Conditioned for Health
● By Sandy Kauten
Proper Conditioning Brings Greater Results in Exercise and Athletics
Having been a former three-sport collegiate athlete and professional football player, exercise has essentially been a cornerstone of my life and has helped shape who I am as a person. I’ve experienced firsthand how valuable it is in creating a healthy life, and feel it should be an important part of every family, right along with the life lessons and morals we establish in our households. Regardless of how much exercise will be a part of your life, there are valuable things to consider before jumping into any sport or activity that will go a long ways in establishing safe and healthy routines for years to come.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the one of the safest things you can do for yourself when beginning any new routine or sport is to ease your way into it. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable machines that when given time and proper training, will amaze us with what they are capable of doing. However, this takes time and you must “introduce” your body to new activities. Likewise, every sport and routine requires a different demand of functionality from your muscles, joints, and endurance; Hence, start with a thought-out plan.
Take, for example, one of the most popular forms of exercise: jogging (or running). Many people assume they must factor in their endurance level when starting out, and that the quickest way to increase endurance is to run longer and harder. However, you have to take account the amount of impact your entire body will take: the pounding on your knees, the impact on your feet every step, the load on your back, the output of your quad and hamstring muscles, all factor into how your body will respond. The classic example of starting a new regimen is, we are so eager to get results and feel great, so we blast out of the gates, working too hard and too much; and while we may feel good for that initial workout, the feeling afterwards can be drastically different! The typical next day after first is one of the worst feelings, as your body literally goes into mini shock, having to heal itself up after doing such a different work load.
It’s amazing how much we try to multi-task on any given day. One glance down at your smart phone will show you how much you are trying to process at one time. While multi-tasking our brains may not always make the best decisions (that’s for another article!) but it’s actually wonderful when it comes to exercise. If you’ve ever heard the expression “too much of a good thing may be bad for you”, this certainly applies with exercise. When focusing on one sport or exercise, your body will adapt and your skill will improve along with it. However, very few activities can target every important aspect of exercise that your body needs. I actually had a firsthand experience with this recently. Ever since my NFL career ended, I have been big into Crossfit®. For those of you not familiar with Crossfit®, it is a high intensity interval training program that focuses on a variety of Olympic barbell exercises and body weight movements involving substantial weights, designed to engage as many large muscle groups as possible. The typical workout lasts anywhere from 5-15 minutes, but that’s all you will want when you finish as the workouts are that grueling! They are designed to have you push yourself very hard for a short period of time, taxing many of your muscle groups through a very small sample of exercises in one workout. As a larger, explosive athlete, I love these workouts! I remember when I first started; I could only do about three workouts per week as my body would feel crushed the next day. As I progressed though and my body adapted, I was able to start handling more and more to where I can now do about 6-7 workouts per week.
Now this may make me feel like a stud, but I know enough to understand that this is only one particular activity. To contrast this, I was invited to a Barre3 class recently. For those of you who don’t know, Barre3 is a combination of yoga and Pilates training, in which there is little to no weight used, and the classes last 45 minutes to an hour long. For a guy who will regularly lift several hundred pounds of weights, how hard could non-weight bearing exercises be? Well, the answer is Very Hard! The main difference between the two routines were that Barre3 targeted specific muscle groups, and tested their endurance over multiple reps and stability holds, as opposed to Crossfit which demanded explosive movements from every muscle to complete a routine. When I finished my Barre3 class, in a pile of sweat and absolutely exhausted, it was refreshing to understand how many different ways I could push and train my body. That said, I think it would take me quite some time to get to 6-7 Barre3 workouts per week! What made the class so difficult again was the fact that it was a completely different type of movement, and while it was challenging, your body loves that. The important thing is to again, start slow when diversifying.
Allow Recovery Time
There is a saying that goes “there is no such thing as over training; just under recovering”, and I feel there is a lot of truth to that. We often think about the amount of work we put into our exercise routines, but the reality is, we need to be putting in just as much work AFTER exercise, in order to fully maximize our health. When it comes to recovery, there are a multitude of options, but I like to keep things simple and focus on three core principles: hydration, nutrition, and rest. Beginning with hydration, getting enough water before, during, and after working out may seem to be as much common sense as telling yourself to breathe while running; yet many of us fail to get enough of this vital resource. A good rule of thumb when working out is, make sure you drink 16oz. of water for every one pound of body weight lost during exercise.
Next up in the recovery routine is nutrition. It can be daunting to process all the diets constantly vying for your attention, trying to determine what to eat/what not to eat. The key is, your body also needs calories to recover, and those calories should come from healthy and balanced sources. The safest bet for proper recovery is to get a combination of healthy fats and carbohydrates along with protein - every day. You can find healthy carbohydrates and fats in many fruits, vegetables, and seeds, and protein should come from lean sources such as chicken, fish, and lean beef. Remember one of the golden rules, the fewer the ingredients, the better.
Finally, and surprisingly, REST on a daily and nightly basis may be the most important form of recovery. Ensuring you get 8-9 hours of sleep every night, and even the power nap during the day (good luck with that Moms!) is going to maximize your recovery. In addition, not pushing any one part of your body or muscle group is important, as well to avoiding overuse injuries. Keep in mind, if it hurts, rest it, don’t push it!
We all want to be in shape, but also need to make sure we stay conditioned while doing so. If you can make sure to start slow, diversify, and recover after exercise routines, you will yield the maximum benefit from any sport or activity you do.
Jordan Kent is the founder of Jordan Kent Skill Camps, offering week long day camps for girls and boys ages 6-12. His camps offer life skills, education, nutrition education, and instruction in football, basketball, or soccer during summer months and spring breaks. For more information visit www.jordankentcamps.com