Monday, July 30, 2012

How to Train Like an Olympian—and Why!

     I consider myself a fit person. But I’m complacent—a little too comfy with my current workout. After reading an article on 45-year old Dara Torres (five-time Olympic swimming champion) and anticipating the summer Olympic games in London, I’m ready to up my workout ante.

     My “go-to” exercise is dance aerobics, but I’ve decided I need to cross train. Cross training varies the stress on muscles because different activities use muscles in slightly different ways (even avid runners experience sore muscles after a day of downhill skiing). Cross training also reduces the risk of overuse injuries such as tennis elbow, runner’s knee, and Achilles tendonitis.

     Angie Davis, physical therapy assistant and certified personal trainer at Total Rehab Care recently told me that she never does the same exercise routine back-to-back; she loves to “change it up.” Angie, like the Olympic athletes we see on TV, uses several different forms of exercise to work different muscle groups, enhance her fitness level, and build a stronger body.

Here are some ways you can vary your workout and feel like an Olympian:

  • Try fast-slows. Use an interval training approach to running, swimming laps, or using the elliptical. Begin at your normal pace, increase your intensity (sprint) for a burst of time, and return to your normal pace. 
  • Out-perform your personal record. Keep a journal of your workout performance and compete against yourself. Shave off one minute on your 5K run, increase your hand-held weights from five pounds to six pounds, or extend your stair stepper workout by five minutes. Angie emphasizes that hard work pays off. “You like what you see and want to do more.” 
  • Work the same muscle group, but do it differently. For rock hard abs, perform reps of side planks, bicycles (elbow to knee), and a “pike up” with a stability ball. The strength and coordination of abdominal muscles is important not only for sports and fitness, but for daily life. 
  • Use varied functional movements. Functional movements resemble everyday tasks, like reaching for a vase on the top of a shelf. Combine a squat with an overhead reach, a forward moving lunge walk, push-ups, and jump roping for a diverse workout. 
  • Incorporate new equipment into your workouts. Hold a medicine ball with arms extended and rotate your trunk side-to-side to strengthen your core. Run the stairs to build stronger glutes and quadriceps. Use a resistance tube to perform high-intensity bicep curls, or perform push-ups using a stability ball. 
  • Plan your training schedule. Angie shoots for five to six days of activity, with three days of intense training. She always allows one day of relaxation to let her body recover. 
  • Hire a coach. A personal trainer can plan new workout routines AND show you proper form and technique to prevent serious injury. 

      Orthopaedist and sports medicine expert Wayne Leadbetter, MD once told me that problems occur when we do too much, too fast, too often, and with too little preparation. So go ahead, improve your workout performance, but do so safely and slowly. And always talk to your primary care physician before starting a new workout program.

By: Anne Gill

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