Faster Isn't Always Better
In today's fast-moving world, it is difficult to find time to work out, let along to stop and stretch our muscles.
Understandable, perhaps, that when it comes to stretching versus cardio, cardio often wins out. We fit in a high intensity exercise class between work, the school run, dinner and bed; if we burn 600 calories in a fast-class, we don't have to worry about an extra glass of sauvignon, right?
Wrong. Sadly, the net effect of our always-on-the-go lives is a constant adrenalin rush that can leave us more frazzled than when we started. Too much cardio and not enough stretching can result in aching limbs, foggy minds and a tired-but-wired feeling that can lead to sleep difficulties, stress and burn-out. Consistently high levels of circulating cortisol caused by our flat-out lives and even faster diets can lead to dangerous fat deposits around the abdomen, which are difficult to shift no matter how many exercise sessions we sign-up for. And sadly a consistently fast diet – processed foods, additives, sugar and yes, alcohol - will wreck havoc on the body. A bad diet unbalances our hormones, causes us to hang onto fat, develop bad skin and limp hair, constipation, mood swings, depression and cancer. The body needs fresh, 'clean' natural foods and balanced exercise in order to work properly.
A little, often and in moderation is an old-adage for food that is equally appropriate for exercise. You certainly can't beat the natural glow from a cardiovascular workout, but it is also good to follow with long, core stretches held for 20 to 30 seconds which will work the body (and the mind) just as hard. It's certainly not for wimps: do not underestimate how strong one has to be to hold a deep stretch, especially after a 20 minute, intensive workout.
And that is the key: we should not ditch cardio for flexibility, or choose Pilates over power workouts; we need to combine the two. The ideal is 20 minutes of high intensity movement to get the blood pumping and raise cardiovascular levels, followed by 25 minutes of long, strong stretches to further strengthen and elongate muscles, balance the body and calm the mind. And you do not need equipment to achieve results, natural bodyweight movements work us just as hard as using weights and kettle bells - you just need to be creative. Try jump squats into a plank, straight into a bunny hop with a sprint to finish, it works every single muscle and tendon in your body, including your brain!
Deep stretching and uncomplicated, natural movements help us to keep healthy, active and positive for today and tomorrow. The fittest people are those who regularly raise their heart rates and yet also bend with ease. Alongside a flexible body comes healthy posture that reduces the potential for injury, makes us feel great and helps carry us through old age.
Exercise outdoors as often as possible to soak up the natural Vitamin D, and to keep in touch with the beauty of the ever-changing, natural world. Exercising in groups is also a tonic, work hard together, stretch, cool down properly and laugh and smile along the way in the company of like-minded people. It's a great way to make life-long friends.
Compliment aerobic and flexibility movements by keeping life as uncomplicated as possible, eat fresh natural foods, drink water and help others often. Calm the brain by switching off from technology sometimes, and last, but by no means least, embrace the great outdoors whatever the weather!