#Expert Talk – Fitness Training – The Exercise Essentials
Today, everybody is talking about getting fit. We get bombarded with fitness tips, tricks and advices that range from well-known to the outrageous. But a lot of times, while focusing on the core training, we miss out the real gems of wisdom, the foundation any physical activity needs, for it to flourish.
Watch a cheetah after it is done chasing a deer, zigzagging at high speeds. It sits rooted to a spot, panting heavily; vulnerable and unable to even eat its fresh meal. If that is the effect of vigorous activity on a body specifically designed for speed, we humans come nowhere close!
While the beauty and complexity of the human body allows us to adapt and condition it to strenuous activities, a lot of thought needs to go behind designing the fitness routine. It seems simpler to enter a court and immediately start playing three sets of Tennis or get out of the building lift and start running for 10 km. But this takes a heavy toll on the body. It helps to follow a structure when it comes to workouts.
Various factors comprising an effective Fitness routine
1. Warm up
3. Cool down
1. Warm up – The purpose of warm up is to prepare the body for exercise. The most effective warm up is a mix of general and specific exercises. General exercises include jogging, calisthenics (a variety of exercises that add to flexibility and body strength), general stretching and resistance exercises. Specific exercises include stretches and movements that are required for the activity to be performed.
Principles of Warm up
- The best guideline for the intensity of warm up is to produce mild sweating without fatigue.
- Generally recommended duration of warm up is ten to thirty minutes.
Benefits of Warm-up
- Increased blood flow to muscles
- Increased delivery of Oxygen to muscles
- Enhancement of cellular metabolic chemical reactions
- Higher muscular efficiency due to reduced muscle viscosity
- Increased speed of nerve impulses
- Greater relaxation and concentration
- Reduction in number of injuries due to increased range of motion, reduced stiffness of connective tissue leading to greater forces and length of stretch required for tears to occur.
All skeletal muscle groups are more vulnerable to strain and tearing if the muscles are aggressively stretched without a warm-up.
Stretching and flexibility are a vital aspect of fitness routines. With proper stretching, a balance is created between various muscle groups of the body. All joints in the body are powered by pairs of muscle groups that perform opposing functions. For example, straightening of the knee (knee extension) is done by Quadriceps and bending of the knee (knee flexion) by Hamstrings. Inflexibility between muscle pairs causes one muscle to overpower the actions of the other, creating an imbalance and injury. The balance between various parts of the body creates greater flexibility. This flexibility produces a greater range of motion in the joints and the joints can bear and distribute stress of the activity better.
Similar harmony between the muscle groups of the lower back, groin, and abdominal muscles is necessary to prevent strains and tears in these tissues.
Hard, vigorous stretches should not be performed at the beginning of the warm up. It is important to begin with passive stretching (where you use you your body weight or the force of gravity for stretching) and then progress to active stretches (active manipulation of the body) specific to the fitness activity to be undertaken.
Principles of Stretching
- Warm up is required prior to stretching
- Stretch before and after a fitness routine
- Stretch gently and slowly
- Stretch should be to the point of tension but not painful
- Avoid jerky movements
Benefits of Stretching
- Increases flexibility of muscles
- Reduced incidence of injuries
- Reduction/alleviation of muscle soreness
- Enhancement of muscular performance
3. Cool down
Cool down is essential after strenuous exercise/activities that increase heart rate and place strain on the muscles.
During prolonged, vigorous exercise, the blood vessels in the legs expand; hence more blood travels through them. If exercise is stopped suddenly, this blood starts to pool in the lower body. This is why people feel dizzy or even faint after a fitness routine.
Principles of Cool Down
- Cool down should contain low intensity exercises
- An effective cool down period is at least ten minutes, immediately after the primary activity.
- A gap/rest between the fitness activity and cool down does not allow gradual return to normal resting state of the body
Benefits of Cool down
- Gradual reduction of heart rate to normal
- Aids in removal of metabolic waste
- Readies the muscles for the next session or activity
- Cool down may help reduce muscles soreness in some individuals
About the Author
The author holds a Bachelors in Physiotherapy and an MBA in Marketing. She was involved in spreading wellness across TCS through TCS Fit4life.