Exercise 101: Fitness Basics
By Dana Angelo White, M.S., R.D., A.T.C.
Exercise time is precious. If you want to get the most out of your workouts, follow these tips.
Warming Up and Cooling Down
Any successful workout should begin and end with some light stretching and a few deep breaths. A few minutes of walking on the treadmill or simply sitting and reaching for your toes (don’t forget to breathe) helps increase circulation and primes muscles for more intense exercise.
Cardio vs. Strength Training
Cardiovascular exercise can be anything from walking to running, swimming, rowing, biking, roller-skating or using the elliptical machine. It gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, burning calories and conditioning muscles as you go. Increasing the speed and incline on a machine or outside will only help you get a better workout.
Strength training also comes in many forms. Free weights, circuit machines, yoga and TRX Straps, just to name a few. The focus here is to build and maintain lean body mass (aka muscle). Those healthy and toned muscles don’t only look great, they help keep your metabolism firing. Another bonus – regular strength training along with cardio will keep those bones strong, too.
So what’s the right choice? Get the best of both worlds by including both types of exercise in your routine. Cardio and strength training sessions can be on different days or part of the same workout – whatever works best for your schedule. Fitness classes, team sports and many other organized activities combine both forms of exercise at the same time.
Fuel and Fluid
Believe it or not, exercise can’t do a body good without the proper fuel. Before a workout, the body needs fuel. And postworkout is all about muscle and energy recovery! Staying hydrated helps to keep everything running smoothly.
Use these guidelines when deciding what to eat and drink:
- Don’t work out on an empty stomach – have something light and easy to digest like a piece of fruit, dry cereal or a granola bar.
- Exercise can increase hunger – listen to your body and eat! Just eat smart.
- Hydrate all day long – not just around exercise.
- Choose calorie-free beverages – water is best.
- Opt for healthy recovery foods like turkey, yogurt and peanut butter.