Fitness and Sport

Stretches for Skiing

Because of the sustained contractions needed during a long ski run, the muscles of the legs can begin to feel tight and inflexible. By performing regular stretches that target the big muscles of the hips and thighs, skiers can maintain their flexibility and reduce stress on the knee and hip joints, as well as the lower back and pelvis.

It’s good to perform some dynamic warm-up exercises, like leg-swings, lunges and squats before your first runs on the slopes. The time for static stretching, where you’re looking to improve your flexibility, is after a good workout, or a long day of skiing when your muscles are warm and loose.

The static stretches I’m discussing this week will focus on the legs, but can also be beneficial for stretching out the muscles of the core, including the lower back and abdomen. It’s always important to pay close attention to technique when stretching. If you’re not feeling the stretch in the desired muscle, there’s a good chance you don’t quite have the right body position, so make small adjustments until you know you’ve got it right.

It’s also important to breathe comfortably when stretching. If you hold your breath, your muscles won’t relax and release. I usually try to progress my stretches a little further every time I exhale, pushing to the point of slight discomfort, but not pain.

Always remember to perform a thorough warm-up before exercise, and consult your physician before starting or changing your fitness program.

Glute Stretch

If you let your glutes get too tight they’ll limit your mobility and affect your athletic performance

There are a few good ways to stretch the glute muscles, and it’s usually not hard to tell if you’re getting it right. I find it quite easy to get a nice deep stretch into these big muscles, and always feel good afterward. This version, which is sometimes referred to as the pigeon pose, can be done on a bench or table, or on the floor as shown. Start on your hands and knees, crossing your right leg underneath you. Support most of your weight on your hands as you lay the outside of your right lower leg on the floor. Begin shifting your weight back into your right hip joint, while keeping your hips square and your spine and head as neutral as possible. Be certain to stop this stretch if you feel any strain in your right knee. If you don’t feel a stretch right away, use your core muscles to twist your left hip toward your right foot, while picking up your tailbone slightly. These small shifts should dial up the intensity of the stretch. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side.

 

If you let your glutes get too tight they’ll limit your mobility and affect your athletic performance

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Also known as the Modified Hurdler stretch, this seated hamstring stretch is very effective for people with a moderate degree of flexibility. Individuals with very shortened hamstrings will likely be more successful performing a standing hamstring stretch on a low step. For this seated stretch, begin by sitting flat on the floor with your right leg extended out in front of your body. Bend your left leg so that the sole of your left foot rests against the inside of your right knee. Sit as tall as you can, trying to extend your spine upward as you pivot forward at the hip joints. By pulling the toe of your right foot toward you, you’ll feel a strong stretch in your calf as well. You can either reach for your toes with your hand, or hold onto your lower leg as shown. Hold for 30-45 seconds on each side, progressing as you exhale.

 

Twister Stretch

I don’t know if I’ve ever written about this stretch, but it’s one that I do most frequently, because it just feels so good. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs bent and flop your knees over to the right. Slide your left leg back behind you, so that your left knee is on the floor, behind your right foot. Turn your torso to your right hand side and put both hands flat on the floor, with your arms straight, supporting your upper body. Once in this position, use the strength of your arms to turn your torso even further, as you use your core muscles to press your left hip forward, feeling a stretch in the upper thigh of the left leg. Keeping your left leg bent further behind you will increase this stretch. If you keep your core muscles tight, and lift your chest and ribcage upward, you’ll likely be able to feel a stretch into your abdomen and the deep psoas muscles of your hip flexors. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds, repeating on the other side.

 Sharpen Those Ski Legs.

Although the temperatures have risen a bit lately, it won’t be long before half of Vancouver is making their way to the North Shore mountains or to Whistler/Blackcomb. If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time for you to get those legs ready for the first runs of the year.

You’ve probably noticed on a week-long ski vacation that your leg muscles can ‘acclimatize’ in a very short period of time. The first few days may be rough, but by the end of the week the burn isn’t as bad, and your stamina has usually improved. This is more about how your body is handling the waste products of muscle metabolism than actually building strength, but if it equates to less pain and better performance, it’s a good thing.

