Stepping into the center is in itself a calming experience. The atmosphere is a respite form the bustle of Braddock Ave. I leave with a peaceful outlook and a healthier body.
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1. Ease into training.
If you haven’t been exercising regularly for a while, do not expect to win a marathon in the coming months. Many Olympic athletes train from childhood to be at the fitness levels they are today. Be patient with your body and set reasonable, incremental exercise goals. The University of Rochester Medical Center advises using the “10 percent rule”: To prevent injuries, increase your activity level by just 10 percent or less each week. In other words, if you are training for a marathon, jog a total of 10 miles your first week, 11 miles your second week, 12.1 miles the third week, and so on.
2. Up your fuel efficiency. In general, athletes need to consume more calories than less active folks, especially in the form of carbohydrates. Make sure your calories are coming from whole foods rather than processed ones with simple sugars. Eat plenty of whole grain breads and pasta, fresh fruits, green and leafy vegetables and healthy fats from nuts and nut butter, avocadoes, and olive oil. Nutrition is most important before and directly following an exercise session. At these times, aim for snacks with a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 3:1 or 4:1.
Some easy examples are:
- Two hard-boiled eggs with whole wheat toast
- Hummus with whole wheat pita bread
- An apple and low-fat Greek yogurt
- Almond butter on a whole wheat English muffin
- Oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder.
3. Seek out a professional. Working with a certified health coach or fitness trainer can often push you to the next level or help you break through a workout plateau. Proper instruction yields proper form, reducing your risk of injury.
4. Recover properly and plentifully. Be sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep nightly. In a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine, researchers followed 11 varsity basketball team players from Stanford for five to seven weeks, encouraging them to get ten hours of sleep per night and measuring their actual clocked hours. Though the study was small, it found that players averaged an increase of 90 minutes of sleep per night. As a group, the players took close to a second off of their 282-foot sprints. They also increased their 15-foot free throws from an average success rate of 7.9 to 8.8 out of 10. Another great option for recovery is booking a massage. According to an article on MedPage Today, for its 525 athletes, this years U.S. Olympic team has a team of 80 medical professionals, including massage therapists available to help with injury prevention and illness. Regular massage is a great option after an intense workout session. Not only does it relieve the pain and stiffness of sore muscles, but it also prevents the formation of scar tissue.
5. Remember to stretch. At the very least, stretch the major muscle groups of your body after each exercise session.
- For the shoulders and the area between the shoulder blades, stretch both hands overhead, bend one elbow and place the hand of the bent elbow on the upper back. With the opposite hand, gently pull the raised elbow in towards the midline of the body. Switch sides.
- For the upper and middle back, place the left hand behind your lower back, gently bring your right ear towards your right shoulder, and switch sides.
- For the backs of the legs or hamstrings, stand up and place one leg up on a chair. Keeping the raised leg and the back as straight as possible and the toes pointing straight up, hinge at the hips, folding the chest towards the thigh. Switch legs.
- For the front of the thighs or quadriceps, lie on your side. Keeping the hips square, grasp one ankle and gently kick into your hand while pressing the hips forward. For the obliques, lie face up with your arms out to the sides in a T-shape. Bend both knees into the chest, then drop them off to the right side. Switch sides. For photos and more detailed descriptions of these and more stretches, see our blog post on stretching.
Resources and Further Reading: