“After being a part of Urban Athlete, I am more motivated and more fit! The ever changing variety of workouts keeps me interested and challenged.” ~Sally P.
Several weeks ago, we had a client show us an article from The New York Times, “How ‘Muscle Confusion’ Might Help Your Workouts.” The article was a summary of a research study done with two groups of people:
- Same exercise routine each time they came into the gym
- Randomly generated exercise routine each time they came into the gym
At the end of eight weeks, researchers used ultrasound to measure the size and strength of the participants’ leg muscles from both groups. The researchers hypothesized that if the group who received randomly generated exercise routines had stronger muscles, then this was evidence of muscle confusion.
However, the researchers did not find a significant difference in physical strength between the two groups. What they did find, however, was a difference in motivation.
The group who did a different exercise routine each time they came into the gym had significantly higher motivation to continue exercising at the completion of the study.
There are a slew of factors that contribute to exercise adherence. (Hmm..Maybe we’ll talk about that in a later post?) However, if workout variety is something that keeps people coming into the gym, then we can definitely control that.
Every Monday at Urban Athlete, the coaches take the time to discuss the workouts for the week. Why? Because they’re different each and every day! This way, coaches can stay up to speed on the many different movement variations and patterns that we use.
A little more time and energy creating different workouts
A lot more motivation from the clients who complete them
If you’d like to check-out the article that we referenced, please follow this link! https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/08/well/move/muscle-confusion-exercise-workouts-fitness.html
How many times have you heard a coach at Urban Athlete say, “Inhale down, exhale up”?
Probably too many times to count…
But, why do they say it?
We all know that breathing is important! Our lungs play a critical role in our circulatory system. They release carbon dioxide, or waste from our muscles, into the atmosphere and in turn bring oxygen into our system, specifically into our bloodstream.
Our blood transports this oxygen to our working muscles and then picks up its waste products to be released from the body.
It is a super important system that allows our muscles to continue working.
So, why inhale down, exhale up? Why not exhale down, inhale up?
Coaches say, “Inhale down, exhale up” during exercises where at one point the movement is working with gravity, and at another point the movement is working against gravity.
Here are two key terms:
Eccentric – muscles are lengthing, working with gravity
Concentric – muscles are shortening, working against gravity
Think about the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), for example. At the start of the movement, you hinge at the hips with a flat back, letting gravity take the weight towards the floor. This is when “inhale down” applies, because this is the eccentric part of the movement. Next, you come out of the hip hinge – full hip extension. You are working against gravity, as your hamstrings and glutes tighten to bring you back to upright. This is “exhale up.”
We breathe in during the eccentric phase, in order to prepare our muscles for the subsequent contraction. During the contraction, or concentric phase, we exhale all of the waste products that our body accumulated during the lift.
Are you super aware of your breathing right now? I know I am!
Ever walk into a gym and think, “Whoa, what’s going on in here?”
You keep thinking, “How am I supposed to do all of this, when my back hurt just getting out of bed this morning…”
You’re a little stressed from the morning you’ve had and now you’re at the gym where it’s supposed to be fun, right? But now it’s not looking all that fun, and the idea of trying to work out like everything is okay seems pretty miserable.
So instead of walking-out, you speak-up. You need an alternative. You want to be in the gym with your friends, but the pressure to complete a workout, that your body is telling you is too much, can no longer be ignored.
Cue Restorative UA!
At the start of 2020, we launched Restorative UA, a low impact workout designed to keep people, who needed an alternative, coming into the gym. Not necessarily easier, but definitely different. In this way, Restorative UA helps to bridge the gap between physical therapy and functional fitness, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Let’s answer a few questions you may have:
- Is this for me, if I haven’t done physical therapy? We say physical therapy, but insert any word to describe what has kept you from the gym or your recent health and wellness goals. This could be nagging aches or difficulty with everyday tasks, such as standing or picking-up little ones.
- What is functional fitness? Functional fitness encompasses all of the movements that we do in the gym that you also see in everyday life. For example, hip hinging in Restorative UA is bending over to get something out of the fridge at home.
- What is a low impact workout? Exercise is a stressor on the body – an external stimulus that causes the body to adapt, or make physiological changes. A low impact workout is designed to put less stress on the body, allowing it greater time to make adjustments.
- What can I expect from a Restorative UA workout? Every Monday and Wednesday from 11AM-12PM, you can expect gentle strength training, mobility, flexibility, and balance exercises.
Have a few questions or want to try some FREE classes? Simply call us at 215-248-2130 or send an email to email@example.com !
We’ve started our last few blog posts by talking about rest. Why do we rest? Simply put – we rest because we’re tired and crave more energy. In our bodies, energy has a name – adenosine triphosphate (ATP)! We’re going to spend this blog post briefly discussing where the ATP comes from for the specific exercises that we do while at the gym.
If you recall from last week, actin and myosin are the smallest parts of our muscle, but arguably the most important. In order to contract our muscle (think hamstrings in UA’s hip hinge movements), these fibers slide past one another, but they cannot do so without ATP, or energy. They also cannot relax, or return to normal, without ATP.