The question is, why don’t more people pre-train their legs in advance of their first days on the hill, so that they make the most of those runs and enjoy it more? All it takes is to spend a few days training the legs hard, and really pushing the limits of your endurance and pain tolerance. By this I don’t mean the kind of pain that comes from injury, but the serious, wobbly-knee burning you feel as you near the end of a long ski run.

This week I’m focusing on sport-specific endurance through targeted training techniques. If you can push yourself through the following 3 exercises, building up the frequency and duration in the days before your first day on the slopes, you should be more prepared for a great start to ski season. Because these aren’t heavy, muscle-tearing strength exercises, feel free to do them daily.

Always remember to perform a thorough warm-up before exercise, and consult your physician before starting or changing your fitness program.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.www.williamshealthgroup.com

Fast feet medley

Skiing well requires control and confidence throughout the body, with an emphasis on the performance of the core and legs. The less fatigued you are, the more precise your movements and the more prepared you’ll be when you need to adjust to the terrain or take evasive action. This drill will help in all areas. Begin in a neutral athletic position, with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, and hips and knees slightly flexed. Keeping your core engaged will help your alignment and movement. Maintaining this position, begin firing your feet as quickly as you can, lifting one and then the other as if running quickly on the spot, keeping your feet wide apart. Perform two sets of 30-seconds, with 60-90 seconds rest in-between. On your third and fourth sets introduce movement variables every five seconds, including a squat, a jump, a 90˚ or 180˚ turn, a push up, or even a summersault. Push the limits of your endurance, striving for 45-60 seconds. If your legs aren’t screaming by the time you’re done, you’re not firing your feet fast enough, or staying low enough in your squat. Steadily increase your duration and shorten your rest intervals.

Box slides 

At the risk of getting slightly dizzy, this athletic movement drill requires a sustained leg contraction and effective core/hip stability. Place 4 cones in a square pattern on the floor. There should be about five feet between cones. Stand on one of the perimeter lines, facing into the square, with a cone near your left foot. Establish a neutral athletic stance, and maintain a compact body position as you press to the right, effectively performing a side-step or lateral bound to land on your right foot just inside the cone. Stay low and compact as you swivel or pivot 90˚ on your right foot until your back is facing into the square, and propel yourself along the perimeter line to land on your left foot, inside the next cone. Now pivot on your left foot so that your body faces inward as you propel along the third perimeter line to land on your right foot, near the fourth cone. Finally, pivot again and propel along the last perimeter line to land on your left foot back at the cone where you started. Perform 5 clockwise revolutions, then 5 counter-clockwise, and repeat

 Lowrider Jump Lunges

It seems like every time I write a column about training for sports, or building better legs, I include lunges. Because they’re so practical and accessible, lunges are a great exercise when performed correctly. The endless varieties always keep them fresh and effective. To build endurance for skiing, start in a low lunge position, with your core set and equal weight between your front and back feet. Quickly switch feet, working hard to stay as low as possible in the lunge position and holding strict body alignment. Continue switching feet and begin to travel further from side to side on each jump. Perform 4 sets of 20-30 repetitions. Gradually increase the number of reps as your level of conditioning improves.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com

Body by Rob – Ready…set…ROW!

I’ve always been of the opinion that rowing machines are a great workout, but I caution against dropping them into home gyms and fitness studios where there is little to no supervision, because they can also be dangerous. This concern was recently validated by a good friend and client, Brad Lewis, who knows a thing or two about rowing.

Brad won the gold medal in the double sculls event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles with rowing partner Paul Enquist, and wrote about the challenge in his book ‘Assault on Lake Casitas’. He’s also coached rowing at a very high level. Brad and I are working together to re-align his body and re-program his movement patterns after countless rowing strokes and so many years in a boat. Recently Brad offered to shoot an instructional video about proper use of a rowing ergometer, in order to help other clients improve their training and avoid injury.

