Fitness

Focus on Functional (Fitness)

Like many people, we’ve spent a lot of time exercising indoors at the gym this winter (thank you, polar vortex).  Something we’ve been hearing a lot about from fitness instructors is incorporating “functional fitness” elements into our routine.  Functional fitness exercises use movements that mimic everyday activities to increase strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility (range of motion).  This type of training makes performing day-to-day activities like carrying groceries easier, while at the same time reducing the risk of injury.

The key element is using multiple muscle groups together (as opposed to traditional weight machines which work one muscle group at a time in isolation).  In essence, functional fitness trains the body to work with itself.  Bodyweight exercises like pushups, squats and lunges are great examples.  Without a machine for support, the muscles of the core (think back and abs) play a crucial role in maintaining balance and proper form.  Functional fitness isn’t limited to bodyweight exercises, either.  Free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands and balance boards are all useful tools.

Exercises that use more than one muscle group not only help strengthen the core and improve balance, they’re often less time consuming.  Plus since there aren’t any big machines necessary, many can be done at home.  If you have access to a gym, see if there’s a trainer who uses a functional training approach to help you get you started.  And always, check with your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.

(Content reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)

 

Fitness, Guest Post

Beginning Yoga

By Brenda Santora, Yoga Teacher
The Clubs at Charles River Park

with Chrisanne Sikora, Project Specialist
Diabetes Self-Management Education Program

Yoga is the integration of mind, body and soul. It’s physical, it’s relaxation. It’s working on flexibility, meditation and calming the mind. Ultimately, it’s learning and accepting your own body. There’s a perception that you need to be an athlete and/or able to twist yourself into a pretzel in order to practice yoga. The truth is we’re all built differently. If you can’t do the final pose, there’s nothing wrong with that! Not everyone will be able to do every pose.

If you’re new to yoga, a good first step is finding the correct level class. Starting with something that’s too advanced can be discouraging (and possibly unsafe). Check out the websites for studios in your area and look for classes with the words Intro, Beginner, Basics or Foundation in their title. If you’re still not sure which class is the best fit, you can always call the studio. They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and make recommendations. Another option is looking into what’s offered by your local YMCA/YWCA or Adult Education Centers. These community centers are a great place to learn about yoga before moving on to classes at a yoga studio.

It’s normal to feel a sense of being overwhelmed at first. Part of it is simply the experience of doing something new, but you’ll find that after a few classes it becomes very familiar. Also when you’re getting started it’s quite normal to see something you’ve never done and feel like you can’t do it. Instead of saying I can’t do this, focus on what you can do. Just walking in the door and standing on your mat is an accomplishment! Over time you’ll start to notice you’re working and stretching parts of the body you didn’t know you could before. You may also notice you start to just feel good and more relaxed.

Finally, remember instructors are all different and each has their own individual way of teaching. Before your class take a look at their background, where they did their training, and with whom. If something doesn’t click with your instructor, don’t give up. Keep an open mind and try experimenting with different styles and teachers.

Brenda is an RYT 200 registered Certified Iyengar Yoga teacher at The Clubs at Charles River Park

Announcements

Fitting Fitness in Fall Twitter Chat

MGH logo with blue circle

The beginning of fall is a time of change. Changes in the foliage, changes to your schedule, change in the weather . . . changes in your exercise routine?

Join us on Monday, October 7th at 2pm EST for a chat on adapting your fitness routine to the change in seasons and strategies for fitting fitness into a busy fall schedule. Mike Bento, Personal Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park, will be leading the discussion and answering your questions.

Follow #MGHDSME for more details. If you’d like to submit questions ahead of time, contact diabetesviews@partners.org.

Fitness, Guest Post

My Be Fit Success Story

By Jina Rameau, RN, MPH
Project Specialist

I was new to the MGH community, just 3 months into my position. During new employee orientation, I heard about all the benefits we can access. One in particular really caught my attention:  the MGH Be Fit program. Be Fit is the MGH employee wellness program, a free 10-week program that focuses on helping employees learn to eat healthier and exercise more with guidance from nutritionists and personal trainers.

I knew I wanted to join the program, and began contacting the directors. There was one hiccup:  I was pretty new to my department, and the program requested teams of 15-25 people within your department. I remember thinking I don’t know enough people to get a group together! I explained my situation to one of the directors and promised my commitment to Be Fit. He advised I could possibly join another team! I was ecstatic, and couldn’t wait to be a part of the program.

