workout. Stretching prior to a workout can interfere with the neuromuscular system and can cause the muscles to work in a less than efficient manner.

Cooldown– A cooldoen should always be done at the end of a workout. A stretch can be a way of cooling down but if you chose not to stretch, it is important to do something which will serve to cool the body down, rather than to stop

In home fitness training tip of the week

Every week I will be posting useful and interesting ideas for those who prefer at home fitness training to working out at a gym. These tips range will range from what equipment to buy to little things I’ve learned over the years.

This weeks tip: use an ottoman as a bench and storage. I train a couple and they live in a studio apartment. While they have a pair of bowflex dumbbells, there is not enough space to have a lot of fitness equipment. They came up with a brilliant idea to use a storage ottoman. It serves multiple purposes. In addition to it’s normal function, it is used to store fitness equipment when not in use and can be used as a bench for dumbbell presses, dips and tons of other exercises.

Exercise of the week: abdominal kick up

The abdominal Kick up is a great exercise to work the core.

Muscles used
Primary: rectus abdominus, obliques.
Secondary: erector spinae, pectoralis

Start: to start lie on your back and with your knees fully extended, raise your feet so that your hips are bent at 90 degrees. Your arms should be flat on the floor and should be used to counter balance the movement.

Movement: begin by pressing your arms into the floor and lift your hips off of the ground. Beginners should only Lift a couple of inches off but more advanced people can lift up to a foot off of the ground. Once you reach the top of the movement, pause and hold for a second. Finally, lower yourself slowly back to the starting position.

Weekly fitness Journal

As I planned way back in March, I finally began training at the Wat in September and I’m now a month into it. Training has been great so far. As someone new to training with a group, I started by taking the beginner classes and they have been very challenging. Kru Phil Nurse personally teaches the total beginner classes and there is a real mix of skill levels in the class. After a week or so I started taking the beginner- intermediate classes and have definitely noticed that I am playing catch up with the more experienced people.

Though I have a ways to go, I have noticed my running is really paying off. My conditioning is far better in the classes than I would have expected. I always feel fresh and ready to go which has been a big bonus. I’m really excited, already in a month I have noticed significant progress.

Workouts
Since I’m now taking Muay Thai classes 4-5 times a week, my running has tapered off a bit. I’m running 3-4 days a week. I work out with weights about 2-3 days a week.

Best time of the day to work out

A common question I get from my client’s is regarding what the best time of imagesday is to exercise. As a general rule, I would tend to say that the answer is specific to the person and people should work out at a time which is convenient for them. Not everybody is passionate about fitness and finding time to exercise can be hard enough without someone telling you specifically what time of day is best to work out. Also, everybody is different so one person may feel at his or her best while working out first thing in the morning while another may like to work out at midnight. There really is no right or wrong answer, whatever will keep a person committed to the fitness program is the best way.

With that said and all things being equal, here are some pro’s and con’s to working out at the various times during the day:

MorningOn the plus side, working out in the morning means that you get it out-of the way and are not likely to have something come up which would cause you to miss the workout. A morning workout is also somewhat of a natural energy booster and many people report that their morning workout helps give them energy for the day. On the negative side, working out first thing in the morning can put a person at greater risk for a lower back injury so I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with a lower back problem. Also, it’s usually advisable to eat two hours before a workout and this is not practical for someone working out in the morning, so many people chose to exercise on little or no food. This means that we don’t have sufficient energy to perform at an optimal level.

AfternoonOn the plus side, studies have shown that afternoon workouts are the most efficient. It is around this time that we have the right balance of concentration, energy and alertness. The body is also sufficiently warm. It can also help to kickstart the rest of the day as many of us suffer from the mid afternoon crash. There aren’t really any negatives to working out in the afternoon outside of the fact that it may not be the most practical time to exercise.

Evening–  One the plus side, an evening workout can serve as great stress relief after a long day. It is also efficient energetically if it is some time after lunch but before dinner as a person will have a good amount of energy for the workout. Evening workouts are also practical for those unable to work out in the morning. Some people, like me, like to work out in the evening because it tires you out for the night and can help with getting a good night of sleep.  On the minus side, working out in the evening means that you have the entire day for something to come up and interfere with your workout. Also, for some, it may be hard to have an optimal amount of energy after a long day at work. Finally, there are some, unlike me, who are wired after a workout and an evening workout may result in them having trouble sleeping.

As I said before, the answer to this question is very person specific and there is no right or wrong time to work out. My best advice is do what fits best into your schedule and have fun.

Exercise of the week: side lying lateral raise

Exercise: Side lying lateral raise

Primary Muscles worked: Deltoids
Secondary: Latisimus Dorsi

Equipment: Dumbbell

The side lying lateral raise is a great exercise for the shoulders. It is deceptively hard due to the angle so make sure to start with a lighter weight.

Starting: Lie on your side on a flat surface. It can be on the floor, a bench or a mat. Maintain a stable spine and keep the top leg in front of the bottom leg to create a stable base. With a dumbbell in the top hand start with your arm at the hip and the thumb pointed up.

Movement: make sure to lock your elbow in position and using the shoulder, raise your arm until your arm is pointing straight up towards the ceeling. Slowly lower the arm back to the hip. Lowering slowly will work opposing muscles and will create an even more intense workout.

