There are three things I find I have to have in my fitness routine, or else things fall apart: 1) Strength, 2) Cardio, and 3) Stretching. The last one, stretching, usually is the one no one takes as seriously as the first two. Stretching isn’t sexy, it’s girly, and it looks too easy. Don’t be fooled! There are quite a few people who have had to curtail their workouts because of injuries due to lack of stretching. One of my gym friends took off on a marathon run several years ago. She was in great shape, about 23 years old and in all ways fit. She decided to start out cold on race day and didn’t get too far before her legs cramped up and stayed that way for long enough to eliminate her from the race. That is a very hard lesson to learn but you need to learn it. I had a condition come up on me which threatened to stop my workouts entirely, my feet felt like there was a 10 penny nail being driven into the top center of each foot. It just got worse and worse and finally I was driven to see a doctor. It turned out that my Achilles tendon was contracting, and I had to stretch it out by standing on the steps, hanging my heels over the edge and pulling out the offending tendon every day. It worked. This is also a lot of the cause of the now highly popular plantar fascia; simple stretching would take care of most of that. These episodes taught me the importance of stretching after exercise, before, and in a class all by itself. So, I devote three days a week to stretching as my primary concentration of exercise! I like Yin yoga especially because you get into a pose and hold it for 3-5 minutes, and that will pull out those muscles so they perform like greased Bentley ball bearings. So, when it comes to stretching and keeping your muscles limber, make this activity a bona fide part of your routine.
Yes, You Need Strength Training-
Ladies, you do need strength training. No, it won’t make you look like a linebacker, either. Mother Nature has seen to it that you will retain your womanly curves, but you will have flatter abs, rounder booty, better defined arms, and will look less like a pear if you work out. I will get into greater detail later about women’s strength training later, but suffice to say it is one part of the package you cannot do without.
Note that it doesn’t burn calories like cardio, but it keeps your bones dense and lets you not be a weakling. Your arms will look so much better, and tastes have changed considerably over the last few years, where you were regarded as unfeminine if you were strong, now it is the standard. Take a look at the ladies on TV, every one of them who wears sleeveless dresses has great shoulder muscles. That is no accident.
I will leave you with this thought, too. If you have some sort of a figure “fault” then you can do a lot toward “fixing” it with strength training. For instance, say you are a pear shaped woman, start working on your upper body. Before you know it, you will be looking so much more in proportion! All shoulders and no hips? Start working on your booty and your legs, that will go far to bring you back into focus. I have tried this trick and it works so well that I am a real tiger on strength workouts.
Cardio, Do Not Be Afraid-
People either love or loathe cardio. If you are overweight, the thought of leaping around like a tuna fish and getting totally out of breath is not something you want to do. However, if you lose just 5 lbs, the difference is amazing! Cardio burns calories like mad, you can’t do too much more to melt off the fat. It also builds muscle, helps build muscle, keep your balance, and makes you more graceful. Besides, it’s a blast…you get to listen to loud music and shake your hips like you don’t do otherwise. Just about every gym out there has a cardio class every day: Zumba, Latin Heat, Jazzercise are all dance based cardio classes you can take.
Of course, there are the bootcamp sorts of courses and they can be called cardio as well. Step used to be a staple but has been eclipsed by Zumba but it might stage a comeback.
Cardio is always more fun if you wear a chest strap to record your heart rates and length of time you were at it. don’t forget your towel and water bottle for this class! You will need both if you are doing it right.
The bottom line is that all 3 types of exercise are needed by everyone whether you are trying to lose weight or maintaining. You don’t need a gym to participate in them either. If you are a gym-phobe there are loads of great YouTube videos on each of the 3 types of fitness and you can participate in them from home. The more esoteric stuff can be had on DVD, too. I have a DVD of Yin Yoga which is very tough and I use it when the weather is so bad I can’t get to class. There are lots of series of workouts of all kinds, every thing from “Shreds” to “Insanity” and more. Just Google them and you will see. You might want to invest in a couple of them in case you are stuck indoors.
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