Get the most out of a workout

Column by Ismay Parker

By Ismay Parker, Certified Personal Trainer at Team Speed Colorado in Centennial
Posted

I am often asked, " What is the best time of the day to work out?" The best time to exercise is shortly after a person wakes up. If a person works mostly night-shifts, that time is obviously different from someone who holds a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. There are several important steps to take before exercising to ensure an optimal workout. When waking up, the first action should be to engage in a minute of deep, slow breathing and a two-minute cat stretch while still in bed. This should be followed by a bathroom visit. Then, it is time for rehydration of the body before engaging in 30 minutes of exercise-like movement.

The breathing and stretching serve an important purpose. People often think that they are ready to jump out of their beds and into their day because their eyes are open and their minds are awake. But, we can't forget about the body. It has been asleep for hours and has stiffened up due to lack of movement. Deep breathing and stretching will help stimulate oxygen and blood circulation to all parts of the body and loosen up range of motion in the muscles and joints. The older the individual, the more beneficial it is to start the day this way.

After the cat stretches, it is probably time for a bathroom visit. The bladder is full from overnight collection, and it is time for elimination. The body has been without fluid intake while asleep and needs water to function properly; therefore, it is critical to rehydrate one's system every morning and throughout the day. The first drink of the day should be a big glass of warm water with a little lime, or white or green tea. The warm liquid will help lubricate the digestive tract without shocking it and jump start the digestive mechanisms. Additionally, it will help flush whatever was left behind in the bowel from the last meal. It's like an internal shower.

Now it is time to move. Remember, it is recommended to consult a physician before starting any type of exercise regimen. The general rule is to exercise 30 minutes a day for five days a week. My recommendation is to do it before breakfast. To tell the truth, I actually believe that the minimum exercise time should be one hour a day, five to six times a week. This is because genetically, the human body is designed for hunting, gathering and labor. In pre-historic times there was no refrigeration or processed food. Man woke up, got hungry, went food hunting/gathering and ate, or perished. Human DNA has not evolved with the cyber speed of today's lifestyles. Most of us no longer hunt or gather - we shop. We don't walk and run - we drive. Our activity levels have declined to the point that our bodies have become weak. The minimum movement requirement for a healthy adult is to start the morning with about 30 minutes of movement that is intense enough to raise the heart rate, bring about perspiration and challenge the body in strength, flexibility, cardio-respiratory/vascular fitness, balance and endurance. Just like our pre-historic ancestors did in their everyday lives.

To balance all physical fitness needs, it is beneficial to change up the style of movement every day. Creativity and surprising the body will keep it guessing, and that is a good thing. For example, jogging or a brisk walk is a good way to start the day. Another good choice is cycling. Thirty minutes of dancing around the room to your favorite tunes counts as well. Floor exercises with a focus on the core or flexibility is another nice way to change it up. Swimming is another variety to choose from. How about cleaning the bathroom with a weight vest on? Or grabbing an exercise DVD and going at it for a half hour. If the activity meets the requirements, it counts. After the 30 minutes of movement, make sure to end with more stretches as a cool down. Focus on the body parts that are tight because they need it most.

I can not stress enough that 30 minutes of movement in the morning should not be your only exercise for the day, but it does get you half way there. Over the rest of the day it is important to accumulate another 30 minutes of high energy movement. Run up the stairs instead of walking. Find ways and reasons to move. Stretch several times a day to stay loose, especially if you do seated work. I know that most doctors recommend 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week but in my opinion that's just lame. We need to move a minimum of one hour a day, five to six days a week to keep our body properly stimulated and promote better repair, recovery and regeneration on a cellular level. The closer people can get to living the way they were designed to live, the better their chances are for optimal health.