How to benefit from intentional fitness.
Story: Adita Yrizarry-Lang
Are your workouts intentional? Are you receiving every benefit from every movement you do, either in the gym or during your day-to-day routine? I realize this is an odd question, but it’s directly related to the benefits you receive from any workout program.
What do I mean by that? Let’s take a bicep curl as an example. When performing this exercise, you have two choices, and the amount of weight you are using really doesn’t matter. You can simply bend your elbow, or … you can intentionally put your mind into it. Contract the muscle as if the weight is 10 times heavier than it is. Hold your body posture picture-perfect and contract your abdominals fully to give you the power to lift the weight. Not to mention, you will burn almost twice the calories when you place this much effort into any movement.
This “intentional” way of moving applies to every movement you make. When you bring in the groceries from the car, work in the yard or even wash the bathtub, your muscles should all be engaged in a way that gives them a bit of a workout and encourages their strength.
Every movement you perform, be it at the gym or during daily activity, has a few common denominators:
- Form and technique – When you move, it’s important to focus on holding your abdominals in tight, lifting your chest and pulling your shoulders back and down. This places your body in a position of strength and protects you from injury. Our spine is born with a few curves that are very important to the strength of our bodies. When we try to lift something by “flattening” our back, we actually place it in a weaker position. Maintaining the integrity of the curves is key. This can be accomplished while utilizing the muscles that surround the area to their fullest, resulting in a strong foundation for movement.
- Emphasize the abdominals – This is the one muscle that stretches if not held in correctly. The average person will push their abdominals outward when they lift something heavy or exert effort, as opposed to contracting them in tight. When your abdominals are allowed to stretch out, or maybe they are being pushed out, they take away the safety and security of the spine. This leaves the back in jeopardy of pain and discomfort and makes injuries more prevalent.
- Take your time! – When we rush through any form of movement, we miss out on contracting all the muscle fibers involved. We actually shortchange ourselves by limiting any strength gains and calories burned. A muscle, even the one that has been sleeping on the job, consists of muscle fibers. Think of these fibers as a ponytail of hair; every time you tug on the hair, you get split ends. With muscles, when you contract them, you fray them, and they repair stronger and better. When you move too fast or unintentionally, you fray only a few of the fibers, making strength gains slower to arrive. On the other hand, when you take your time and use your concentration and technique, you fray most of them. This makes strength gains fast and furious!
All human movement is the same: the more intention you give it, the more calories burned, and the more strength will be gained. This, my friend, is training intentionally and this will bring you results quicker than ever. Effectively training muscles is not specific to a gym or fitness class. Everyday movements can provide an adequate amount of muscle engagement. Put your mind into every movement you make, and the muscles will reap the results before you know it.
About the writer: Adita Yrizarry-Lang is author of “SuperPowers: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Health & Happiness” and “SuperPowers of the Family Kitchen.” She holds a degree in holistic nutrition and is a certified holistic lifestyle coach and health professional.