GO HARD OR GO HOME
Up for a bit of both? Follow our plan
Never before has the fitness landscape looked like this. It used to be enough to show up at your local authority gym, join the ‘Legs, Bums and Tums’ class and dance around to a bit of Kylie for 30 minutes before hitting the steam room for an hour. But the most popular workouts of today look very different, with more and more gyms packing their schedules with hardcore classes. You know the ones, they promise to burn 1,000+ calories in a single class and even come complete with warnings (Gymbox’s Flatline class advertised itself as ‘the most dangerous gym class in the world’ – nice). And while these types of classes are a fast route to shaping up, they often yield a less exciting side effect: injury.
It’s no coincidence that the rise in shoulder, hip and knee problems in the past few years has coincided with our newfound lust for burnout workouts, says Eugene Yim, a sports medicine specialist with Hoag Orthopedic Institute. Aggressive gym time can also lead to stress fractures, sprains and muscle tears, he says. And it gets worse. Doctors are seeing a condition called rhabdomyolysis, a severe muscular breakdown that can lead to kidney damage, eventually appearing in those who go to the extreme. (Dehydration and high temperature while you work out can increase your risk.)
STEADY DOES IT
You may think you can handle that hour-long HIIT class, followed by body pump and kickboxing, but unless you are Usain Bolt (on a good day), your body probably can’t. No matter how fit you are, going from zero to 60 can set you up for major muscle strain, says certified trainer Andy Galpin.* The solution? Ease yourself into it. Before you take that high-intensity class, spend four to six weeks gradually increasing the potency of your regular workouts. Think adding short bursts of speed to your cardio routine, or lifting heavier weights with fewer reps. If you’re more of a yogi, end your regular sessions with some burpees or mountain climbers. Spend 30 seconds doing either move, resting for 30 seconds in between. When four rounds several times a week starts to feel pretty easy, you’re ready.
BEWARE THE BINGE
You know the feeling after completing a class, when you feel unstoppable and immediately book in again for the next day? Hold your horses. Resting between classes isn’t for wimps. It’s for those who understand how to work out smarter. If you don’t give your body enough time to recover, your risk of injury will skyrocket. In a study by the University of New Mexico, boffins found that recovery from exercise is essential for improvement, performance and the ability to deal with emotional, physical and psychological stressors. In other words, it’s not only helpful for your body, but for your mind, too. Cap your toughest workouts at four per week, and opt for a lighter sweat session if you’re still sore from the last one, says Galpin. You don’t have to swear off all exercise in the interim. Just stick to steady-state cardio, yoga or swimming.
PUSH IT… BUT NOT TOO HARD
That spin instructor yelling in your face? Yep, they
should be doing that – but take care. When you work yourself to exhaustion, your form falters, leaving you vulnerable to injuries. An RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) is used in fitness to gauge the level at which you should be to reach optimum training. It is recommended that you stick to an RPE of six to 11 out of 20. You should be able to hold a conversation, but with slight difficulty, and be sweating, but able to push through. You mustn’t reach the point of total muscle exhaustion or have severe difficulty catching your breath. If your trainer tries to push you harder, just say no. You paid for this – you get to decide.
DRINK MORE THAN YOU SWEAT
You know you need water when you work out. That’s a given. But do you know how much? Because it’s more than you think. By the end of a spinning class you’ll have lost up to a litre of sweat. And sweating out more than two per cent of your weight (2.8 pounds if you’re 10 stone) reduces exercise performance and hampers blood flow to your organs. Your goal: gulp ½ to ¾ of a litre of fluid – one medium-sized water bottle’s worth – during a 45-minute class. And no, sugary energy drinks do not count.
“Aggressive gym time can lead to stress fractures”
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