The Benefits to Working Out Smarter

You have heard it before - "work smarter, not harder".

Unfortunately, you do not often hear this same sentiment in the fitness/workout world.  

Instead, one of the most common phrases we hear is 'No pain, no gain'. Why?

If you look up the history of this quote, a version of it dates back as early as 1577 by British poet Nicholas Breton.   It has also been rumored to be coined by Benjamin Franklin. However, in the fitness world, we have Jane Fonda apparently to thank for making this the theme of working out in the present day.

Well, Ms. Fonda, we have moved beyond leotards and tights, so we will move beyond thinking pain will cause us any optimal gain when it comes to working out and the health of our bodies.  

Instead, let's borrow the phrase from Fred DeVito, "If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you." Working out should challenge you but not to the point of pain.

For many of us, working smarter and not harder is challenging when we exercise. Many of us, myself included, learned from those before me that said 'no pain, no gain,' 'just do it,' and 'pain is weakness leaving the body.' When you hear these words, it will lead you to believe that more is better for you.  

As a recovering 'no pain, no gain' believer, I am here to tell you that when we adopt this mindset, we set our bodies up for failure. We set ourselves up for a life of chronic tightness, discomfort, and excessive and premature wear and tear of our joints while risking severe injury, which will likely happen when we do something innocuous. 

Let's look at some ideas to work smarter, not harder, which will also help with your flexibility!

When working smarter you must include three important details:

  • Keep your body's joints in good alignment for every repetition. Here are some common examples of suboptimal joint alignment:
  • Your knees cave in as you move through your exercises.
  • Your chin lifts or your head moves forward as you exercise.
  • You bend or arch through your spine as you exercise.
  • As you bring your arms overhead, you extend through your back or your rib cage lifts. 
  • As you squat your weight goes to the outside of your foot.

Secondly, you must breathe optimally. While we will dedicate an entire newsletter to this topic later this month, here are some examples of not breathing well:

  • You hold your breath often.
  • You tend to breathe through your mouth.
  • Your upper back and ribs are very rigid or tight.
  • When you breathe, you only see the middle of your belly expand or the top of your chest.
  • Also, those who have allergies, asthma, COPD, or have been smokers tend not to breathe well unless they have worked on it.

Finally, you want to use the right effort for the task or exercise. Here are some examples to further explain this point:

  • If you do a bodyweight squat, you should not need to squeeze your glutes.
  • If you are moving your arms, you should not need to pull your shoulder blades down and back.
  • If you are doing a bridge exercise, you should not need to pull in your abdominals.

You may be thinking right now; I do many if not all of those things listed above. That is ok, for now. There are things we must stop doing for change to occur, just like if you want to save money, you may need to stop spending money on certain items. The same idea applies here.

In our last blog posts, we have covered four ways to improve flexibility.

We talked about posture and gave you some ideas to implement. This week we shared the importance of working smarter, not harder, during exercise.

We have two more topics to cover regarding improving flexibility, breathing, checks, and resets.

Until next time, if you can help improve your fitness or flexibility, be sure to reach out. If you know someone who may benefit or be interested in our newsletter, be sure to share!

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