I joined the team at the Diabetes Research Center (team name: Sweet Success).  The time flew by with weekly team breakout sessions with our nutritionist, Debra, and personal trainer, Pete. Weekly rallies were also held to review team stats for submission of food logs, the total time we spent exercising, how many times we practiced relaxation response techniques, and number of steps taken. There were a total of 6 teams, and Sweet Success remained within the Top 3 throughout the 10 weeks. We felt a sense of achievement whenever we took a trophy home.

In addition to 1 hour weekly strength training sessions with Pete, I also participated in the weekly group exercise classes at the gym right next to the hospital. I fell head over heels for Zumba:  a fun, effective workout system featuring dance moves set to Latin and International music.  As a result of Be Fit resources, I learned relaxation techniques (i.e. deep breathing and visualization) as well as nutrition facts like how to read a food label, portion size and healthy snacking.  I lost over 15lbs and continue to include exercise in my daily routine. It’s a lifestyle!

Go Team! Sweet Success'Be Fit Trophies

Fitness

Intro to Intervals

A clock face. Photo credit: Robert Proksa

What’s a common excuse for not exercising?  No time.  With everything we do  every day for work and family, sometimes we’re lucky if you have 30 minutes free for anything else.  Not enough time for a good workout, right?  Well, any activity is better than nothing.  And in any case, it’s not really about how long you spend exercising that matters most but the intensity of your routine.

If you only have a few minutes in your day for exercise, intervals are a great way to get the most “bang for your buck.”  Interval training is alternating bursts of intense activity with periods of rest.  Even if you’re not pressed for time, adding intervals to your workout is an easy way to mix up your routine – good for keeping boredom at bay and breaking out of a fitness plateau.

An interval workout will start with a warm up (foam rolling and/or light activity to get the body moving), followed by a short (like just 1 minute!) burst of intense activity coupled with a recovery period.  The recovery period varies from person to person, but 3 minutes is a good starting point.  Repeat this activity/recovery pattern two to three more times, cool down and you’re done.  Total time spent:  about 20 minutes.  As your fitness level increases, you can add more intervals or adjust the activity/recovery times so your workout stays challenging.  If you have access to a trainer at a gym, they can work with you to create a personalized interval training plan that will help you reach your goals.

Interval training doesn’t require any special equipment, and it’s easy to incorporate into just about any activity.  A few ideas to get you started:

  • Add a short sprint to your walking routine
  • Increase the incline on the treadmill
  • Bump up the resistance when using an elliptical

Now for the disclaimer:  interval training may not be right for everyone.  The short burst of activity in each interval is meant to be done at a level you find strenuous but not impossible.  It’s not a good idea to jump right into interval training if you’re just getting started with a fitness routine.  Check with your healthcare provider first to make sure it’s safe for you do intervals.  If your provider gives you the OK, it’s recommended to do interval training on alternate days so your body has a chance to recover.

(Content reviewed by The Clubs at Charles River Park. Photo Credit: Robert Proksa)
Fitness, Guest Post

Adventures in Stand-Up Paddleboarding

By Chrisanne Sikora
Project Manager – Social Media

Chrisanne headshot

“It’s like skateboarding-plus-surfing-plus-canoeing.”  That’s how I tried describing stand-up paddleboarding to a friend as we talked about what we were looking forward to doing this summer.  I’d been curious about trying stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP as it’s often called) after watching people paddling around a harbor near Chatham last year.  I did a little research to see if there were any places closer to home where I could try SUP.  As it turns out, my local sporting goods store offers outdoor “adventure” classes, so last month I signed up for one of their Intro to SUP classes.

We began the class by meeting our instructor, Tom, and introducing ourselves to our classmates.  After a little explanation of what we were going to learn in the class, Tom helped us get fitted for life vests and set up our paddles.  Next, he went over the different parts of the SUP board and taught us the basic paddling strokes we’d be using: forward, sweep (turning) and stopping.  We practiced our paddling strokes on the grass for a little bit, and then trooped down the hill to the river where Tom helped us get onto our boards and explained how to fall correctly if we should lose our balance.

We paddled around near the shore a little bit to get used maneuvering the board, and then headed off upriver.  I’ll be honest I was a little nervous about paddling against the current at first, but it turned out to be pretty easy once we got going.  Being out on the water, falling into a rhythm with paddling, was really peaceful.  I watched a duckling swimming near the riverbank; a couple of dragonflies hitched a ride on my board; fish jumped out of the water trying to catch the little insects buzzing around the surface.  We spent almost two hours on the water but it didn’t feel that long at all.

I’m happy to report that I didn’t fall off my board once.  I did, however, have to duck under some low-hanging branches several times once or twice and got tangled up in some weeds by the shoreline for a bit.  Guess I need to practice that sweep stroke.  It was definitely a good workout and fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  Looking forward to doing it again sometime!