As Brad mentioned when we began shooting the video, most people who use a rowing machine have never been taught proper technique. With the seated, flexed body position there is potential for spinal problems, and the large amount of muscle mass used during rowing causes a very quick rise in cardiovascular demand. This can push the heart rate to maximal levels very quickly. These conditions, coupled with poor technique or an overzealous training strategy, could lead to serious problems.

I’ve tried to summarize some of Brad’s coaching tips here. This is a bit over-simplified, but I believe you’ll find the pointers helpful. Always remember to consult your physician before starting or changing your fitness program.

Before you row

There are a number of things to do before you get rowing. Brad suggests setting the damper on the rowing machine to #4 for most rowing purposes, and adjusting the foot positioning so that the straps fit comfortably around the ball of your foot. Once you’re in the seat, with your feet in the straps, make sure that you’re sitting very tall, with your tailbone picked up so that you feel like you’re sitting on your upper hamstrings. Too many people sit with their hips tucked underneath, so they’re almost sitting on their lower back. Now slide forward to grasp the handle with a loose overhand grip, with your arms extended toward the flywheel. Keep your wrists flat and think of your hands as hooks on the end of long chains (your arms). This will keep you from squeezing and ‘muscling’ the handle, and will keep your rowing motion smooth.

The rowing motion

Once you’re properly positioned in the rower, remember this key point that Brad emphasizes repeatedly. “Posture is everything”. Sit tall and glide forward until your shins are almost vertical and your armpits are roughly above your knees. This start position (or ‘catch’ position) will vary slightly depending on your size, level of flexibility, etc. Including this catch position, there are four main parts to the rowing motion. The other parts are the drive, the finish and the recovery.

From the catch position, begin the drive by pushing with the balls of your feet and extending your legs. Your upper body and arms should be inactive through this first part of the rowing motion. A strong core is essential to maintain your upright spinal alignment and transfer the power of your legs through to the handle. If your core isn’t strong, your body will flex or bend forward, and power will be lost.

As your legs begin to reach full extension, start to lean your upper body backward slightly by pivoting at the hip joints. Think about the movement of your spine and torso as moving from the 11 o’clock (leaning slightly forward) to one o’clock positions (leaning slightly backward). As your body reaches this position begin pulling the handle toward your lower chest, by first squeezing your shoulder blades together and finishing the pull with your arms. You’ve now reached the finish position.

Recovery

Think about your recovery, or the return to the catch position, as a reversal of the steps you just made on the way to the finish. Allow your arms to extend in front of you and your body to lean forward to the 11 o’clock position before letting your legs begin to bend. If you tend to let your legs get away from you and bend too early, try slowing the movement down more or even pausing in the ‘arms-away’ position with your legs straight and your body flexed forward from the hips, before carrying through to the catch position and repeating the motion. The handle should travel forward and back at the same level the whole time, which will prevent chatter in the chain. Test your body control and the fluidity of your motion by trying to row with a foam block balanced on your head.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.www.williamshealthgroup.com

Sport Posture for Cycling

I’ve spent much of my professional career specializing in human posture and alignment. During this time I’ve been fortunate to work with professional and amateur athletes in a wide variety of sports. It’s always amazing to me how much these athletes can improve their performance, and reduce the physical strain on their bodies, by performing focused exercises specific to the positional demands of their sport.

Much like the other elite athletes I’ve worked with, hardcore cyclists strive to improve their physical performance. Yet, there seems to be minimal appreciation for the benefits of ‘off-bike’ conditioning amongst many of these athletes. In my experience this is even more prevalent in mountain bikers than road cyclists.

James Wilson, owner of Obsession Bikes in North Vancouver, recognizes the importance of posture and core stability in riders, and his staff is trained to bike-fit a rider’s new bike to their body geometry. “We’ve been fitting an increasing number of road-bikers, but not a lot of mountain bikers recognize the importance of bike fit.” says Wilson “Whether you’re trying to maintain control while ripping downhill, or working to maximize your power up a bumpy trail, your body position on the bike and ability to stabilize your spine and pelvis are critical.”

By learning to effectively engage the core system and maintain their alignment, cyclists can improve performance, prevent repetitive strain on their bodies and reduce the risk of falls due to fatigue, weakness or loss of control. Riders should also maintain healthy balance and alignment in their bodies, by supplementing their riding with effective recovery exercises.

Following are three great exercises for cyclists. Always remember to do a proper warm-up, and make sure that you consult your physician before undertaking a new fitness program or making changes to your current routine.

Mountain biker Simon Beller has seen his riding improve by studio training

Ball Power-Drive

I’ve been expanding on a series of what I call ‘Power Drive’ exercises with a ball against a wall. Depending on your sport and the athletic requirements, this is a great way to condition your ability to maintain core control and generate constant force output while performing transitional movements. For cyclists, start by holding a ball against a wall with both hands, and position your feet about 8 inches apart, with one foot about 12 inches ahead of the other. The front foot should be flat on the floor, with the heel of the back foot just slightly elevated. In this position, generate constant pressure into the ball using your legs, core and arms. Now, in one quick, controlled movement, switch your feet. Do your best to minimize lift, shift or twist at the pelvis as you do this. Repeat this 10-20 times, pausing slightly between movements, and trying to make each successive repetition quicker and more precise than the last. Be diligent about maintaining constant pressure through the ball.

Be sure to have plenty of open space if you are going to attempt this exercise

Ball Bar Sprawl

This is a much more advanced exercise for the development of core control while in a riding position. Start by finding two exercise balls of different sizes. For a less challenging version, use the smaller ball at your knees and the larger ball for your hands. For greater difficulty, reverse the balls as shown in the photo. Although this exercise can be performed with your hands directly on the ball, a bar in your hands mimics the handlebars of a bike and further increases instability. To get into position, pull the first ball against your shins, with the second ball pulled tight up against the first. Place the bar across the second ball and slowly lean forward, gradually putting more weight on your hands and knees as you lift your feet off the floor to balance on the two balls. Once you’ve mastered balancing on the balls, while maintaining strong core engagement and a neutral spine and pelvis, begin to move the balls forward and back, or from side to side, without falling.

Extension stretching over a ball should feel great after long rides

Spine-Saver for Cyclists

There are few other sports that require the athlete to maintain one body position for such long periods of time. The forward flexed position in cycling can lead to all kinds of spinal and shoulder problems if not balanced by appropriate exercises to keep the body in healthy alignment. As a daily maintenance exercise for riders that I work with, I often recommend this great spine-saver. Start by sitting on a ball and slowly lay back as you roll your hips forward off the front of the ball. Once the ball is positioned at your shoulder blades, reach your arms up and over your head, letting your hands hang toward the floor. The back of your head should be resting on the ball, with your chin tucked, and your feet should be flat on the floor for balance. Breathe regularly, and slowly roll your body forward and back over the ball for a minute or two, letting your spine, shoulders and hips stretch out thoroughly.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com

Playground Power Workout Series Part 1 – Lower Body

Even though we might not know it by the weather, summer is officially here and the kids are out of school for a couple of months. I know from experience that this usually encroaches on the ‘personal time’ of moms and dads, as well as other caregivers like grandparents and nannies. Fortunately there are ways to take advantage of the extra time in the playground to stay fit and strong.

The great thing about playgrounds is that they make for excellent workout environments. The bars, benches, platforms and swings are perfect for exercising while you keep an eye on the kids. It’s also a natural way to expose children to the concept of regular exercise and functional fitness. By modeling healthy behavior you can positively influence their impressionable young minds. This can go a long way toward helping them to develop a positive attitude about exercise.

When you’re working out in a playground, it’s important to be aware of some of the basic principles of training, like making sure the environment is safe before you start exercising. This includes being aware of where your kids and other playground users are playing. The last thing you want is a 6 year old on a rope swing crashing into you while you’re doing a set of squats!

