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Getting in Shape for Summer

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Pay Attention to Your Body

Everybody likes to have fun. We work hard, and when we play, we like to go all out.

When exercising or playing sports however, it's important to pay attention to the feedback our body is giving you.  If you ignore the friendly messages your body is sending you, your body will probably get your attention in a more unpleasant way. And when that happens, there may be significant recovery time involved.

Paying attention to your body's signals can save a lot of downtime.

Important warning signs include shortness of breath, feeling faint, and sometimes intense muscle soreness and other pain. Any of these symptoms mean you're working too hard, doing too much, or working beyond your current physical capabilities.

Slow down and back off a bit. Tell yourself that's enough for the day and you'll be able to get back to it again tomorrow.

Your chiropractic physician can help you design challenging and fun exercise routines that will work best for your particular body and current state of fitness. They will be able to recommend stretches, sports, and other activities that align with your fitness goals and interests - helping you to be active, healthy and well

Summer is finally here! It's time to have fun in the sun, making the most of these extra hours of daylight.  If you have let things go a bit, getting back into shape may seem like a very good idea right about now.  We all like to look good in our shorts, tank tops, swimsuits and other summer attire. Even more importantly, we want to be able to participate in all the fun activities we enjoy without huffing and puffing, and without having to constantly think about restrictions and limitations.

So how do we return to fitness? There are three main aspects on which to focus - losing excess weight, increasing strength and muscle tone with weight-training, and improving aerobic fitness.1,2

Whether you want to lose ten or twenty pounds or more, the basic principles remain the same. First of all, watch the size of your portions, choosing to eat several small meals each day.  Eat slowly by putting your fork down between bites, chew your food well, and do not overeat.  You should never feel stuffed after eating.  In fact, you should really not even feel full.  Instead, pay attention to your body's cues that tell you you've had enough before you get too full.

In order to keep your energy up and keep your hunger at bay, make sure that each meal includes both protein and healthy fats such as pasture butter, organic coconut oil or organic olive oil. This will help to retrain your metabolism, helping you to become naturally leaner. This will also help to optimize your energy, balancing your insulin levels throughout the day. This is especially crucial for those who are pre-diabetic or hypoglycemic. Be sure to check with you doctor to make sure your new eating and fitness plans are appropriate for you.

Regaining aerobic fitness is very important for summer activities. The simplest way to begin is to start with a very basic walking program - just ten or fifteen minutes of easy walking each and every day. Chances are, you'll be surprised at how enjoyable it is.  After getting in the habit of enjoying this short walk each day for a week or two, slowly increase the length of your walks by a minute each day until you've built up to thirty-minutes. When it becomes very easy for you to walk for thirty minutes, increase your pace, but do it gradually over several weeks. 

At some point, depending upon various factors such as your age, weight, general condition, cardiovascular health and any musculoskeletal concerns, you may want to consider alternating walking with a few short sprints.  Intermittent sprinting is very effective for losing weight and improving your metabolism, but it can be particularly challenging to your cardiovascular system and hard on your joints. Because of this, it is especially important to get advice from your doctor before beginning this type of high intensity intermittent training.  (Particularly if you are overweight and/or have any health issues.) 

Please also make sure that you stay well hydrated.  This is especially important with the increased summer temperatures and humidity here in Alabama, and increased physical activity.  Avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day and don't be afraid to take a break if you feel yourself getting overheated.

Elliptical machines, treadmills, stair machines and stationary bikes can be a very good alternative for increasing your aerobic fitness - especially if you have joint problems that preclude sprinting as an option.  As with the walking program described above, it is very important to build up gradually. Building up to using high intensity interval training methods, with one or more of these activities, is a great way to get in shape and improve your cardiovascular fitness.  Most of these types of fitness equipment have options that you can choose that will alternate between easier and more difficult settings, providing an effective interval workout.

Weight-training is another important aspect of physical fitness.  It tones your muscles, prepares your body to do physical work, and best of all, it causes your metabolism to burn fat even while you're resting. There are many excellent books and workout videos available that can help you to begin your weight-training program. If you have a knowledgeable friend, ask them to check your form and offer advice.  Or take a few classes with an experienced instructor or trainer if you're feeling overwhelmed. That should give you the confidence to continue your workouts on your own.  Remember to start slow and use lighter weights with fewer repetitions than you think you can do, as your body gets used to the new movements. The benefits of strength training are well worth your efforts.

If at any time you experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which will usually occur a day or two after overdoing it, try an abbreviated session doing the same types of movements with little or no weights, followed by plenty of stretching once your muscles are nice and warm.  This will usually help your body clear the lactic acid from your muscles, thereby reducing soreness.  And don't forget to visit your chiropractor to make sure you are in optimal condition for exercise.

You'll soon find that you're feeling better and stronger, and ready to enjoy all that summer has to offer.

 

1Simkini-Silverman LR, et al. Lifestyle intervention can prevent weight gain during menopause. Ann Behav Med 26(3):212-220, 2003
2Knuttgen HG. Strength training and aerobic exercise: comparison and contrast. J Strength Cond Res 21(3):973-978, 2007
 

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