Fitness

De-Mystifying Pilates

By Janet Livingston, Fitness Instructor
The Clubs at Charles River Park

Pilates is a complete range of exercises that can be done anywhere, can increase flexibility and core strength, and help improve postural awareness.  People from all walks of life can do Pilates – you don’t have to be an athlete or a dancer (or even super flexible).  It’s especially user friendly for “non-gym” people as it’s very easy on the joints and there’s very low risk of injury.  I like to say if you can get on and off the floor, you can do Pilates!

While Pilates doesn’t elevate the heart rate (it’s not cardio based and doesn’t involve lifting weights), it is a good compliment to more traditional workout programs.  Mat Pilates focuses on strengthening the core – the abs, back, hamstrings and glutes – which can help improve posture.  We spend so much of our day hunched over (driving to and from work, typing on a computer, etc); I’ll sometimes describe Pilates as a way of undoing what we did all day.  Poor posture is the cause of many back problems, but as you become more aware of your posture you’ll start to catch yourself if you start slipping into bad habits.  Another “side benefit” many people experience with Pilates is a sense of relaxation:  they’re so focused on what they’re doing in class that they can’t think of anything else.

When you arrive at your first class, one of the first things you want to do is tell the instructor you’re new and let them know about any injuries or recent surgeries.  This will help your instructor modify exercises during class – with all the modifications available there are very few injuries we can’t work around.  However, if anything hurts something is not right. Don’t be afraid to tell your instructor if something feels wrong.

People can sometimes feel anxious with all the cues given during class, but know you can choose which ones to follow. The most important thing is that you remember to breathe!  Also, don’t feel discouraged if you can’t do a certain exercise the first time.  Classes are built on a pattern of progression and regression to build up the difficulty. If you start feeling a little frustrated, focus instead on what you can do and don’t give up.

Still not sure you’re ready to sign up for a class?  Give it a try at home first.  Comcast has Pilates and yoga videos in their On Demand library.  If you have Internet access, YouTube is another great place to find free Pilates videos (I recommend the ones by Winsor Pilates).  And always, check with your healthcare provider first before starting a new exercise program.

Janet is a STOTT® Pilates certified instructor and NASM Certified Personal Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park

Announcements, Fitness

Spring/Summer Fitness Twitter Chat

A big thanks to everyone who tuned-in to our fitness chat this week – our best one yet!  We’ve put a transcript up on Storify, so if you missed it you can still catch up.  Lots of good info on starting a fitness routine in there, so definitely worth a read.


MGH logo with blue circle

Join us Wednesday, May 22nd at 2pm EST for a chat on starting a fitness routine for spring and summer.  Mike Bento, Personal Trainer at The Clubs at Charles River Park, will lead the discussion and answer your fitness-related questions.

Discussion topics will include:

  • Is cardio or weight training better for diabetes?
  • Are machines or free weights better for strength training?
  • Is there a best time of day to exercise?

Follow #MGHDSME for more details.  If you’d like to submit a question for our chat, e-mail diabetesviews@partners.org.

Find us on Twitter: @MGHDiabetesEd

Fitness, Guest Post

Changing Seasons, Changing Habits

By Monica

Changing the way we do things, especially if it’s something we’ve done for a long time, is the hardest task anyone can ask.  We create a comfort zone of tranquility, serenity and calmness that our mind comes to prefer.  But it is not always the best.

As we get older, our appetite changes.  Our metabolism is different too, and we burn fewer calories.  We need to change the way we eat and learn to substitute in healthier foods.  And in order to continue to maintain a good healthy lifestyle, our daily routine needs to shift in a more active and productive way.  It’s not always easy, but it can be done with support from friends and family.

Regular activity is not just for little kids or young people – we all need to be active, and it’s never too late to start.  We had such a long winter; now that spring is finally here we have a chance to go outside and enjoy the warmer weather.  It’s also a perfect opportunity to change some of your habits.  Rather than just sitting in the sun, go for a little walk.  If you can, bring along a friend or co-worker.  You’ll be doing something good for yourself and getting a chance to be social at the same time.

Is there an activity you’ve always wanted to try?  Go for it!  Just about everyone has something they’ve said they’d like to try “someday.”  Well, why not now?  If you go to a gym, ask if they will let you try out a class to see if you like it.  There are also some programs in Boston that plan community fitness events or offer free classes like yoga and Zumba in spring and summer.  The Boston Natural Areas Network is another great group that organizes community activities like bike rides, canoeing and gardening – great opportunities for families to do something healthy and active together.

Let the change in seasons inspire you to get out there and get moving.