Fitness Journal: The Race

After making the decision to train to compete in Muay Thai, I had one major goal in advance of my serious training. My goal was to improve my conditioning to a point where I would feel like conditioning was a strength. I have always been a very good athlete but I have felt as if my physical conditioning was always a bit of an Achilles heel for me. I used to blame it on any number of things from my having mild asthma to the fact that my body itches whenever I run for an extended period of time but at the end of the day, my conditioning was poor because I don’t like to run and I simply had to get over that.
I have always hated running. I used to find it boring and hard, a deadly combination. I’d find any excuse in the world not to do it. When training for a sport which requires extremely high levels of conditioning and endurance, running becomes a way of life and it was something that I would have to accept. Prior to this summer, I had never run more that one mile so I began by attempting to run 1.5 miles a couple of days a week. Runners always talk about how you hit a wall and once you break through it, you can simply keep going. I used to laugh at that but one day it happened and out of nowhere, I was consistently running 5 miles without a problem. Now after two months of consistent running, I’m finding that not only is it tolerable but I’m actually liking it a lot. It doesn’t hurt that I run in Central Park which is my favorite place in the city.

The Race
Before I leave you, I’ll share a pretty funny running experience I had recently. I was running the loop in central park one day, this was the first time I had attempted the entire loop (6 miles). About 3 miles into it, just after finishing the trecherous Harlem Hill, an older gentleman passes me. While it’s not uncommon for someone to pass me, once this person had advanced about 3 yards ahead of me he slowed down and maintained the same pace as I was at. Immediately the competetive juices started flowing as i couldn’t deal with someone in front of me at my pace. I was tired but motivated so i pulled ahead of him and created some distance between us. After about a half of a mile, he passed me and we exchange a glance which basically said “it’s on”. We spent the next mile and a half passing eachother. With a mile to go, he pulled ahead and took a significant lead. At this point I was pretty much resigned to losing this unofficial race as I just didn’t think I had much left in the gas tank. This held up for about the next 3/4 of a mile and then the thought passed in my head, “when I’m competing, I can’t simply resign myself to losing. If I quit during a fight, I can get seriously hurt. I’ll have to muster up whatever energy I have to finish fights and I’m going to do the same here.” So, with 1/4 of a mile left I turned it on and sprinted to the end. I passed him with about 10 yards of so to go and could hear him yell something at me as I passed. I had won my first unofficial central park race.

Next week I will talk a little about how training is going so far at the Wat.

Keeping fit through stress

It’s very common for a life change to have an impact on a person’s ability to work out and eat right. As one of my clients put it, “sometimes life happens.” Major changes can have an impact on drive, motivation and concentration. More often than not, change or stress ends up having a serious negative impact on a person’s fitness and nutrition program. This post is going to cover some ways to effectively navagate change without completely disrupting your fitness program:

1. Exercise feels good. By now most of us know that exercise releases endorphins throughout the body which make us feel much better. It also can serve as stress relief so if you are going through a hard time, an intense workout may help you unwind and feel better.

2. Have a plan and be prepared. Generally, I stress the importance of preparation and this is especially true when going through stress. It can be easy to let fitness and nutrition fall by the wasteside so a person must plan their workouts and eating habits more dilligently in order to stay on track.

3. Healthy eating leads to a more productive person. One thing that people notice when they switch from an unhealthy diet to a healthy one is how much better they feel. Healthy eating creates sustainable and stable energy levels. It can keep a person from feeling tired and sluggish.

4. Create a goal. Goal setting is generally a very effective tool to use with a fitness program because if gives a person something to focus on. When going through a stressful period, this focus can be a great distraction from the stress and can be a source for positive energy.

5. Find an activity. It would be great if everybody loved running or lifting weights but unfortunately, that’s not the case. When going through stress, it can be hard for a person to motivate themself to participate in an activity which they don’t enjoy. The beauty of fitness is that there is an unlimited number of things that one can so to stay fit. From cycling to dance to yoga to rebounding, there are plenty of activities in the gym and out which may be of interest. Finding the right activity can help to make exercise more fun and the person more likely to stick with it.

Weekly Training Blog

muay_thai Hello all, I want to begin by apologizing for the serious lack of posts. I’m back on track and you can expect regular posts again.

In my entire life thus far, I really only have one true regret. My one regret is that I didn’t play football in high school. This may seem a bit silly but it’s true. The reason for this is that I have always been a very good athlete and never truly had an outlet to showcase that athleticism. Ironically, my reason for not playing was that I didn’t want to wake up early and now I wake up at 5am most mornings.
     Since high school I have obviously embarked on a career in fitness and genuinely love what I do but I have always felt like something was lacking. As it turned out, what was lacking has been something which would push my body to it’s physical limits.
     In the past 6 months, I have gone through major changes in my life and I made the decision to finally make an attempt at reaching my physical potential. I made the decision to train and compete in Muay Thai which is a form of kickboxing that originated in Thailand. I have had a Muay Thai trainer for the past 3 years but have not trained at a very serious level. I love it and I decided that this would be the perfect outlet for me. Even though I have some experence, I begin training seriously in September and for all intents and purposes, my approach will be as if I was starting from scratch. Every week I will be posting updates chronicling my progress up to my first taste of competition.

That’s all for now, check in next week as I will be posting what my pre- training workouts have been like. Thanks for reading.

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