Snow Lake

Snow Lake
Snow Lake Backpacking Trip

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Doing the Turkey Trot Up Tiger Mountain (Exercise Specificity)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I hiked up Tiger Mountain with some friends before going off to stuff my face with turkey and other assorted great food. The next day I was a bit stiff and felt some mild soreness in my muscles, even though the hike was only a few hours and at a moderate pace, but at a fairly steep incline.

This brings me to my next topic, exercise specificity. Simply stated, exercise specificity is the principle that your body will adapt to whatever you specifically train it in. I used to hike just about every weekend and do hikes three times as long as Tiger Mountain at a much more rapid pace. Lately, I have not been any slug either. I weight train every week and include squats and various other leg exercises in my strengthening routine. I do four or five kung fu classes per week and practice tai chi about six times a week. But all these activities are different from hiking. Your body will adapt to whatever you subject it too. So if you want to be a top notch hiker, you must hike. If you want to gain strength, you must do strength training. Or if you want to be a tennis pro, then you better play lots of tennis.

So, when you are considering what you want your exercise routine to be, figure out what your fitness goals are, and see if the routine will accomplish those goals. Do you want muscular legs with good endurance and to be outside, then hiking might be a good activity for you. Do you want increased flexibility, general toning of your muscles, and do you like to interact with other like-minded people, then a yoga class might fit the bill. Do you want all around endurance and a competitive team sports atmosphere, then joining a soccer league might satisfy your yearning for excitement and get you fit at the same time. Whatever the activity you pick, make sure it fits your lifestyle and your goals, because this will help you stick to it and see the results you want.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Who Can Benefit From Exercise?

Who can benefit from exercise? You can. Overweight or thin, old or young, active or inactive, regardless of physical condition, you can benefit from exercise. My partner is a very thin person who would be classified as an ectomorph by nature. This means she is not inherently muscular. At first when I proposed that she free-weight train with me, she balked at the idea and worried that she would get injured. After several training sessions where she used gradual progression of the weights, she started to see and feel muscular improvement. Ever since then, she has enthusiastically embraced training with me and takes pride in the fact that she can now do chair dips. 

I currently teach an exercise and tai chi class at a retirement home. One of my students is 100 years old and loves coming to my class. Some of my other students have had strokes and are half paralyzed, yet they still come to my class regularly, due to both the physical and psychological benefit they gain. Most of these people are at least 75 years old.

I recently went to a family gathering of my partner's family. Upon talking to my partner's cousin, I found out she had been diagnosed with diabetes. The doctors had prescribed a bunch of drugs to mitigate the effects of the diabetes and control her body weight. This individual decided she did not want to be dependent on the drugs. She started an exercise program and watched her diet. She is now drug free and able to control her diabetes. She also feels great physically and it has been a real psychological boost for her also knowing that she can change her future.

Around 20 years ago, I taught a weight-training class at the YMCA for about three years. I would periodically get women in my class that were at first intimidated by the weight-training room environment, the barbaric looking machines, and some of the gruff characters that hung out there. During the class, I witnessed many of these same women doubling the amount of weight they could lift during the two months that they attended my class. Not only that, but they gained the confidence to train on their own. It was an awesome feeling for me that I could help individuals become  stronger and happier.

Here is one last story. My mom passed away about six years ago. My father found a new girlfriend about 3 years ago. His new girlfriend is in her mid 70s like he is. She was diagnosed with diabetes a number of years ago and the doctor prescribed drugs. She did not want to be dependent on drugs, so she changed her diet and exercised regularly. She has not had to take diabetes drugs for years and controls her diabetes through diet and exercise.     

Provided someone listens to their body, and does not try to go to fast in their progression, exercise can benefit everyone with a minimum risk of injury. The key is to find the right type and amount of exercise for you. But this is a whole separate article that I will have to write in the near future. For now, with thanksgiving and the holiday season upon us, along with all the eating that goes along with it, try to get out and exercise to keep some of those pounds off. You will feel better and be able to eat some of that great food without the guilt that may normally accompany it.