Monday, February 24, 2014

Boost Your Workouts

About two years I ago I started into a fitness kick. I had gained quite a bit of muscle working in archaeology, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. It was while working in that field that I discovered how weak I actually was, and how lousy my stamina was. Part of archaeology in Canada consists of what is called field walking. I’ll let you guess what that entails. By the end of a full day of field walking, I was worn out. Just by walking. So I did what I do best: I researched. How can I work out effectively, both with cardio and muscle training. And without access to a gym or equipment.
Simply put: schedule your workouts. Here are some quick tips to boost the quality of your workouts.

1.      Don’t do the same workout every day.

Your body needs time to recuperate after a workout, and it needs time to build up the area you were working on. Muscles grow by tearing, which sounds counterintuitive. But when you see people with massive muscles, the majority of the muscle mass is created the same way a scar forms. After undergoing intense muscle training, which leaves your muscles partially damaged, satellite cells are activated to help repair the injury. These cells divide and multiply, and attach themselves to the damaged areas. The higher number of nuclei allows for more proteins to go to that muscle, which allows for more growth.

In saying that, your body needs the chance to let these cells do their job. In the meantime, you can be working on another area of your body, which will actually allow the satellite cells to work better. On the days you don’t work your muscles, work your heart. Do some cardio workouts. I’ve made the routine now of alternating cardio and muscle workouts, which has allowed my body to recover while still actually working out.

2.      Eat your spinach!
Actually, eat your protein. After any type of training, or even going for a long hike or bike ride, get protein into you. Drink a big glass of milk. Eggs are also a very quick way to get a lot of protein into your body. When I go for hikes and bike rides, I always bring a snack with me. Along with the traditional trail mix (which is great because of the protein in the nuts, and the sugars in the candy) I bring hot dog wieners and hard boiled eggs. After just that small snack, I’m ready to go for another few hours.

I’m not the first to say that eating healthy is good for you, nor is that in any way profound. It’s just common sense. You want to be healthy? Then be healthy in everything you do. But just keep in mind what your body is going through, and know the proper ‘medicine’ for what’s happening. If you’ve just completed a workout, your body needs protein. Eat protein. If you’ve worked up a sweat, your body needs electrolytes. Drink a Powerade. It’s that simple, folks. Do some research into what different workouts do to your body, and find out what you need to do to make sure your body isn’t missing those essential nutrients. This website has a really good chart which talks about different body conditions (muscle cramps, etc), what it means, and what to eat to give your body the nutrients it needs. 

3.      Warm it up
This could have been the first point, but I decided not to. Warming up before a workout is so, so, so crucial. I’ll admit: I rarely warm up. That’s me admitting my fault. Now, I need to do something about it. Stretch before you work out. It gets your blood going, and it loosens the muscles you’ll be using. This way you don’t get an actual injury, rather than just muscle regeneration ‘injury.’ Not warming up actually led to me busting my ankle about a year ago. I hadn’t gone for a jog in a while, so I thought I’d just go for it. And I pushed myself. Okay, so I mostly walked at a really fast pace, but it was a good three hour hike. On the way back home, about five minutes away from home, there’s a part of the hike that’s on a steep incline. And after the abuse I put myself through up to that point, my ankle couldn’t take it anymore. I limped the rest of the way home. It didn’t help that I work in retail and I’m constantly on my feet for my job. 

“But I’m too cool to warm up!” Do you honestly think Olympians don’t warm up before they compete? “But I’m not an Olympian.” That’s because you don’t warm up.
See, even this Olympic athlete is sad you don't warm up. 

Keep in mind, there are many other important notes about how to have an effective work out, but that’s all dependant on a person’s health, weight, metabolism, etc. For example, I have Juvenile Rheumatoid (or Idiopathic) Arthritis. My workouts are going to be much different than someone without joint issues. My body needs different nutrients after a workout. I also need to work out different areas of my body before I can even think about jogging. Remember my ankle story? Always remember that the workout routines you see on TV, or on the internet, or even in the gym, they all need to be adjusted to fit you. We’ve heard it before: “you’re special! You’re unique!” And it’s true. You need to find the workout, and schedule, that works best for you and your body.