Power Up Your Fitness
Fire up your exercise sessions and get the most out of your workouts – these tips will help you to get more out of every move!
Perhaps you’ve been exercising for a while now but you’re not quite seeing the results you envisioned. It’s possible that you could’ve hit a plateau, or it could be that some tweaks are needed to correct little mistakes you weren’t aware of. Maybe, you just need to challenge your body better. Read on for some expert pointers for optimising your workouts:
When Joseph Pilates first created his program, he called it Contrology, and referred to it as “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit”. “A typical Pilates class actually includes an overall body workout,” shares Pilates instructor, Zoya Holland, who teaches at The Yoga School. “We start with small joint movements, progressing to compound exercises including push ups, planks, back extensions, twists, shoulder rotations, and leg strengthening exercises,” she explains. “Pilates is suitable for everyone and I would encourage people with zero experience in fitness to give it a try!” Zoya encourages, adding, “We teach using layering principle – from easier variations to harder ones – so you can choose a level that’s right for your body today.”
DO IT RIGHT:
– “Focus on breathing simultaneously,” Zoya advises. Visualise your lungs bellowing as you fill them fully with air, and as you exhale, contract your abdominal muscles in towards your spine. According to Joseph Pilates, breathing correctly is the most integral part of exercise as deep, diaphragmatic breathing activates blood circulation, oxygenating our cells and awakening our muscles. Learning the right breathing technique not only establishes good form for beginners, but also improves results for practitioners who are more advanced.
– The eight Pilates principles of breathing, concentration, centering, control, precision, alignment, flow, and integration, are key concepts for integrating the body with the mind. From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, good posture and awareness of the placement of all parts of your body is key for proper technique and breathing. “Pilates focuses on better alignment for all the joints and body parts – you could never walk out of a class slouching!” Zoya points out. “In time, muscle memory and repetition do the trick and we become naturally stronger, better aligned, and more aware of our posture and body movements.”
– Pilates is a mind-body workout which targets your core muscles for better posture, flexibility, and balance. During your workout, consciously bring your focus to the centre of your torso. Try not to tense your neck and shoulders (this works the wrong set of muscles), and avoid relaxing your abdominal muscles while exercising your abs (when your abs are pulled in properly, they protect your spine and provide you with better support throughout your workout).
Known for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress by decreasing cortisol levels, Yoga incorporates breathing exercises, meditation, and poses that help increase flexibility and balance while you tone up. Yoga is one of the most proven ways to improve range of motion around the joints (even in older or sedentary adults), enabling you to move around more effectively without getting injured. And there’s another therapeutic benefit – yoga supports better quality of sleep at night.
DO IT RIGHT:
– People sometimes refuse the use of yoga props such as straps, blocks, and blankets, thinking it’s unnecessary or a “sign of weakness”, but these props are meant to support or deepen your practice. In fact, the use of props is a cornerstone in the practices of Restorative Yoga and Iyengar Yoga. “The use of yoga props in the Iyengar method allows poses to be held slightly longer before tension and fatigue set in,” shares Su Unn, who teaches Iyengar Yoga at The Yoga School. “I often hear from my students about how they feel like they’ve achieved a deeper stretch – they’ve actually benefitted from holding the poses more effectively because of the use of props!”
– Smartphones have become a huge source of distraction in our lives, demanding our constant attention. This is the opposite goal of practicing yoga, so do yourself a favour and avoid bringing your phone into the studio. “Yoga is one of the very rare ‘no phone experiences’ left,” says yoga teacher and Founder of The Yoga School, Dawn Chan. “You can’t ‘unplug’ even if you’re on a treadmill at the gym because you can still have your phone with you,” she adds, “So yoga class is an opportunity to rest. It’s an hour away from your phone.”
– Yoga is not about perfecting every pose. Pushing too hard can get you caught up in ego or worse, result in injury. “There will be things that you can’t do – that’s the nature of the yoga practice,” Dharma Yoga teacher, Pearl Bhasin, points out. “It’s not there to boost your ego, it’s there to keep you humble. Yoga is about knowing the difference between ‘trying your best’ and ‘trying too hard’. It’s about coming to a state of clarity that enables you to be that much more aware.” Do your best to achieve the right alignment in each pose, but always return to your breath and focus on being in the present moment.
HIIT (high-intensity interval training), is a form of cardio done in short, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short periods of recovery. This training technique pushes your heart rate up and elevates your metabolism for hours after exercise.
DO IT RIGHT:
– In order for HIIT workouts to be effective, you have to give everything you’ve got and push yourself all out during the exercise bursts. Your ideal heart rate depends on age and gender but 80 to 90 percent is a good goal to aim for. Challenge yourself by making your exercises more intense: add jumps into your squats or turn your burpees into double burpees! Changing up these basic moves will tax your muscles further and burn more calories.
– Don’t underestimate the importance of being flexible. If you’re tight around the hips and joints, you’ll struggle with proper form during squats or kettlebell deadlifts. Mobility and flexibility was essential to doing HIIT exercises safely and effectively. The solution? Complement your HIIT workouts by improving your balance and flexibility with yoga or Pilates.
– Beware of doing too much too soon. The benefits of HIIT workouts diminish when you overdo it, leading to exhaustion or injuries. Unlike most other sports, experts recommend no more than three to four times a week tops, so that your body is allowed sufficient time to rest and recover between sessions.