pilates instructor

Staying Creative in Your Workouts

I like to think of myself as a creative person. Back before I had my son I loved drawing and painting. Now, however, since there is little time for my creative juices to flow in traditional ways I have to find other outlets. My fitness classes and programs have become that outlet.

Even if you don’t consider yourself creative there is value in being creative with your workout. For one thing, there is evidence that your body will “learn” how to use as little energy as possible when doing a familiar routine. Thus, for maximal calorie burn and to force your body to further adapt and change you need to change what you are doing. In addition, I really believe that a well rounded exercise program is the best way to have life-long health and well being. For example, if you only lift weights in a certain way, some smaller muscle groups may be neglected causing you to be weaker in some areas, which may lead to injury. You will also sacrifice flexibility and cardio health. In my opinion the optimal fitness program is one that changes with your body and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training.

In this way I sort of look at my workouts and the classes I teach as a puzzle. Each experience is new and exciting to me with something else to be learned or gained.

So how can you incorporate creativity into your workouts? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Take other people’s fitness classes- Even if it is not your thing you may learn something new. It’s especially good to take classes focused on something you don’t usually do. If you usually lift weights try a zumba or a spinning class. If you are all about cardio, try body pump or yoga. I have learned a lot over the years from working with different instructors. Sometimes just hearing cues in a different way can be really enlightening.

2. Go Beyond the Movement- In pilates we have 6 main principles: centering, concentration, coordination, breathing, precision and smooth and flowing movement. Sometimes, without even changing the exercises in a class I can create an entirely different experience just by focusing on different principles. You can do the same thing in whatever type of exercise you do or teach. Think of a goal or a purpose for your workout and try to achieve it.

3. Listen to Your Body- Some of the best workouts I have had are when I am listening to my body and just doing the things that feel right. For example, if it’s not a leg day and I feel like doing squats, I will throw some in. If I have a lot of energy one day I might do plyometrics between sets, if I feel like I need to take it back a notch, I might lift lighter weights really focusing on form.

4. Imagery- Did you know that the most effective cues are external. For example in squatting “drive your heels through the floor” is more effective than “flex your thighs.” I believe that this is imagery at work. By using imagery you can get clients (and yourself) to engage more muscle groups with fewer words. You can also create a new experience in the exercise by focusing on different images, thereby challenging your body in a new way. Imagery forces your mind to be engaged in the movement, which also helps you recruit more neuro-muscular connections.

5. Be a Life-long Learner- You tube makes this super easy! If you are curious about something all you have to do is plug it into youtube and BAM you have hundreds of video explanations at your finger tips. That said, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Journal articles, books and workshops with experts are great too. One of my favorite fitness podcasts that discusses research articles  can be found here. The point is to make sure that you are constantly learning and not stagnating. Push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? What are some ways you bring your creativity into your workouts?

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A lot has happened

Its been a while since my last post but a lot has happened:

1. I got hired at the new gym I joined to teach Pilates classes.

I am so excited about this! Since the style of Pilates they teach is very different from the more contemporary, fitness based classes I usually teach, I am excited to learn and expand my horizons!

I taught my first classes last Thursday and received a lot of positive feedback (One woman said she felt muscles working that she didn’t even know she had)
I feel a lot better now because I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in, but it seems like the clients are open to new exercises and I learned to have a little more confidence in my teaching ability (I have been teaching classes for the past 5 years and, without tooting my own horn too much, I feel like I am pretty good at it.

2. We went to Spain!

We had amazing weather and a great time… most of the trip. Flying for 14 hours with a baby was a challenge but once he was there he adapted pretty easily to the time change. He also got to meet his cousin for the first time and they were SO cute together.

I did feel a little bit of resentment toward my husbands family since they constantly mooch off of us. We paid for their whole vacation including airfare, lodging and food, plus some spending money. Since I have to work hard all year, it was kind of annoying to see all our hard earned money getting eaten up by family members that didn’t appreciate ANY of it and complained the whole time.
3. Cyrus turned 8 months old!

He now has 3 teeth, can crawl, pull himself to standing and cruise. I love him so much, he is so stinking cute!

4. We have the grand opening for our store in 7 days! I have been running around like a crazy person trying to get stuff ready and get publicity for the event.

I even got a chance to be on a podcast radio. This couldn’t have come at a busier time since I am scheduled to do training for my new job next week in addition to all the paper work and training sessions I have had to do this past week. I already feel exhausted and it doesn’t help that I volunteered to work Saturday and Sunday this weekend. Later today I have to check out a daycare for Cyrus to attend while I go through my training next week. Already feeling bad about leaving him alone too….

5. I got to do a few tests at the gym about how I burn calories and fat. It turns out I am a calorie burning machine but not a fat burning machine. On an average day I burn around 2800 calories and on days when I am not doing anything I burn about 1800 calories. However, my fat burning zone (measured by heart rate and how many calories you burn from fat vs sugar) is relatively limited. The person who did my test said that this means I need to work on my aerobic capacity, but I tend to do a ton of cardio and I am still not convinced that you need to be in the “fat burning zone” to get the most out of your workouts. Here’s an article that explains why.

The tests themselves were pretty cool. For the test to determine how many calories I burn at rest I was told to come to the gym without having eaten anything for 8 hours. I then had a heart rate monitor strapped to me and a breathing mask placed around my face. I was told to sit in a recliner and relax, breathing through my mouth, apparently the machine I was hooked up to measured gas exchange and was able to calculate how many calories I was burning that way. For the cardio test, I wore the same heart monitor and mask, but this time I was told to walk on a treadmill while the incline was increased every minute.  I then got to view a few fancy graphs in the back office, illustrating my performance.
Even if I didn’t believe the whole thing about “zone training” I think these kind of tests are great tools that help you adjust your exercise and nutrition program to meet your body’s needs.
Have you ever tried something like that?

What do you think about the fat burning zone?