Outdoor training season is one of my favorite times of year. Navigating the weather can be a bit of an adventure here in Parker, Colorado. We get flash hailstorms all summer and it can get pretty windy at times. Which is a big reason why I’m so grateful to have a new indoor training space.
On nice days it’s amazing to train outside here. The sunsets are gorgeous and the skies are incredible. And after a long winter it feels so good to soak up the warm sunshine while exercising.
One of my local outdoor training spots is the Parker Norwell Outdoor Fitness park. Park gyms are a very cool phenomenon. I’ve seen a few of them in my travels around the country. This one was designed by the Barkholt family from Denmark:
During travels in Asia, the family experienced how the public outdoor fitness parks everywhere offer easy access to exercise, and the perfect supplement to the family’s walking and running routines.
This experience inspired the Barkholt family to develop their own unique line of outdoor fitness equipment, expressing the very best of Danish Design: quality, functionality and aesthetics.
There’s one piece of equipment that I really like – the curved pull up/stretching bars.
It’s perfect for practicing a full range of strength and flexibility exercises. A few of my favorite exercises include:
- Hamstring Stretches
- Flat Back Stretch
- Hanging Spinal Stretch
- Leg Lifts Series (for core and leg strength)
- High Bar Stretching
These exercises are highly beneficial for all levels of experience. If there was one thing I could recommend that people do for themselves this summer it would be to train outdoors 2-3 days a week.
I’ll be co-hosting a series of small group sessions at the Norwell Park Gym and other local outdoor training spots. Contact me if you’re interested in attending a free seminar on how to do these exercises.
For more information visit the Parker Tai Chi and Qi Gong Club’s Facebook page.
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Imagine holding a ball of clay. It’s damp to the touch, cool, heavy for its size. Press your fingers into the surface. They leave a slight indentation. Press again and again. The outer layer begins to soften from the warmth of your palms. The surface glides with the motion of your fingers. Your hands grow tired but you keep working. The middle layer softens but the inner core remains solid. You dig in to reach the center, pulling the ball into new shapes. The clay is pliable, ready to be molded.
It’s the same with warming up our bodies in yoga, where we start with gentle poses before diving into more dynamic ones. With class sequencing the basic rule is to warm up for five minutes in an hour-long class. A personal practice allows for much more flexibility and the freedom to decide how long you want to warm up on any given day. Which is, in my humble opinion, absolutely essential.
A proper warm up is a very personal process.
Most adults have developed some level of compression in their bodies, either from an active or an inactive lifestyle, or simply from the continuous gravitational pull of the planet. Yoga helps to realign our bodies into a state of balanced, expanded strength.
Think about your normal routine: which “postures” do you spend most of your time in? Sitting, standing, sleeping, and any number of repetitive movements all create imprints on your body-memory. Stress patterns (physical and emotional) are another factor, as well the effects of diet and lifestyle. Sam the carpenter would do well to warm up in a way that is very different than Susie the weekend-warrior-waterskiier. While Sam might need to warm up for forty five minutes, Susie’s ready to dive in at the ten minute mark. No matter what our level of experience may be we all have our own unique learning curve.
One other thing about the importance of warming up – consistency is KEY. Even five minutes a day is going to make a huge difference. What doesn’t amount to much is dabbling here and there. It’s like the clay ball analogy; if you stop working the ball loses its malleability. Starting over is okay, but when you decide to gain some traction you’ll be amazed at the progress you can make.
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Cross-training with yoga is a popular discussion topic these days and people will sometimes ask me if I lift weights or do cardio. There are ways to effectively combine Eastern and Western forms of exercise but there are a few common mistakes to avoid.
To be clear, when I’m using the word yoga in this context I’m talking about the physical practice of asana, not the 5,000+ year old tradition. Asana-based yoga classes are the most recent evolution of the 1980’s aerobics fad and most YMCA’s, gyms and health clubs offer a variety of them. Yet many of these businesses do not educate their clientele on how to safely incorporate yoga into their work outs.
Contractive vs. expansive strength training.
Free weight training is designed to build strength by repeatedly contracting the muscle towards the central axis of the body. Yoga poses such as Warrior 2 build strength by holding the posture and lengthening the muscles away from the central axis of the body. Contractive strength training shortens the muscle whereas expansive strengthening promotes a balance of strength and flexibility.
People who practice routine contractive strength training (such as bodybuilders) may have a tough time holding poses like Warrior 2. If you’ve been weightlifting regularly and want to start practicing yoga it can helpful to switch to lighter weights. There are some corporate yoga studios that offer classes that combine light weight training with yoga.
Asana and Cardio.
Any kind of joint impacting exercise should be done BEFORE practicing yoga. Asana opens the joints so it’s counterintuitive to run on a treadmill after practicing yoga. While there are cardio machines like exercise bikes and ellipticals that don’t impact the joints they do tighten the muscles. It’s a good idea to stretch for five minutes before doing cardio and then do an extended yoga practice afterwards.
A good warm up is key.
It’s worth mentioning another potential safety issue that frequently happens in gym settings. Oftentimes members arrive well after a class has started, sometimes as much as a half hour into the class, or else they might leave early. Many instructors don’t say anything as the success of a class is based on attendance numbers, but this can be quite dangerous.
For your safety you should plan on attending a group yoga class from start to finish. You wouldn’t jump on a treadmill and start out at peak speed, nor would you end a weight lifting session without a little stretching. Just like any other system of exercise there is a formula to a yoga class, and this formula is designed to give you optimal results.
Thinking about cross-training with yoga? I’d love to speak with you. Book a free no-obligation consultation today.