I’ve found that, no matter how much I say that I won’t, I end up primarily doing the same exercises when I’m working out. I’m comfortable with them and feel that they’re helping. The problem is that my body gets used to them and the results are much less than if I implemented new exercises.
To address this problem, I recently engaged the services of Sue Scafidi, a fitness trainer at The Commons Club at The Brooks in Bonita Springs. Her objectives are to improve my balance and range of motion and strength; mine are to listen and learn. We’re working together every other week for an hour.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned – and regularly need to relearn – from fitness trainers:
Slow is better. This doesn’t apply to aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling. I’ve regularly preached the value of higher intensity, or interval, training. But a slower tempo definitely applies to strength training and balance exercises. During strength training men in particular are prone to using heavier weights, and moving them fast. Wrong.
Slow is not only better, it’s harder. If you’re doing a chest press, for example, it’s much easier to use the trampoline effect of the downward movement to accelerate the upward movement, but it’s not nearly as productive. A slow contraction will accomplish much more. I followed Sue’s instructions, using dumbbells 10 pounds lighter than normal for a chest press and found doing it slowly led to fewer reps with the same level of fatigue.
Form matters. It’s easy to get sloppy about form, assuming that if it’s close it’s good enough. Wrong. Not only do we increase the risk of injury, we also frequently don’t exercise the set of muscles that we planned to. I need multiple sessions with Sue before I’m confident that I’m using proper form.
Balance is important. As we age we all lose some our sense of balance, called proprioception – the ability to know where the parts of our body are at any point in time. Sue has added to my repertoire of balance exercises, providing some that I find difficult to do. That’s a good thing. Once I can do those with confidence, she’ll show me some others that I’ll find hard to do.
If you can, find a trainer to help you on a regular basis. Aside from the lessons above, it will likely increase your motivation to work harder and longer.