Muscular Endurance

Remember the last time you went for that very first jog when you weren’t in shape yet?  Remember how after a while your legs felt like lead and didn’t want to take another step?  Now think about that same jog about a month into your daily exercise routine.  Your legs felt stronger and less fatigued didn’t they?  You were improving muscular endurance.

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or group of muscles to continue to perform without fatigue.  Many repititive fitness activities will improve muscular endurance.  Riding a bike, swimming, spinning classes, running, and certain types of calesthentics will all improve muscular endurance if they are performed on a regular basis.  If you are weightlifting, using lighter weights while increasing repetitions will improve muscular endurance, while lifting heavier weights at decreased repetitions will increase muscular strength. What’s your favorite way to improve your muscular endurance?

Muscular Strength

Do you want to be able to do your favorite physical activities without tiring out right after you start?  Do you want to be leaner? (more muscle/less fat) Do you want better posture? Do you want to have less chance of injury? Sure you do!  Muscular strength is defined as the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single effort.  You can improve muscular strength by getting involved in strength training exercises.  Ladies:  Strength training will not turn you into a giant walking muscle.  It will replace those flabby places you don’t like with more muscle mass.  Guys:  Strength training will bring you quick and very visual results that I’m sure you will like.

You can strength train by using free weights (dumbbells and barbells), weight machines (check out your local gym), or your own body weight (crunches, push-ups, pull-ups, leg raises etc.)  You can also use a combination of these in your training routine.

When you start a fitness program it’s so so important to work on muscular strength as well as cardiorespiratory endurance.  Two of my favorite fitness programs that incorporate strength training into an overall fitness program are Beachbody’s P90X and ChaLean Extreme.  These programs include cardio, strength training, muscular endurance and flexibility with a progressive plan to improve your fitness level.  What are some strength training programs you think are effective?

My Five Fave Flexibility Exercises

Good flexibility will prevent injuries and keep your lower back happy and healthy.  Here’s five of my favorites.  These are the ones that make you go “ahhh…” after you have completed them.

1.  Cross Foot Hamstring stretch This one will stretch your upper back, lower back and your hamstrings.  You get three stretches in one.

Stand straight and cross your feet. Slowly roll each vertebrae down as you reach for your toes.  Let your body hang and look at your legs (or knees depending on your flexibility level).  Breathe deeply. Now slowly roll back up, one vertabae at a time.  Cross your feet the other way and repeat.

2.  Shoulder Stretch This feels great after an upper body workout.

Hold your right arm up and straight, bring your arm across your body and hug it to your body with your left arm.  Put your chin on your shoulder and hold.  Repeat with your left arm.

What are your favorite flexibility moves?

3.  Seated Leg Hamstring Stretch If I am having twinges in my lower back I do a few of these and it usually disappears.

Sit on the floor with your right leg straight and your left leg bent (your legs form a number four) With your back straight, raise arms then lower while reaching for your toes.  Think about bringing your ribcage as close to the thigh as possible.  Breathe deeply while holding the stretch. Repeat with the left leg.  Now extend both legs and repeat the stretch reaching for both feet.  If you are able to reach to your heels easily, add a yoga block.

4.  Pigeon Pose This is a Yoga Stretch that really opens up your hips.

Put your palms on the floor about shoulder width apart. Bring right leg through and sit on the floor with your knee bent.  The right side of your foot and leg should be on the floor.  Extend your left leg behind you.  Hold this position then repeat with right and left leg switched.

5.  Child’s Pose This is a great stretch after ab and core work.

Kneel on the floor and extend both arms, palms down on the floor in front of you.  Put your forehead on the floor and breath. Ahhh….

Components of Fitness: Flexibility

Have you ever seen that gym rat who is so muscular, but can’t get anywhere near touching his toes?  Have you ever seen the runner who can do 10 miles with ease, but has an upper body that is nothing but skin and bones? In order to be truly physically fit, you have to be fit in all five components of fitness.  In this post, we’ll concentrate on flexibility.  Flexibility is the ability to move a body part through a full range of motion.  If you can do this, you are less likely to get injured.  As you age, flexibility becomes even more important.  It prevents lower back pain and can also prevent or relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

My very first job was the Program Director of a YMCA. At one point, I taught a class called, “The Y’s Way to a Healthy Back”  People were sent to this class by their doctors as a last resort before back surgery. Students were tested for hamstring flexibility with a toe touch and for abdominal strength with a modified curl up (easier than a  regular one).  No one could come anywhere close to touching their toes on the flexibility test and most could not even do one curl-up.  The class consisted of a progressive set of stretching exercises and abdominal strengthening moves.  It lasted for six weeks.  At the end of those six weeks, not one of those students needed to go through with back surgery.

Sometimes people avoid flexibility training because it doesn’t seem like “real” exercise. If they are pressed for time, the flexibility training is what they skip.  My hubby is one of those people who is guilty of this and it drives me crazy.  Tomorrow he is going to see his doctor for yet another shoulder injury. (pulling my hair out)

Do yourself a favor and concentrate on flexibility at least once a week during your workouts.  Also make sure you are stretching after each workout during the week. Tomorrow you’ll get a rundown of some of my favorite flexibility exercises.  What are your favorites?

Managing Stress with Exercise

I am a huge proponent of managing stress with regular exercise.  Studies have shown over and over again that daily exercise can elevate mood and relieve stress.  People who are mildly or moderately depressed can get as much relief from daily exercise as they can from anti-depressants.  So now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.  Our school district is in the middle of a huge reorganization, closing buildings, furloughing teachers and moving everyone who is left all around.  I have been teaching at the same school at the same grade level for 11 years.  Next year I will move from high school to middle school (6th and 7th grade).  Big changes equal big amounts of stress.  The last time I had a big job change I left my daily exercise routine slip and I paid the price.  This time I am determined to do better.  My health and well being will not take a back burner to a crazy schedule and new responsibilities.  I have to take care of myself first.  If I can stay focused on that, the rest will fall into place.  When have you had to make a big life change?  Did keeping your workout schedule keep you sane?  Let me know your story!