The Importance of Stretching

If you’ve done any basic research on fitness in general you already heard the golden rule of stretching after every workout. I’m proud to say I faithfully warm up before all my workouts and stretch after them too.  I’ m talking about going beyond your post-workout stretching on a daily basis. 

Lately I’ve been making stretching every evening a priority. It doesn’t get done every night (which is the goal) but it does get done at least 4 times a week.  I aim for a minimum of 20-30 minutes and more if I have the time. After a hard workout first thing in the morning and a long stressful day at work I’m usually over due for treating my muscles kindly. This week in particular I’ve been trying to sweat it out every day– and it’s been hard on my body. You work hard to build your muscles but that often creates a lot of tension in the muscle that may not dissipate easily. Especially if you’re a chronic stress-case like I am. Tension may as well be my middle name.

People under-estimate the importance of keeping your body flexible and limber. Besides the obvious benefit of relaxation it’s great at injury prevention, stress relief and learning more about your body in general. I suggest carving out time in your day a few times a week just to stretch. Here is a compilation of a few stretching routines I’ve used and love in order of my favorites:

1) Bodyrock.tv Ultimate Stretch Routine featuring Zuzana Light

2) Blogilates How to do the Splits

3) Loving Fit Total Body Stretching Routine

4) BodyRipped Warm’n Up. Cool’n Down. Stretching Routine featuring Kyla Gagnon

5) Tara Stiles CHILL OUT Yoga Routines

6) Teshia Maher’s Yoga Flow Routines

7) Tone It Up Stretch & Release Routine

8) Official Hang Tight with MarC Cool Down

I’ve done all of these at some point. You could try going through them in order to try them all and see which you like best and build a nice personalized playlist for yourself.

Minimalist Fitness: My Home Setup

I’m not a fan of gyms. Mostly because it requires human interact which contradicts my hermit personality. But also because it’s expensive and requires me to motivate myself not only to do my workout but to DRIVE there. I don’t like that extra step nor do I need 90% of the equipment that gyms stock. I work out exclusively at home and I don’t have much.

What I’m trying to drive home is that you don’t need a gym to workout. You don’t even equipment.

My equipment: 

+ Exercise/yoga mat
+ Jump rope
+ Dumbbells: a set of 5 lbs, 8lbs, and a solitary 3 and 10 – Most were given to me but the rest I picked up pretty cheap.
+ Ankle weights: 3lbs pair. – Usually only use these if I’m working out somewhere outside of home and I don’t want to lug around dumbbells. I’d like to trade in for some 5s.

My 8lb set is usually my go to when I do weighed workouts and I’m hoping to get some 15s soon and maybe a 20lb kettlebell. All you really need to workout is yourself, and maybe some resources online. Everything else can come later.  I suggest starting with a mat and a jump rope first if that’s all you can afford. After that maybe a set of level appropriate dumbbells.

Don’t let equipment be your excuse not to get your sweat on.

Confession Time: I’m Really Bad at Doing My Cardio

When it comes down to what rules and guidelines to follow in fitness and food it really boils down to one thing: what you want your body to look like.

For the length of my fitness journey I’ve generally avoided straight cardio due to my persistent stress fracture in my left foot. Most cardio requires moderate to high impact and it speeds up the time I have before my fracture lands me in another cast. I generally work my cardio in with my strength workouts using HIIT style workouts. But let’s face it- if I want to look like my fitness heroes I need to acknowledge that they ALL do a form of straight cardio aside from their strength training.  If I want to look like I stepped off a IFBB Bikini stage then there is no more avoiding it.

In the past I’ve used running, elliptical  and jump rope skipping. Running is enjoyable to me– but it has it’s time constraints. If you live in a rough neighborhood (and don’t they all feel like that nowadays) you can’t really go running at night and feel safe about it. Even if it’s not night you have to worry about secluded areas where you can get snatched. I tend to workout at night so running is generally out of the question for me. The elliptical is great and low-impact but it requires a) the money to buy a machine for home or b) a gym membership. I’m not a huge fan of gyms. They are expensive and I don’t really like the idea of driving anywhere to workout. That leaves skipping which is my absolute favorite of the three. It’s cheap, compact, and you can do it pretty much anywhere. Skipping is what I do the most of when I do straight cardio.

I’ve got a 5k coming up in December (my first actually!). Which means I’ve got to work on my cardiovascular endurance. If I can’t run; I’m going to skip. Due to my injuries I have to take it easy so for now my goal is to do at least 2 straight cardio sessions per week. Wish me luck!