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Remember to Breath

No matter what area of fitness you are involved in, practicing your breathing and maximizing your oxygen intake is essential. One of the biggest culprits of bad breathing techniques is novice weightlifters. Newbies to the weight room are often witnessed holding their breath while lifting heavy loads (myself included). It is true that anaerobic activity uses little oxygen in the body to create energy. However, when most people are engaged in heavy resistance exercise arterial hypertension goes up. If arterial hypertension gets too high, the lifter is potentially at a higher risk of a stroke (see Influence of breathing technique on arterial blood pressure during heavy weight lifting).

During aerobic activity, your breathing pattern can be a key indicator of exertion. Hyperventilation is your body’s way of cooling you down and also its attempt to get more oxygen into your body. For extended endurance activity, a good rule of thumb is to operate at a level where it is still comfortable for you to engage in conversation with someone else. If you are involved in short duration, high intensity, aerobic activity (as known as HIIT training) the rules are a bit different but rhythmic, full breathing techniques can still prove beneficial.

If you would like to get better at breathing there are numerous resources available ranging from how-to books to yoga classes. The benefits of proper breathing techniques only begin at optimizing oxygen consume… some of the additional studied benefits are unique to the sport or activity you are participating in. These additional benefits include reduced stress, reduced risk of injury, and operating at a higher metabolic rate… to name a few.

Your Fitness Journey Should Start Now!

Just like most popular worthwhile endeavors, there is a plethora of information out there about health and fitness. The Internet has a lifetime of information you can consume about various, and sometimes competing, ways to get healthy or start a fitness program. With all this information available to you mere keystrokes away, when do you say enough is enough and get started?

The answer is now!

You probably aren’t studying for a fitness exam. And if you are an adult, there is little you need to mentally prepare for… you learned enough in high school to do something. Get up from the computer and get out there. Shorten the distance between contemplation and action. Fitness is a “learn as you go” proposition anyway. To get started most people need only to simply put one foot in front of the other and repeat. You don’t get your heart rate elevated by planning, fitness requires doing. So get started now! If something is not working for you spend some time to make the needed adjustment, then road test (or gym test) what you’ve discovered. You don’t like what you are currently doing? Take a class and learn as you go.

Bottom line, there is nothing wrong with researching and planning, but not doing this in tandem with exercise is simply your excuse to not get started. Start slow, but burn (calories) as you learn. Take the first step to a better you today!

Meditation Leads to Better Concentration

Well honed concentration skills are a cornerstone of being able to perform at our peak. Concentration is the ability to do a chosen task by focusing on the outcome and either blocking or mitigating distractions.

Recent studies have shown that concentration can be improved through meditation:

Meditation Leads to Better Concentration

Meditation is the practice of channeling our own consciousness through various forms of relaxation techniques. One of the many benefits from meditation is a more focused mind. When we are able to channel our focus, we improve our chance of achieving optimum performance. Anecdotal evidence suggests that undisturbed focus can even help people overcome personal limits.

Roger Bannister is a perfect example of this. It was a steadfast held belief that no one could ever run a four-minute mile. Yet Mr. Bannister broke this barrier by repeatedly visualizing this accomplishment in his mind’s eye so intensely that he was able to achieve a physical result, a 3:59 mile. He not only overcame a personal limit, he forced people to rethink the limits of human potential. Once Mr. Bannister had set the precedent, and people “knew” it was possible several others duplicated this feat within a year.

Getting back to mere mortals like myself, in the psychomotor study referenced above, meditators took Psychomotor Vigilance Task (PVT) tests after meditating (which is a fancy way of saying they stared at LCD screens, and their response times were measured between seeing an image and pressing a button after being aware of the image’s presence). In this particular study, those who had gone through some sort of meditation (even if they are not experienced meditators) performed better during PVT testing, thus showing measurable improved mental performance.

Making Fitness Fun

This week we are going to discuss making fitness fun. Too many of us drag ourselves to the gym to get in a quick workout because of some sort of self-imposed obligation. While the gym is great, why do we drive 20 minutes to sit on a treadmill for 30 minutes?

Fortunately more and more people are finding ways to exercise outside the gym, whether in a local or national park, the beach, a playground, or even their own backyard. For instance, simply jumping rope in your garage for 15 minutes is a great workout. It enhances and tones your legs, improves cardiovascular health, and does wonders for your vertical leap.

Hitting the dance club for a night of dancing (not drinking!) is another great example; it’s good exercise and allows you to enjoy the company of friends while getting a full body workout. If you want to try something to really move your muscles, take a hip hop dancing class.

If you are looking for something more serene, try an outdoor tai chi, yoga, or qi gong class. These ancient movement regimens combine smooth body motion and meditation to help improve overall wellness.

If you don’t want to go far from home and you are a video game junkie, the Wii and Microsoft Kinect are offering some increasingly intriguing options to have some fun while elevating your heart rate. Do you have any good ideas not mentioned here? Please share them by leaving them in the comments section below.