Stretching…Before or After Your Workout?

Stretching…Before or After Your Workout?

Stretching…Before or After Your Workout?

 

If there’s one thing most people still have questions about, it’s knowing when to stretch.

When exactly am I supposed to stretch? Do I stretch before the workout? After the workout? During the workout?

Am I going to injure myself if I stretch my muscles when they’re cold? What if I don’t stretch at all? What happens then?

Here’s what we think.

 

Stretch whenever you want.

Seriously.

Before the workout. After the workout. During the workout. In the middle of the night when you get up to use the bathroom. At your desk in the middle of the work day. Stretch whenever you want.

The important thing is that you’re stretching.

With that being said, there are better times to stretch.

First, what is stretching?

When we say stretching we mean the static kind. Like where you hold a stretch on one side for 2 minutes and then switch and do the same thing on the other side for 2 minutes. That’s what we mean by stretching.

And stretching is a good thing. It’s a great thing actually. No matter when you do it.

So when exactly should you stretch?

The truth is that you can stretch before a workout. There are plenty of benefits to improving your mobility immediately before a workout. And you’re not going to tear a quad muscle just because you stretched your hips for 60 seconds before you started squatting.

But there are better times for stretching.

Before a workout, your best stretching options are dynamic stretches. Movement-based stretches. Things like arm circles, leg swings, and butt kicks. Stretches that move your joints through their entire range of motion.

This is by far the best way to warm your body up for a workout.

And the best time for static stretching? When you’re already warm. That could be after you go through your 10-15 minute dynamic warmup. Or it could be after you finish your workout.

Either one works.

But we like ending our CrossFit classes, and PT sessions, with a static stretch.

After the workout is complete, the class takes a few minutes to cool down, and then we lead the class through a specific stretch for that day.

This ensures that we’re stretching a new muscle each day (and not skipping anything.) And gives us a chance to immediately start the recovery process from the workout.

In the end, there is no bad time to stretch. Stretch whenever you feel the need. In the morning. Before a workout. After a workout. Or all throughout the day.

But if you’re looking to maximize the benefits of static stretching then aim to stretch when your body’s already warmed up. And that’s usually immediately following your workout.

3 Tips for Better Box Jumps

3 Tips for Better Box Jumps

3 Tips for Better Box Jumps

 

Box jumps are a valuable exercise for any fitness program. And they’re commonly found in CrossFit workouts of all shapes and sizes.

That’s because plyometric movements, like box jumps, are great for improving things like agility, accuracy, coordination, and balance. Box jumps can also improve explosive power and muscular endurance. And they’re great for building endurance.

 

 

Box jumps are awesome. But they can also be very challenging. Especially if you’ve struggled with them before.

But don’t worry, with one or two small tweaks you’ll be better than ever. And all it takes is a little bit of practice.

Here are three tips to help improve your box jumps and get more out of your plyometric workouts…

Use your arms
Jumping is a full body exercise. Not just legs. So, be sure to use your arms to help get the most out of your jump each time. As you get ready to jump, pull your arms back. Then, drive them up and forward at the same time you extend your legs and leave the ground. This aggressive arm swing will help you be more explosive and jump higher.

 

Knees up
As your feet leave the ground start pulling your knees up as high as you can. Try to pull your knees into your chest. This will help you avoid the #1 fear of all box jump-ers…hitting your shin on the edge of the box. By pulling your knees up as high as possible you make it harder for your feet to clip the edge of the box. And that’s the most common reason why people end up hitting their shins.

 

Land tall
Finally, visualize landing as tall as possible when land on the top of the box. For two reasons. First, landing in the bottom of a squat puts a lot of pressure on your knees. Landing tall with your legs almost straight doesn’t put as much pressure on your knees. And second, when you’re doing a workout with a lot of box jumps in it you want to land in order to save energy. If you land in the bottom of a squat on each rep that’s an extra squat you have to do to complete the movement. And that adds up over awhile.

Plyometric movements, like box jumps, are a great addition to your current fitness regime. In fact, we use jumping exercises at least once per week in our CrossFit classes.

So, don’t let your fear of box jumps hold you back from incorporating them into your workouts. Focus on these three tips and you’ll be jumping higher than ever.

And if you don’t know how to write workouts that incorporate box jumps? Come in for a free No Sweat Intro and learn about our programs and how we write workouts

What to Eat After a Workout

What to Eat After a Workout

What to Eat After a Workout

 

Ever wonder what you’re supposed to eat after workout? If so, you’re not alone. Most people have asked themselves that same question more than once. In fact, they’re probably still asking it today.