ATP is incredibly necessary!
Here is a brief overview of the three systems in our bodies that provide us with ATP. As we discuss them, keep in mind that all three systems are at work at the start of any exercise, it’s just a matter of how long each system stays working, or “drops-off,” if you will.
ATP-PC (Phosphocreatine) System
This system is the most short-lived. It supplies ATP for only about 10 seconds, so it is frequently seen in explosive movements, such as a sprint or 1RM of a squat, bench, or deadlift. ATP is formed by the energy collected from breaking down phosphocreatine.
This system is our main source of energy from that 10 second mark to a few minutes. Exercises that rely on the glycolytic system are still high-intensity but last longer than a sprint or 1RM. Glycolysis means the breakdown of glycogen – our storage form of glucose in our liver. Each time this system runs, we have a net gain of 2 ATP.
We use this energy system for sustained, low-intensity exercise that lasts longer than a few minutes. This is the energy system at play when we think of endurance – such as long sessions on the rower or bike. This system generates the most ATP – 36, but at a much slower rate than the other two systems. Unlike the glycolytic system that can only use carbohydrates, the oxidative system can also use fats at the start of the reaction.
In conclusion, ATP goes hand in hand with our nutrition. It is also the fuel that our bodies operate on, and it is the same energy that allows us to complete a workout or grab a cup of coffee.
In last week’s blog post, we talked about the intentionality of rest in workouts and everyday life. This week we’ll talk about muscle contraction and the reason why we rest!
Anatomy and Physiology just happened to be my favorite class!
Let’s start from the beginning. The parts of your muscle that actually do the contracting (or shortening) are buried deep within your muscle. Try to think of the following as nested within one another.
From largest to smallest:
- Myofibril (Actin & Myosin: the parts of your muscle that contract)
Actin and myosin are two strands that slide past one another, in order to shorten your muscle. Think about one of the largest muscle groups in your body – your quads. These small fibrils which are embedded in your muscle fibers, which are embedded in your fascicles, which are embedded in your quad muscles, are responsible for your ability to squat, run, and jump – to name a few!
Muscle contraction is incredible, isn’t it? So why do we rest? We rest, in part, because actin and myosin cannot contract repeatedly on end. We would need an endless supply of calcium and ATP (energy) to make that happen!
Calcium makes our actin and myosin filaments ready for contraction, and ATP sets it into action! Better yet, this whole process is triggered by our brains!
Some additional food for thought: We need ATP for both contraction and relaxation.
Want to learn more about ATP? Tune in next week for our blog post on different energy sources for different types of exercise!
I know there have been times in my life when I’ve said this.
Just as I know, there have been times in your life when you’ve said this too! Maybe you’ve even said it recently.
Unless there is some sort of underlying factor, chances are in order to have more energy you simply need four things to get you started and keep you going on the path to having more energy.
- Consistent Activity
- Supportive Nutrition
- Quality Sleep
- Better Life Balance
Don’t get me wrong…None of the above are either easy right out of the gate, nor are they going to be game changers overnight. When done with purpose and consistency, you will begin to see noticeable differences in your energy levels, your mood, and likely your body composition, among other things. At Urban Athlete, we like to think about this like Lifestyle Design.
It shouldn’t feel like you are making all the hard changes all at once. It shouldn’t feel like you can’t enjoy yourself, whether it’s having a relaxing day or an indulgence of food or drink. It should feel like you make good choices the majority of the time so that when you want to treat yourself you are able to without guilt.
There is no one right path for all of us to take. There is no one right nutrition plan or exercise plan. Or waking time. Or bed time. Or career path. Or number of hours worked. (I think you get my point.) There is no simple equation that balances out to the perfect answer. Above all else there are no quick fixes. I don’t write any of this to discourage you. In fact I write all this to encourage you to take the next step because change is good, and small change should feel manageable.
What is the one thing you could do today to move you closer to having more energy in your day?
Perhaps it is:
- drinking more water
- going to bed 15 minutes earlier
- taking a walk
- creating sleep specific space, free of electronics
- eating a vegetable with every meal
- starting a morning stretch routine
And the list can go on. Eventually we would aim to do all of these things, but for today…in this moment, pick just one thing that you can manage to start to make an impact on your own quality of life and gain some energy back. Each day keep with the same one thing, make a promise to yourself that you will stick with it. Notice I didn’t say for how long…That’s intentional, for now at least. The goal is to create a daily, small success that lets you believe in yourself to encourage you to do more.
As you start to master this one task and eventually more you might choose to make larger commitments like:
- getting a personal trainer or joining a group training program close to home or work
- scheduling your day to make sure you get at least 7 full hours of sleep each night
- doing food prep 1-2 days a week for optimal nutrition even on your busiest of days
- knowing when to say no to the things that aren’t a priority to you
When you’re able to make these larger commitments and incorporate them into your lifestyle you find you will have created a new path to walk in. One that likely feels better to you and is how you will gain more energy in the long haul, along with many other benefits.
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