Supported Squats – Start by resting your back against a wall or pole that is smooth and strong, with your feet planted firmly about 18-24” away from the base. Bend your knees and lower your weight, letting your hips slide down the pole, until your knees are bent to approximately 90˚. Keep your heels on the ground and your knees aligned over your toes as you do this. The depth of your squat will vary depending upon your leg strength and the health of your knee joints. I know that the people who read my columns range widely in their level of fitness. Obviously I can’t target everyone with every column, but I try to include information that can benefit as many people as possible. For exercises as simple as supported squats, it’s easy to reduce the difficulty by bending your legs less, or holding the position for a shorter time. You can also increase the difficulty by holding the position longer or lifting one foot off the ground. The goal is to perform 3-4 holds to the point of fatigue.

Bench Power-Ups – From a static exercise like the supported squat, it’s time to get more dynamic, with the bench step-up. Choose a stable bench or other support that is slightly lower than knee height. Start by placing your left foot firmly on the surface, and your right hand and arm in front of your body as if you were running. Keeping your core engaged, drive upward using your left hip muscles, lifting your right knee up toward your chest as you reach full extension with your left leg. Your arms should switch during the movement, so that your left hand is in front of your body as your right knee reaches the top of its motion. Pause momentarily for control, then bring your right foot back down to it’s starting point, being careful to lower it slowly and touch it lightly on the ground rather than pounding down. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions on each side, performing 2-3 sets in total.

Bench lunges – Who doesn’t love lunges, right? OK, maybe not, but they’re so good for you that I had to include them. For this version, find a stable surface that is slightly less than the height of your knee, and stand with your back toward it. Bend your right knee and place your right foot back on the surface. Make sure your left foot is flat on the ground, and far enough from the bench that you can bend both knees to about 90˚ without letting your left heel lift up as you lower your body. Try to keep your core engaged to maintain a neutral pelvis and spine as you perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions on each leg. You can place your hands on your hips, as shown in the photo, or cycle them as we did during the bench step-ups.

Playground Power Workout Series Part 2 – Upper Body

There are so many different muscles and exercises possible with the upper body, but one way to break it down is to think of the muscles as having two primary purposes. For the most part, upper body muscles are involved in either pushing or pulling. Pushing usually involves the chest, anterior shoulders, triceps and abs, while pulling engages the back, posterior shoulders, biceps and lower back. If you keep this in mind while training, you’re likely to be on the right track.

As I said, I’ve decided to include more traditional exercises, like last week it’s essential that you pay attention to your posture and technique. Activate and stabilize your spine and pelvis using your core muscles, and focus on proximal to distal movement. Remember to perform a progressive warm-up before training, and get medical approval before beginning a new fitness program.

Playground pushups – I sometimes wonder if my readers are concerned that I’ve included pushups in a number of my columns in the past, but then I remember that although I’ve been training steadily for almost 30 years, I still perform pushups during many of my workouts. With so many variations of the basic pushup, this functional activity is easily one of the top all-time exercises. When doing pushups in the playground, it’s not difficult to find a surface that allows for the appropriate level of difficulty. Just remember that the higher your hands are above your feet, the easier the movement. For stronger people, or advanced exercisers, you can even place your feet on an elevated surface so that they are higher than your hands for increased difficulty. Always maintain controlled movements and remember to engage your core muscles so that your body remains level and doesn’t sag through the middle. Try performing 2-3 sets to fatigue, with excellent alignment and control.

Horizontal pull-ups – Many people are challenged to perform a single full chin-up, let alone complete enough to make it a worthwhile exercise. This is why I have a lot of my clients work with a variation I call the horizontal pull-up. Just like pushups, but in reverse, there are numerous different combinations and variations that allow you to modify the difficulty depending upon your level of fitness. The angle of your body, the length of your legs and the width of your grip will all determine how hard or easy the movement is for you. In the version shown, Lorna actually has her feet as high as her hands, which makes this a challenging exercise, but we’ve bent her legs so she can actually pull herself up. Experimenting with all of these variables will allow you to find the right location and position that provides sufficient challenge for you. Ideally we’re looking for a position that will allow you to perform 2-3 sets of approximately 12-15 repetitions.