What am I supposed to eat after a workout?

 

 

Well, it’s simple really.

Within 60 minutes of finishing your workout you should consume some protein and simple carbohydrates. We recommend 20-40g of protein and 25-50g of carbohydrate immediately post-workout.

And the easiest way to accomplish this goal is with a protein shake and some easy snacks like fruit, fruit snacks, sports drinks, or juice.

Oh, and skip the fats. No fats immediately after you workout.

Why protein and carbohydrates?

Protein is the main nutrient your body needs to rebuild and repair muscle. And carbohydrates help replenish your energy stores and save your body from converting muscle into energy.

As you know, exercise is stress. Every time you exercise you cause stress to your body and damage to your muscle fibers.

The process of repairing that damage is what causes your muscles to grow and you to become stronger. And protein is the main building block your body uses for repair.

The second thing your body does after a workout is look to refuel. While you were repping out those weights or burning calories on the elliptical your body was burning glucose and glycogen for energy.

Now that you’re doing exercising, your body is depleted and it needs to refuel. That’s where you give it the simple carbohydrates to quickly turn into glucose and refill your muscle stores. If not, your body breaks down muscle tissue and turns that into glucose instead. Not good.

So, in order to be sure you’re getting the most out of every workout, consume some protein and simple carbohydrates immediately following your workout. Every workout.

But just remember. What you eat after you workout is only a small fraction of your total nutrition. What are you eating during the other 23 hours of the day. That’s what really makes the difference…

3 Tips for Better Jumping Rope

3 Tips for Better Jumping Rope

3 Tips for Better Jumping Rope

The jump rope is a simple, effective piece of fitness equipment.

In fact, we use them in our classes at least once per week. They’re a great travel companion. They fit in a backpack. And they’re a perfect way to build your endurance or hit a quick workout at home.

Jump ropes are awesome. But only if you know how to use them.

 

 

When it comes to jumping rope, there are a few basics principles. These fundamentals apply to everyone, no matter if you’re picking up a jump rope for the first time or trying to master the triple under.

Here are three tips to help you improve your jump rope ability and get more out of your jump rope workouts…

Find a good jump

The first step in order to be an effective jump roper is a good jumping rhythm. Most people tend to use too much effort in the jump when they’re first starting out. Instead, find a relaxed rhythm. It will pay dividends when you’re doing big sets of jump rope.

Start by standing with your feet underneath your hips in a normal standing position. From there, bend your knees into a mini squat. Jump by extending your knees, straightening your legs, pushing off with your toes and bouncing straight up. Keep your legs straight once you’re in the air. Aim to get 2-4 inches off the ground with each jump.

Practice jumping like this, without a jump rope, until you can complete a set of 50 jumps without stopping.

 

It’s all in the wrists

Once you know how to jump properly it’s time to start moving the rope. With today’s style of jump ropes it’s important to focus on using your wrists to spin the rope and not your arms. You want to think about drawing smart circles with your wrists.

By creating the speed from your wrists, instead of your arms, you can create more speed on the jump rope. This will allow you to move past basic movements like single unders and try more complicated, and challenging, exercises like double unders and triple unders.

Practice jumping rope by only using your wrists to turn the handles. Tuck your elbows into your sides and rotates your arms so that your palms are facing forward or at a 45 degree angle. Focus on keeping your upper arm against your body while your wrists do all of the work.

 

Keep your shoulders relaxed

Sometimes the difference between great technique and good technique is subtle. That’s the case with this last one. You can still be effective at jumping rope with your shoulders tense and engaged. But you’ll be better if you can keep your shoulders relaxed.

Muscling your way through the jump rope is okay if you’ve only got a few reps. But when you’re doing a workout that has 200-400 jump rope attempts in it, that tenseness will fatigue your shoulders very quickly.

Instead, think about keeping your shoulder blades back and down. And make sure that you’re spinning the rope using your wrists and not your arms. Practice jumping rope with your eyes closed. Focus on breathing and staying relaxed throughout the entire set.

 

Jumping rope can be a great addition to your workouts. They’ll boost your cardio. Give you something quick to do on a Sunday morning. And you can bring them with you wherever you go.

But you have to know what you’re doing. If not, you’ll spend too much time frustrated and annoyed to actually get a good jump rope workout.

