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Getting ready for summer

It’s that time of year when spring is beginning to tease us, and our minds start drifting to summer activities!  We begin thinking about getting our bodies in shape for those activities, whether recreational or competitive.  We pull out the sweats, lace up the running shoes, and head out the door.


Our minds sometime get way ahead of our bodies, and we think we can do much more than what our bodies are actually able to do! Conditioning with strength training is an important factor especially at this time of year. Training begins with an understanding how our minds and bodies work together. Most of us think that by hitting the hiking trails or running the mountain slopes, we are conditioning and strength building. Sadly, that is not the case.  Muscles have weakened by lack of use, and the fact that our adult bodies lose 1 pound of muscle each year, ouch, should bring to mind that maybe we’re not quite ready to slam into activity.


Ever notice no matter how hard you try to improve performance each year, it never gets easier? If fact, it seems to get worse and we just throw ourselves onto the couch and say, “Well, I’m just getting older.”  HOG WASH!  Aging really has much less to do with declining performance than one may think. Declining performance, or those awful performance plateaus, come from incorrect training and conditioning. By conditioning, I am focusing on strength training! Many competitive athletes run, run, run…, or bike, bike, bike…, or ski, ski, ski, …or hike, hike, hike…and say, ”This never gets any easier even though I practice every day!”  Well, let’s take a look at this picture.


First, your body has got to learn how to trick the mind by doing something it’s not used to.  The body and mind both know, “Well, today we run the trail, again!” and your body does just that. You push and push harder and travel longer distances, but the performance does not match the effort. What’s wrong?


Your mind and body are bored!! The only thing that changes is the effort in speed and distance, while at the same time you are actually tearing your body down! Muscles are not strengthening, but rather getting sore and weaker, leading to injuries. The problem is, you are pushing your body to perform beyond what your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons are capable of doing. You say, “Well isn’t pushing myself harder, faster, farther strengthening all these?” No, not even close. In fact, you are damaging yourself. “Whoa, what the Hey!” you say.


Athletes, whether competitive or weekend warriors, must begin strengthening muscles, ligaments, and joints beyond routine exercise! Strengthening and conditioning the body come from gym exercises, i.e., weights! Ugh! I know it sounds brutal, but it’s absolutely necessary! Focusing on individual muscles and muscle groups using weights promotes muscle building by adding weight beyond regular body weight. It’s like running with leg weights for 3 months and then suddenly taking them off right before a race! Whoa! You will fly up that mountain. This effect happens all the time in the gym. Take a barbell exercise for example. When building muscle strength, you have to trick the body and mind into doing something they’re not used to doing. So, when beginning a bench press routine (barbell exercise), you begin by doing 3 sets of 10 reps using light weights. Do this for a week. Every week for about a month, add 5% more weight, same set of reps. By the end of the first month, you have conditioned your muscles to begin real building. Now, we start the first set of 10 reps with moderate weight. The second set of 10 reps add another 10 lbs., or as many as you can do up to 10, possibly 7-8. The third set, add another 10 lbs. so that you can only do 2 or 3 reps. Now you are hurting! Your mind and body knows what’s coming next! Yep, another 10 pounds! Your mind says it can’t do it, your body says no way. But, now comes the trick. Strip off all the weights to the weight of your first 10 reps. Your muscles are expecting much heavier weight, when in fact you have actually decreased the weights.  When you begin to lift the light set, it will feel like you could throw the bar through the ceiling! You have just tricked the muscle. This is strength building!


At 5th Ave. Fitness, we have the equipment and classes designed for strength building. Our Boot Camps and HIFT (High Intensity Functional Training) classes promote endurance and strength beyond normal body-weight conditioning. They are high power circuit classes designed to give you a full hour of continual total body workout. Yes, sweat, moans, and some groans are to be expected, but the calorie burns that you get continues for 24-36 hours after circuit routines, something you won’t get by doing a 1 hour treadmill or other single cardio workout. Cardio machine workouts are designed to vastly improve our hearts and lungs.  However, Calories stop burning the moment we step of the machine.


I want to give you a personal example of what I’m talking about. For the last two winters, because of poor snow conditions and being a business owner, my outdoor exercise had been almost non-existent. Being in the gym most of the day, I conditioned with weights and taught my HIFT Classes. It has not been until February of both years that I had time to get out on Bear Lake to do any type of aerobic conditioning. Before skiing onto the lake, my mind told me that I would be reduced to my usual wind gasping, leaning over my poles, and 10-12 rest stops during my one lap ski. What shocked me was that I skied not one, but two laps (approx. 9-10 miles), without being seriously winded or stopping once! When this happened for the first time last year, I seriously thought something weird had happened to me! I had never been at this performance level, ever! My muscles had been strengthened and conditioned to trick my mind! Same WOW as the feeling of throwing that barbell through the ceiling.


I hear all the time at the gym, “I don’t exercise in the gym during summer because I exercise outdoors.” I too exercise outdoors, (mountain biking my favorite trail, Lost Lake)!  However, muscle building should not stop! It’s also important to get that strength training at least 2-3 times a week.


So, as spring and summer beckon us to start thinking of tuning up the bike, getting new running shoes, and assessing gear for camping, don’t forget to get yourself tuned up as well. Maintain your conditioning all summer, and you’ll be glad you did.

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