Are you making the most of your body when you’re exercising? Take a look at these fitness tips from New York teacher Nadia B. to check yourself – you might be surprised!
You’ve finally made it out of the house or the office, to the gym or the park, to get in some exercise. But with limited time and energy, it’s important to know how to best make use of your body while exercising, so you can achieve maximum benefit and reduce the risk of injury. Read on to discover three unexpected fitness tips that will change your workout for the better.
1. Notice your breathing.
This is one of the best fitness tips that is so simple, it almost seems silly to say, except that most people aren’t tuned into their breathing most of the day, let alone while exercising. First, why is it important to notice your breathing? Bringing your attention to it will stop habits like holding your breath, which are counterproductive to using your body’s resources while exercising. Also, your breathing is connected to your body’s general functioning – if your breathing is easy and natural, then it’s more likely your whole body will be better able to respond well to the exercise you’re doing. This is because the parts of the body that play a major part in breathing are muscularly connected to the spine, the legs, and more.
To apply this tip, check in with your breathing as you’re exercising. Notice if you’re allowing for a complete breath – inhale and exhale – each time, without trying to extend the outbreath or suck or gasp the air in as you inhale. The number one tip I give my clients about breathing is that it’s a natural process, and, if we don’t interfere with it in the ways I described above, the ribs, diaphragm and lungs all work together to easily move air in and out of the body.
2. Don’t do too much.
I’m not talking about number of miles or pounds lifted. I’m talking about the muscular effort you’re using as you exercise. Here’s the thing: most of us are using too much effort to do simple, everyday tasks, so when we exercise, we often do even more. You might say that we should use the most muscular effort we can when exercising, since the whole point of exercise is to work the body. Actually, if we do things with the least muscular effort required, we get a more integrated, full-body workout instead of isolating some muscles and working them at the expense of other muscles and the whole musculoskeletal system. To apply this tip, bring your awareness to your body as you are working out and allow the places where you sense excess effort or tension to release.
3. Know your anatomy.
Knowing that the spine goes all the way up to between your ears (that means your neck is part of your spine!), and that your head balances on the top of your spine, can help you go the extra mile while exercising. Why is this information important? Our heads weigh between 10-15 pounds, and we are often contracting the muscles of the neck, which can create a downward pressure of our head onto our whole spine. Visualizing the head finding an easy balance and poise on top of the whole spine can allow you to move more lightly, quickly, and easily. This not only allows you to get the most cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefit from your workout, it also aids in injury prevention from misalignment.
Keeping these tips in mind, you will get the full benefit from your workout time as well as feeling less strain and tension during and after your workout.
Nadia B. teaches fitness, flute, and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. Through her knowledge of the Alexander Technique, a mind-body method that eliminates chronic habits of tension, she offers a well-rounded perspective on fitness and movement as part of our daily lives. Nadia has also studied the Shaw Art of Swimming method, as well as Malcolm Balk’s Art of Running in workshop settings. Learn more about Nadia here!
Photo by eccampbell