Fitness 101 Health & Fitness News

Fitness 101, Issue 2: Your questions answered

A head photo of James Chicalo.

1. Why is stretching important? Do you have a stretching routine you recommend?

Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness that can enhance performance and improve quality of life. Flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury, especially in the lower extremities, and can also enhance an individual’s ability to carry out daily tasks and exercise. Stretching to increase one’s range of motion should be undertaken cautiously. It is important that, in the pursuit of increased range of motion one does not aggressively stretch to the point of causing muscle or tendon damage or diminish one’s ability to perform optimally.

Yes, I do a basic stretching routine that targets all of the major muscle groups. It is best to find a stretching routine you like and will stick to. Everyone is at their own personal level, so finding what works best for you is key.

2. What’s a plank? How do I do it correctly? How long should I do it for? Why should I do it? How often?

A plank is a position we place our bodies in to train and develop our core muscles. It is arguably one of the best core training exercises.

The plank is where we find ourselves in the extended or upper part of a push up. The plank refers to the direct board like positioning of our bodies from our shoulders down to our heels. In this position we hold our abdominal muscles tight, strengthening through our torso and hold this plank position for 30 seconds or longer.

After much reading and research I am of the belief that 30 seconds to 2 minutes is an ideal range to maintain perfect plank form. I recommend starting out planking for 20 seconds 2-3 times, each time you workout or as much as everyday. Soon you will be able to plank longer, as you develop a stronger core. Try planking for 1:00 minute, three times with small rest breaks in between.

As with most exercises, the plank can be modified (like the push up) by performing it on our knees and hands, or knees and on our forearms. It is best to have a certified trainer demonstrate the plank then ensure you are doing it properly to avoid injury.

3. How often should I weigh myself? Why?

This is a topic that is hotly debated. I believe in weighing yourself often if you have weight gain or loss in mind. That way you’ll be able to track your progress and increase or decrease caloric intake as needed. If you want to gain or lose weight you’ll want to keep a record.

However, If you weigh the same every day you step on the scale (within 5 pounds every time) and you don’t care about whether you gain or lose that 5 pounds, then weigh yourself whenever you want!

Do you have fitness questions? Submit them here.

Fitness 101 Health & Fitness News

Fitness 101: Frequently Asked Questions

A head photo of James Chicalo.

I am trying to add fitness into my life.
Should I focus on cardio or strength training? Why?

Well done on starting your fitness journey! Fitness is a key factor in everyone’s life and it is never too late to start.

When you are just starting a workout program, I believe it’s OK to focus on doing whatever activity it is that you like best, and captures your interest. If you enjoy getting on a rowing machine, then row! If you just love hitting a treadmill or elliptical machine, go for it! If strength training is a favourite? Then do whatever it is that will keep you in the fitness groove!

After some time, you will gain confidence, and hopefully fall in love with the way you feel when you move more. Then, You can decide which one gets you the best results, and really, both cardio and strength-training are pretty important.

But in short, over the long haul I’m a big fan of strength training. Want to know why? Here’s an article I read recently talking about the weight-lifting benefits for women – but guys, you can read it too, because most applies to all: For Women Weight Lifting is Essential, Here’s Why | ISSA

Should I work out every day? I’ve heard
“rest days” are important for muscle growth when lifting.
What can I do every day?

Yes, you should work out every day. But you may want to adjust what you do, each day. Here’s why:

Rest days are important. That is: Rest days from intense cardio or strength training/weight-lifting sessions.

However, while you might take a rest from the intense cardio/strength training, you should still aim to get 60-90 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day. The easiest example? Going for a fast-paced walk is something everyone can do every day!

Here is what the World Health Organization recommends for adults aged 18-64:

  • Minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity)
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week
  • Muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week

But if you want a personalized plan that will help with those goals, contact me for more information.

What is one thing I should watch out for when
starting my fitness routines?

Please make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. Proper form is essential, and if you keep good form right from the beginning you will avoid injury, enjoy your workouts more, and likely stick to your routine long-term.

Hiring a certified personal trainer is one great way to ensure proper technique and form, while reducing the risk of injury. But you can also find reputable sources online, or refer to books at your local library. If you would like to find out more about my personal training services, check here. You can also attend some of my classes.

Also, remember that it’s important to check in with your doctor to let them know your plans and to get clearance on any ongoing health matters. In some cases, it might even be necessary to adjust medications due to your new-found health!

When should I “push through” the pain, and
when should I stop?

There is a difference between pain from an injury, and pain you are experiencing through what is called muscle hypertrophy – that’s an increased growth in muscle size during and after the work of lifting weights. Once you start moving regularly, you will quite quickly learn the difference. Pain is not good, but discomfort is excellent.

Listen to your body, and if it hurts to do something, explore that further. You may need to find another way to achieve a specific goal, or to consult a professional to figure out what’s going on for you. (Have I recently mentioned the benefits of working with me as a certified personal trainer? Call me!)

Eventually, you’ll start to recognize (and enjoy) the soreness that comes from a successful training session! And chances are, you will hurt a lot less than you do if you don’t exercise at all.

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