Bench dips – Although pushups and pull-ups work the major muscles of the chest and back, they also require a contribution by the shoulders and arms. This is part of the reason they’re such great exercises. Another excellent exercise that targets the tricep muscles on the back of the upper arms, is the bench dip. You’ve likely seen this before, and maybe even tried it, but when I include bench dips in my own workout I’m always amazed at how effective they really are. The next time you’re at the playground, find a bench or step that is comfortable for your hands. Sit with your hips at the very front edge of the bench and place the heels of your hands on the front edge of the bench as well. Supporting your bodyweight with your arms, slide your hips forward off the bench, and begin to lower your body by bending your elbows. Be sure to keep your head and chest up as you raise and lower your body by bending your elbows. Perform 2-3 sets of roughly 15 repetitions. You can increase the difficulty by straightening your legs or lifting one foot from the ground.

Playground Power Workout Series Part 3 – Core stability

When people talk to me about training programs, and how much time they should spend working various body-parts, I almost always have to emphasize the importance of training the WHOLE body, in addition to exercising the individual parts. Sometimes people don’t know exactly what I mean by this.

Sure it’s good to train muscles like your biceps, triceps and shoulders. This can usually be done with simple exercises that only involve movement of one of the body’s joints. It’s also good to perform exercises that require the engagement of all of the muscles along the length of the body.

Imagine that you’re standing tall, with your feet together, when someone comes along and starts pushing on your forehead. Because the force of their hand is pushing you backwards, you must engage many of the muscles along the length of your entire body to keep from bending or falling backwards. By doing this, you’ll be working muscles from your head and neck, all the way to your feet. Now imagine that this person pushes with their hand on the back of your head. Resistance requires a whole new set of muscles, doesn’t it? And when they push you from the side, yet another group of muscles is required to keep them from moving you.

My point is that functional core stability requires a lot of muscles to work together synergistically. When you train your core, whether at the playground or elsewhere, try to find exercises that challenge you from head to toe, with load or resistance from all angles. Be certain to properly engage your core muscles, and focus on proximal to distal movement. Remember to perform a progressive warm-up before training, and get medical approval before beginning a new fitness program.

Hanging leg-raise – An excellent activity to work the front side of your body (flexors) is to hang from the monkeybars and raise your legs up in front of you. To do this safely and effectively, take an overhand grip, with your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Don’t hang from anything that is too high, and be sure that the ground below you is clear. Once you’re suspended, engage your core stabilizers and slowly bring your knees toward your chest. Be sure to stay under control and avoid swinging or using any momentum as you draw your knees up as high as possible. It’s ok to allow your spine to flex as you lift your pelvis forward and upward. Pause at the top, then slowly lower your legs to the start position. To progressively increase the difficulty, raise your legs when they’re bent, extend them slightly at the top, then lower them in the longer position. Further progression will involve raising your legs when they’re straight. You can also raise them slightly to the right or left of center. Always maintain controlled movements and remember to engage your core muscles. Try performing 2-3 sets to fatigue, in good alignment and control.

Bridge with alternating legs – To train the muscles along the length of your spine and the backside of your pelvis and legs, find a level, elevated surface that will be comfortable for the back of your head and shoulders. Lay back, with the lower half of your body supported by your bent legs, with your feet flat on the ground. Ideally your body should be level and straight from your knee joints to your shoulders and ears. Place your fingertips on your abdomen, or on the front of your hip bones, so that you can feel if your pelvis drops or twists as you lift one foot from the ground. As you lift your left foot and extend the leg, think about keeping your knees side by side, and your hips level. If your left hip drops, the muscles in your right hip aren’t doing a good enough job of stabilizing. Perform 2-3 sets of 5 lifts per side.

Side plank – To work the muscles along the side of your body, try performing a side plank on the ground, or on an elevated surface, which should be slightly easier. Most people advance this exercise too quickly, and don’t pay enough attention to their overall spinal alignment and head position during this exercise, so be sure to keep your body long and neutral, without twisting or bending forward. Side planks can be done as a static hold, or you can add movement by sliding the hips from side to side against the downward pull of gravity. They can also be made easier by bending your legs and keeping the knees on the ground. Another variation involves raising the top leg up and down off the lower leg, which will challenge your lateral hip muscles. Perform 2 or 3 30-second holds on each side.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community.www.williamshealthgroup.com

Ten great tips for better health and fitness.

