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Here’s how you can get gym-ready

We’ve discussed the benefits of exercise and the importance of proper hydration stretching. Now its time to get into the gym, writes Heath Matthews.

health and fitness Updated: Sep 05, 2009 18:33 IST
Heath Matthews

We’ve discussed the benefits of exercise and the importance of proper hydration stretching. Now its time to get into the gym. You must remember that even this is a three-step process — warm up, workout, and cool down. I’m going to look at these one at a time and suggest good gym habits that’ll help you stay fit and injury free.

Getting the right equipment is the first thing. This includes a gym bag big enough for your change of clothes, your gym towel (normally a hand towel), your bath towel (if you intend to shower at the gym), your water bottle and energy drink powder, comfortable clothing to train in, and any monitoring equipment that you need.

Once your bag is packed, we can fast forward to the gym. The first thing to do here is warm up real well. This allows your body to go from a state of general functioning to a state ready for exercise. This involves raising your body temperature, stretching joints and muscles, and engaging your core so you are ready to push your body to its limits safely.
I would suggest you take 15-20 minutes for your warm up.

Start with a 10-minute treadmill run. Begin at a comfortable walking speed (about 4 on the dial) and build this up gradually until you are jogging comfortably after about 8 minutes. Sustain this for two minutes and then decrease speed to a walk again. After 10 minutes you should be sweating slightly. Get off the treadmill and move to a place where you can stretch comfortably. Do 5 -10 minutes of dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles and joints.

If you’re about to do an upper body session I suggest 20 arm circles in each direction, neck rolls, 10-15 push-ups and a Surya Namaskar on each side. This will take your upper body through the full range of movement.

For a lower body workout, I suggest 20 ankle circles while balancing on the other leg, 10 full squats with hands behind your head, lying on your back to hug each knee to your chest 6 times, lying your back and rolling your knees to each side 6 times, and one Surya Namaskar each side.

If you’re still not sweating by this time, get back on the treadmill or use the rowing machine for 5 minutes (at about 75% of maximum).

Once your body is warm and your heart is beating at a strong but comfortable pace, it means plenty of blood is getting pumped into your muscles and that your joints are lubricated and ready to move through the range that you will need.
Here are things to remember:

* Must be sweating lightly, muscles must feel warm and stretched fully
* Must feel that stiffness in joints has eased and must be breathing about 25-50% harder than normal.

Matthews is physiotherapist with the Mittal Champions Trust.

Go basic, go cycle

Benefits
An excellent way to burn fat and increase lean weight.

It causes less wear and tear on the joints and muscles than jogging.

Helps the discs in the spine and back muscles get healthier, and small muscles that support individual vertebrae get stronger.

Exercises your upper thigh muscles, backside and calf muscles as these are the focus point for the load.

Increases stamina and bone mass, makes joints healthier, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and keeps cholesterol levels in check.

Exposure to sunlight strengthens bones and helps the body produce Vitamin D.

Posture
Correct cycling posture must facilitate the pedalling action, and enable the rider to cope with the jolts that result from road irregularities.

Neck, shoulders: The shoulders should be pushed forward so that the muscles in the front of the chest help carry the weight of the upper body. Bend elbows slightly, this will allow your arm muscles to act as shock absorbers.

Wrist: The wrist should be held so that the hand is pretty much in line with the forearm.

Knees: The saddle height should be adjusted to the position that your knees are straight

Back: When riding a bicycle, you should lean forward enough at the waist to bend your elbows. Sitting upright is actually counterproductive, because a straight spine has no way to ‘give’ when the bike hits bumps.

Hips: Your sit bones (the bony parts you feel when you sit on a firm surface) should make contact with the rear part of the seat. Riding too far forward or too far back will hurt your glutes or give you lower back pain.

Get the saddle height right:
If the saddle is low, your knees will bend too much as you pedal, making cycling much more tiring and harmful to the knees. The saddle should be adjusted so that your knees are straight. Try raising your saddle half an inch at a time. If it was too low, then your bike will feel lighter and faster now.

Do not let your knees go out to the sides, keep them point straight. Imagine your legs are pistons. The leg movements should be up-down in north-south direction. Some cyclists tend to go east-west.