It seems that all too often, our workout can begin to feel more like an obligation than an enjoyable activity. Why have we suddenly lost the fun that comes from physical activity and a healthy lifestyle? Is it possible that working out and training for performance are actually serving as unhealthy activities for our bodies—is the thing that’s supposed to improve our health actually hindering it? If we are so focused on the endgame of the workout and the process it takes to get there, we lose one of the most important aspects of exercise: the experience.
The ability to succeed at any elite level has dramatically increased as the years have progressed. The pressures to look a certain way and perform at a certain level have overtaken the minds of our society as a whole. According to coach Andrew Read, “one of the best ways we’ve found to fix this in our training is to incorporate playful periods into our training.” Any type of natural movement along with playful games and activities are essential and key factors in ensuring we do not get caught up in the wrong aspects of fitness and forget about all of the positive benefits that come with a healthy lifestyle.
What we may not realize is that “our bodies and minds are hungry for play. And when it comes to movement, the conventional mindset in response to this need — thinking we need to grind away on machines that typically lend themselves to repetitive motions — is incomplete and imbalanced,” (Heffernan). By incorporating playful activities into fitness routines utilizes all of your senses. While you receive the physical benefit of running around or playing a game outside, you also receive the additional incorporation of your sensory systems that work to connect you to the world and environment around you. Incorporating play into our workout routines allows us to feel young again while making our exercise fun and efficient.
By definition, exercise is “activity requiring physical effort, carried out especially to sustain or improve health and fitness.” Some examples of exercising that go beyond your basic treadmill and elliptical workouts include:
- Going on a hike
- Rock Climbing
- Interactive Video Games such as Wii
- Play a childhood game
No matter what your workout of choice may be, make it fun! Get a group together and turn a physical activity into a social one. Be active, be healthy, and, most importantly, be happy.
Whether you are a competitive or recreational runner, tight and weak hamstrings can affect everyone and cause pain and injury among athletes. Yoga can be not only a relaxing and fun way to enhance your strength and release some muscle tension, it can also become a runner’s best friend. According to Katie Neitz of Runner’s World, “A simple yoga routine loosens tight spots, strengthens weak spots, and makes you a better, less injury-prone runner.”
The following pose provided by Kelle Walsh from Experience Life sets its focus on an athlete’s Adductor Magnus in order to “alleviate tightness, prevent hamstring injuries, and make it easier to activate the glutes.” This pose will allow runners to loosen up their muscles that are strained throughout their workout. Athletes can expect to see improvements both on and off the mat by participating in yoga. This pose designed specifically for runners along with many others can be a key component in bumping your workout performance up to the next level!
Target Area: Hamstrings
Pose: Standing Straddle Forward Fold
When to perform: Post-workout or during recovery.
How to do it:
- Step your feet wide apart (about a leg’s length), with your feet parallel.
- Walk your hands down your legs, and allow your torso to hang between your legs. You can bend your knees and rest your hands on the floor or a yoga block, if you choose.
- Bend and stretch your legs a few times, and press down evenly through the bottoms of your feet to gently deepen the stretch. Then be still, and hold for five breaths.
Note: You can also perform this pose with feet turned inward about 30 degrees, internally rotating at the hips to deepen the stretch.
The next pose provided by Runner’s World aims at both stretching a commonly strained muscle as well as reducing the risk of injury.
Target Area: Shins and arches of feet
Pose: Toes Pose
Benefits: Prevention of plantar fasciitis—stretches out an athlete’s shins as well as the arches of the feet
How to do it:
- Kneel on your mat with your toes curled under.
- Sit back on your heels (you can place a yoga block or pillow between your heels and glutes).
- Breathe deeply for 10 counts.
- Point your toes, place your hands on the mat behind you, and lean back as you attempt to lift your knees off the mat. If your knees don’t come far up, don’t worry. You’ll still feel a nice stretch in your shins and arches.
Stress affects all people in very different ways. Whether it be stress from your work, home, or relationships, stress can take both a physical and emotional toll on our bodies. It is important that we cope with stress in ways that are healthy and effective.
According to Mayo Clinic, stress can effect our body, mood, and behavior. Some examples of these include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
Your health and overall well-being are negatively affected by stress that comes from various aspects of your everyday life. It is important to become aware of these changes in your body, mood, or behavior in order to effectively cope with stress triggers.
Some activities for coping with stress:
Rest, meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, do something social with friends, take a walk, regular physical activity, deep breathing, etc.
While these coping techniques may be effective for many people in reducing stress levels, they may not work for everyone. If you have taken steps to reduce and better control your levels of stress and you still feel you need more, it is important to seek further help. High levels of stress can negatively affect our everyday lives, and it is important to take the appropriate measures in reducing it.
It’s no secret that anything consumed in excess is not healthy for your body, and soda is NO exception to this category. An intake of an excessive amount of soda, whether it be regular or diet, is unhealthy for your body. There have been numerous studies that show an evident link between high levels of soda intake and health problems. Some of these health problems include:
1) Weight Gain
2) Poor Dental Health
4) Cardiovascular Disease
The main issue that stems from high rates of soda intake is an excess amount of sugar. The calories from the sugar contained in soda are shown to turn into fat more easily as compared to calories from fat found in food. While you may get a temporary “sugar rush,” it is exactly that: temporary. Overall, there really is just no nutritional value from drinking soda.
Along with the issues of sugar comes the sodium and caffeine that is found in soda. These two components of soft drinks have been shown to increase a person’s risk at developing heart problems. According to Dr. Mary Ann McLaughlin, “caffeine can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and too much sodium over the course of the day can increase food retention. This combination of caffeine and sodium has a dehydrating effect.”
So, while there is substantial evidence supporting the idea that soda is not recommended in a balanced and healthy diet, it is not necessary to cut soda out of your diet completely. By simply limiting your soda intake to 2-3 sodas per week, you can still enjoy your quick sugar fix without all of the added health problems that are associated with it. When it comes to consuming anything, whether it be food or drink moderation and balance are key. Anything eaten or consumed in small doses will not have a substantial impact on your health and well-being.