So don’t rush. Practice these three fundamentals. Take some time in the beginning to learn to jump rope the right way and you’ll never be frustrated again.

Write Fool-Proof Warmups in Five Steps

Write Fool-Proof Warmups in Five Steps

Write Fool-Proof Warmups in Five Steps

 

If you exercise regularly you know that warmups are a good idea. You might not actually go through a warmup but you know they’re a good idea. Or at least you should.

Warmups are how you’re going to prevent yourself from pulling a hamstring. Or throwing your back out. Or tearing an Achilles playing basketball.

A good warmup is also the easiest way to improve your workout scores. Increase your flexibility. And prolong your joint health.

Warmups are like the Swiss army knife of exercise. They do it all. And a good one only takes 10 minutes to complete.

Here’s a simple five-step process to write a warmup for any workout…

Step 1 – Pick a breathing movement
Running, rowing, biking, swimming, jumping jacks, dancing. Anything that gets your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Aim for 30-90 seconds of non-stop moving.

Step 2 – Pick a hip drill
Leg swings, toe touches, lunges, step ups, air squats, side lunges, knee hugs, broad jumps. Anything the takes your legs and hips through an extended range of motion. 10-15 reps per side.

Step 3 – Pick a shoulder drill
Arm circles, seal openers, standing snow angels, YTW’s, passthroughs, banded shoulder openers. Anything that takes your arms and/or shoulder joint through an extended range of motion. 5-10 reps per side.

Step 4 – Pick a core exercise
Planks, hollow holds, situps, V-ups, windshield wipers, L-sits, knee raises, side planks, banded drills. Hit your core work during the warmup so you can’t skip it at the end.

Step 5 – Repeat 3-5 times
Complete that entire circuit a total of 3-5 times.

A good warmup should last anywhere from 5-15 minutes and leave you feeling primed and ready to go. You want to break a sweat and take your body through a few dynamic warmup exercises. (Save the static stretching for after the workout.)

Use these five steps and you can create a new warmup for every single workout you ever do. And they can all be unique! Just stick to the basic movements and you’ll never have to stress about writing a warmup again.

Add Intensity to Improve Your Cardio

Add Intensity to Improve Your Cardio

Add Variety to Improve Your Cardio

 

Cardio can be one of the must frustrating things to try to improve. But that’s because most people only use half of the tools available.

In general, when we think about cardio we think long distance. Endurance. But really, that’s the problem! There’s much more to cardio than endurance. And if you’ve only been looking at cardio from a long distance standpoint then you’re missing out on a lot.

When it comes to cardio your body has gears like a car. Gears 1 and 2 are the short fast gears. They’re good for sprinting and moving fast but not great for moving for long periods of time. In your body that’s the anaerobic system.

You also have the top-end gears. Gears 4, 5, and 6. The efficient gears. They’re the ones that keep you moving at high speeds but aren’t great for accelerating. In your body that’s the aerobic system.

If you want to have awesome cardio then you need to train both systems. And most people don’t.

Most people only focus on one system for cardio, the aerobic system. The top end gears. They’re on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day. Or they’re running before work. Or they’re counting their steps in hopes of reaching 10,000 per day. Or they’re biking for miles.

And that stuff is great! But aerobic exercise is only one piece of the cardio puzzle. You need much more than endurance to have killer cardio.

So what do you do?

Try adding 1-2 short, sprint-style workouts into your training ever week. These workouts should last less than 10 minutes in total workout time and should get your heart rate up to at least 150 beats per minute.

An example of a sprint workout would be 7 sets of a 50m sprint, with a 90 second rest. Find a field or a sidewalk and mark off 50 steps (it doesn’t have to be exact.) Then, sprint from one line to the other as fast as you can. Slowly walk back to the starting line (if you have a watch, set a timer for 90 seconds of rest.) That’s one. Repeat that for a total of 7 attempts.

These short, high-intensity workouts will help target your anaerobic system. Most likely you’ve been focusing on long, slow, low-intensity type workouts to improve your cardio. And that’s great. But those workouts are only one part of the equation. You need to make sure you’re doing low-intensity, medium-intensity, and high-intensity workouts as well.

In the gym we spend most of our time on medium and high-intensity workouts. We usually program 2-3 long, aerobic-style workouts each month. We find that the high-intensity workouts work better for getting the results most people are after (fat loss, muscle gain, leaning out, better lung capacity, etc.)