I often get asked tips for better health and fitness and there are many aspects to consider, and my areas of emphasis have been known to change with time, but I’ve tried to compile a list of suggestions that should be possible for almost anyone, no matter your walk of life or social situation. You don’t need a lot of money, or your own home gym, to follow these recommendations, but you will need commitment and discipline.

Here are my top picks;

Tip 1: Stay positive

Choose your attitude. Whether you’re a seasoned exerciser or someone trying to make healthy changes for the first time, it’s easy to become frustrated. Many people get down on themselves because they don’t feel their performance is good enough. That’s like being on a road trip and beating yourself up because you’re not at your destination yet. This is a process, and every step in the right direction is positive progress.

Tip 2: Stretch daily

Many of the problems and injuries I see are because people’s bodies don’t move the way they used to. This is simply due to a lack of flexibility. A daily stretching routine isn’t hard to do, and I’m confident you’ll feel better for it. Just go slowly and be sure to breathe as you stretch.

Good flexibility is essential for the Vancouver Whitecaps' athletes

Tip 3: Drink water all day

Your body needs water for almost every physiological activity it performs, so make sure you focus on staying hydrated. Consume lots of liquids throughout the day (but watch the calories) and avoid too much salt or alcohol.

Tip 4: Weigh yourself

Of course bodyweight isn’t the only measure of health and fitness, but if you’re looking to control your bodyweight, it’s good to know that conclusive research has shown that the more often you weigh yourself, the less you’ll weigh. People who never step on a scale are more apt to gain weight without knowing it.

Tip 5: Challenge your muscles

I can’t stress enough the importance of regular strength training. Not only does this kind of activity fire up your body’s metabolic furnace, it also builds a stronger structure with more stable joints. This allows for efficient movement during the day. Try to follow a balanced resistance training program that targets each muscle group twice per week.

Tip 6: Have some protein at every meal

Your body is constantly in a state of breakdown as a result of the natural aging process. During your workouts you’ll add a further breakdown stimulus. The only way to ensure consistent and timely repair of your body structures is to get a small amount of high quality protein at every meal throughout the day, so that your body has the building blocks for repair and recovery.

Tip 7: Mix it up

Be sure to vary your training and nutrition plan so that you don’t get stale or bored. Try different foods, different modes of exercise, indoor vs outdoor, whatever it takes to keep it interesting and invigorating. By keeping it fresh your diet will include a healthy variety of nutrients and you’ll avoid getting in a rut that sabotages your success.

Trying new exercises and environments makes fitness enjoyable

Tip 8: Be consistent

It’s pretty tough to see any real progress in your health and fitness if you only exercise once each week. It’s also hard to be in control of your bodyweight if you don’t watch your consumption regularly. Consistently applying sound principles of good health will yield results. The biggest hurdle I observe with clients isn’t a lack of knowledge, but a lack of consistency when it comes to food and exercise.

Tip 9: Pay attention to posture

My emphasis on the importance of good posture is no secret, and the results I see with my clients supports this enthusiasm. This is the most powerful weapon I have in my arsenal for achieving rapid, noticeable change in a client’s body. It’s also the best way to reduce stress and strain on your spine and joints, and to improve performance at sport and in life.

Actress Shannon Mitchell recognizes the impact of great posture

Tip 10: Try a trainer

It can take a lot of time to learn what stretches, exercises and foods work best for your body. Depending on your own affinity for this subject this can be a long and frustrating process. A good trainer should be able to interview you and assess you to quickly determine the right course of action for achieving rapid and satisfying results. It’s up to you how much time and money you dedicate to working with a trainer, but starting on the right foot is worth it’s weight in gold.

Rob Williams is a Vancouver based multi-business owner in the health and fitness industry. He is an entrepreneur, health and fitness columnist, presenter, inventor, athlete, father, prominent downtown vancouver personal trainer, coach and mentor to many young athletes in the North Shore community. www.williamshealthgroup.com

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