Healthy practices, better workouts: How LMA can improve your workout

Photo by cumi&ciki, Flickr

Each time I go to the gym I am reminded of how little people actually know about their bodies. As I push myself to complete my 27 minutes of allotted time on the elliptical, I am in awe at what I see and hear.  There is the large college-aged man in the corner straining to lift weight that is too heavy for him, the young woman at the nautilus equipment going WAY TOO fast, and the person next to me on the Stairmaster holding their breath as the cardiovascular workout gets more intense.

It is unfortunate that so many people are unaware of how their bodies move.  Perhaps that is why there are so many injuries and negative body images in our society.  Humans are made to move. We are an intricate system of bones, muscles and joints that allow us to live both in a functional and an expressive manner.

Thinking about this, I am reminded of how useful LMA has been to me in relation to my physical health and I wanted to share a bit of that.  Think of this as 6 ways that LMA can improve your workout by making you more efficient and easeful! I can see it on the cover of a magazine right now!

1.  Embrace your 3 dimensionality

 

Very often I see people with three-dimensional bodies moving in 2 dimensional ways.  Almost every machine in the fitness center is designed to move in a 2 dimensional fashion.  We as humans have to remember that we are rounded. We are made to move in a three dimensional way using rotation.  Take a leg press for example.  This machine does help us to gain strength in our legs, there is no doubt about that, but it only encourages flexion and extension by moving forward/back and up/down.  What about our rotary function? Our legs are not made up of one big muscle and one joint.  There are many muscles, tendons, ligament, and joints that give us optimum mobility, therefore it is important to remember to work all of these together.  A perfect example is our hip joint, where the femur meets the pelvis. A ball in socket joint, this has rotary function as well as flexion and extension.   There are many rotators and connective tissue surrounding this joint and much of these go unused or unnoticed in the exercises made available to us in a gym environment.  I am not saying NO to the leg press and other 2 dimensional exercises but I DO think that for every leg press (or similar activity) there should be some type of 3 dimensional exercise to recuperate and strengthen all of the intricate muscle groups.  Simple hip or arm circles and other rotation exercises could balance this.  In addition, workouts like reformer pilates, gyrotonics, and free weights provide 3 dimensional possibilities.

Check out this video by Lesley Powell at Movements Afoot for some discussion about the scapula and it’s 3-dimensional possibilities:

 

2.  Breathe

Why do we forget this? I used to and probably still do at times. I think that it may seem easier if we hold our breath; maybe there is a misconception that we have more strength if we hold it. Not true! Breathing makes the hard work easier. It feeds the body. When we breathe we are not only getting the oxygen that we need to our lungs, we are giving oxygen to the rest of our body. On an individual level, our cells breathe.  Our blood needs the oxygen we inhale to make our muscles work. The more we breathe, the more oxygen we get, the more efficient and strong we can be.  In addition to that it just feels good. Our 3 dimensional breath can relieve excess tension and stress.  Notice how it feels when you take a deep breath. Breath can be nourishing, healing, and can give us a source of energy. Use it!

Here is another great video from Movements Afoot that shows the power of the breath when working on the core.

3.  Slow down

Plain and simple.  Working too fast allows us to use momentum and flow to execute the action.  While momentum and flow are wonderful things and help us at many times as movers, it can prevent us from doing the hard work.  It is natural to want to take the easier route to finish a task and I am all for efficiency but not in that way. Take time to focus on the muscle groups you are working and be aware of how they feel the entire time you are doing the task.  If you are on the elliptical, a personal favorite of mine, feel what it is like to explore different stride lengths while imagining your legs working in your mind.  While working on weight bearing activities, remember that there is work in BOTH directions! While it may be more difficult to bring the weight towards you in a bicep curl, it can also be work to extend your arms, if you work slowly!!

4.  Less weight, deeper work

It is really easy to pile on the weight and strain with our large outer muscles while doing the work.   While it is great to work all of our muscles, it is really important not to forget about the smaller and/or deeper muscles.  For example, we have many layers of abdominal muscles and underneath it all is our psoas, an important part of our core. It is important to find a way to work with ALL of these, including our psoas.  Another area where we tend to use our larger, external muscles is in the glutes (butt muscles).  Our leg rotators are located underneath our glutes and it is easy to forget about how important it is to work all of the muscles in this area.  So, how do you do we attend to all of these muscles? While working out, be aware of which muscles groups you should be working. Be sure other areas of your body aren’t taking over the work due to a weakness in the intended area.  If there is a weakness, LESS WEIGHT! It is not a defeat to lower the weight. In fact, you will gain more results and have better functioning in the body as a whole.  Another thing to keep in mind is to really think about the exercise and take your time. I often feel like I am using the force (as in Star Wars…may the force be with you…). If you are working your core, visualize all of the muscles that you should be working and try to initiate the movement from the deepest one.  IF you have NO idea what that muscle area looks like, check out an anatomical picture!  Moving through exercises too quickly can cause problems OR just defeat the purpose of a work out.

5.  Everything is connected

More often than not, the machines at the gym focus on one or two areas at a time, isolating muscles or muscle groups.  That is great BUT it is very important to remember that everything is connected.  Remember that children’s song?: My ankle bone’s connected to my knee bone, my knee bone’s connected to my hip bone…..

Well, that isn’t completely accurate but it’s got the right idea.  We ARE connected in everyway.  So, while focusing on specific muscle groups, remember about the rest of your body.  When doing sit ups, remember what your legs are doing? Where are your feet? Each of these things determines how the whole body is working.  Every little bit matters! Each position of your body and body parts, influences how the muscles will work together and will determine which of the muscles are actually doing the most work.  I know that in our world it is easy to compartmentalize and work on a part, but we really are WHOLE people, use that to your advantage in your workouts.

6.  Exertion and Recuperation

Finally, don’t forget about your exertion and recuperation rhythms!  It is important to be aware of your body and how it is feeling.  If you worked excessively one day, take it easy the next. If your legs are tired after cycling, work your upper body with weights.  Know that recuperation does NOT mean being lazy or doing nothing (although it can if that’s what you need). If you do something long enough (and the idea of ‘long enough’ will vary), you will begin to notice that your body is craving something else.  This can be talked about as the recuperation from a certain exertion.  These rhythms can be very useful.  Paying attention to them allows you to work your body while listening to your body, something necessary to avoid injury and fatigue.

This is just the beginning.  IF we really want to exercise in a healthful way, there is a lot to think about. There are many more points we could discuss from an LMA perspective but start with these.   And remember, all of this is about being a more healthful mover.

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Rose is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and somatic body practitioner. She is the Artistic Director of inFluxdance based in Salt Lake City, UT. Rose holds a BFA, CLMA and an MFA in Choreography from CalArts. For the past 5 years Rose was Head of Dance at the University of Virginia where she created and implemented their new dance program.
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