Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Choose the Exercises that are Best for You!

The key to choosing the right kind of exercises is to know your body and to know your goals. When I coach new clients or help my patients, I always ask them to tell me about the types of exercises they have done before, what went wrong, and of any injuries/health issues they have. The only people who truly cannot do a workout are those in a coma - and even with them we do stretches and range of motion (moving the joints around) several times a day! I will discuss a few of the body barriers to working out, and explore a few different options here.

Ok, so the biggest whine (you know who you are) is that "I'm too old." Well, that excuse may be, but you are NOT. Have you ever heard of the octogenarian olympics? It is an international competition for the 80 and older! And no, they aren't doing walker dual fighting - They are doing the 100 yard dash in 19 seconds! Women in their 80's are clearing 8 feet on the pole vault! Most have learned how to adapt to their health issues, despite that almost all have osteoporosis or arthritis. Even my patients who are recovering from open heart surgery go to the hospital based heart-gym to get their heart back into shape on treadmills, stationary bikes, and by lifting weights. Is your excuse that you aren't able to work out because you have kids? Kids love to work out, and doing it with their parents only reinforces those good health behaviors. Babies love to go in the jogging stroller, and toddlers/preschoolers love to try and jump, run, climb stairs, and ride on the back of the bike. My one year old is really good at copying me when I am doing my P90X workout. She marches while I jog in place, she tries to do push ups with me, and in general loves to watch me hop around - so we make a game of it. Early school aged kids can do a work out with you (modifying of course), including the Kids Fit Club - a workout just for them. Middle schoolers and up can do everything you can do - and would LOVE to beat you at it too. That adds to their self-esteem, keeps them healthy, and gives you and your kids some time together.

Body type
Are you super weak, with little bitty girl arms? Can't lift your own body weight or do a push-up? Are you a stocky person with a barrel chest, and a thick frame? Do you have funny joints that don't like certain movements like swimming or pedaling? Do you have bad feet or a bad back and have written off all kinds of activities - or worse, push through it? Knowing your body is a key aspect of finding your soul mate work out. There are activities for everyone and every body type - walking is a great activity. So is weightlifting, which helps build muscles, increase metabolism, stabilizes joints, and strengthens bones. Just start with low weights, and do more reps. This will allow you to keep your joints and body under control, and not injure yourself. Are you a bigger person, with more weight to move? The water is a great place. Easy on joints too. Learning to swim comfortably (so you don't feel like you are drowning, you aren't hitting yourself, and you are making forward progress) takes practice. Luckily, you will be swimming lots of laps, so you can practice. You should be breathing at a comfortable rate, so match your swimming to that. Most people swim really hard and need to breath heavily, resulting in sputtering, near drowning and frustration. Pace yourself, and work on speed after you get the hang of it.

This means are you a boy or a girl - and what kind of cock-a-mamy things have you been told about what kind of exercises people with certain "parts" should do. Girls can do any kind of workout that boys can do. Girls tend to weigh less, so they don't have to be as strong to pull up or push up their bodies, just modify at first with a chair to assist with pull ups or starting on your knees with pushups. Girls can lift weights - in fact they should. It increases bone density to do any weight baring exercises, and given the rates of osteoporosis, arthritis, and hip fractures among women - why wouldn't you do it? If you are a mamma like me, lifting weights helps tone your body, and makes it easier to do the crazy things you do like carry the baby, all the groceries, and the mail! Be careful though if you have any kind of pelvic floor weakness (do you pee when you sneeze?). Be sure to lift carefully, of a modest weight, and do exercises to strengthen the core and kegels to strengthen those muscles. Men...guys do yoga too, and should. Increasing your flexibility improves balance, endurance, and your ability to manage pain. Improving flexibility will prevent injuries. Also, Just as women are less likely to be able to lift higher weights, men are less likely to have good endurance and pain control. Remember that women are designed to give birth so our pain thresholds are higher, and our body's ability to use oxygen efficiently need to be good.

Health problems
This is a big one, and yet is easy to over come if you have the right support. Diabetics should work out since it improves sugar metabolism and controls weight, but they do need to monitor their sugar/insulin needs during and after a workout. A trained profession (such as myself) can help you learn to manage that. Heart problems? Watching your level of exertion, and knowing how to strengthen the cardiovascular system safely is key AND possible. Cancer patient? Moderate exercise improves symptoms of nausea, insomnia, and fatique. Be sure to know how to avoid infection at the gym, and to modify for any surgeries/procedures that may limit your movements. Kidney, lymphatic, or liver issues? Movement helps the body to cleanse itself of impurities better - just be sure to stay hydrated!! Digestive or urinary problems, movement helps both diarrhea and constipation. If you have "urgency" issues, just be sure to workout somewhere where a bathroom is accessible and close. Bed ridden? 20 asanas for your pajamas is a video for doing yoga from your bed! I recommend it to my patients all the time:) Have Alzheimer's, dementia, amnesia, or brain injury? Work out with a buddy, always tell someone where you are going, and have a routine so you always know what to do next. Paraplegic, hemiplegic, or an amputee...if we can have para-olympians who swim, run, play sports, and are probably in better shape then most Americans, then you can find solutions too!

If you have a physical limitation that I haven't mentioned here, let me know and I can help you find a way to modify that will keep you strong and as healthy as possible. Just remember, you have a body that is just right for you and learning how to make it healthy and happy can be a joyful journey! Happy exercising:)

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