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Warm Ups/Cool Downs

Thai Yoga Improves Flexibility

If your clients need to improve their flexibility, you may want to encourage them to try Thai yoga during their time away from training. In a review of randomized controlled trials, researchers found that consistent practice of Thai yoga improved muscular flexibility and specific joint range of motion. Thai yoga is from traditional Thai medicine and includes gentle dynamic stretching, deep breathing, meditation and self-acupressure.

Facilitated Flexibility

While some participants don’t stick around for the cooldown, those who do are rewarded with the many benefits that stretching offers. Help students go a little deeper with a very simple yet versatile tool: a stretching strap.
Straps are great to have in your fitness toolbox (and relatively inexpensive for the program manager’s budget). They not only assist with proper positioning and numerous techniques but also nullify the “I’m not flexible enough” excuse.

Five Techniques
Before we get to the stretches, consider these options:

NEAT Exercise for the Brain

Have you heard that prolonged sitting can be as bad for health as smoking (Owen, Bauman & Brown 2008)? The good news is that movement can help, and it doesn’t have to be a marathon. One avenue worth exploring is nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT encompasses the calories burned while living life: walking to work, fidgeting, typing, folding clothes, washing dishes, running errands and so on; only sleeping, eating and sports are not included (Levine & Yeager 2009).

Learn, Connect and Thrive at the IDEA® World Convention

Education is the foundation of the IDEA World Convention, but this fitness event offers plenty more than stellar instruction. For Jonathan Bernath, publicist-turned-personal-trainer, it’s where he discovered the “fitness family” that would guide him in his new career.

The Achilles Tendon

Many fitness professionals have dealt with an Achilles tendon injury, either their own or a client’s. The largest and strongest tendon in the body, the Achilles connects the lower-leg muscles and calf to the heel. “Synchronous functioning” of the tendon and calf is crucial for many activities, including standing on tiptoe, running, jumping and climbing stairs (Bhimji 2016).
Dutch surgeon Philip Verheyen named the tendon (after the Greek hero Achilles) in 1693. Previously, it was known as “tendo magnus of Hippocrates” (van Dijk 2011).

Cultivating a Home Yoga Practice

Do your yoga students hunger to build a home practice but struggle to stick with one? Sustaining a regular home yoga practice can be challenging even for the most loyal yoga enthusiasts. But practicing independently—as a complement to learning from a skilled teacher—offers a variety of advantages that make it well worth the effort. Find out why a home practice can benefit your students, how you can encourage them to create the space for it, and what will help them get on the mat every day.

Mobility & Mindfulness

Suspension exercise continues to grow more popular, in part because of its versatility and adaptability. It’s especially effective for mobility because it provides gentle traction that improves muscle flexibility, joint support and spinal decompression.
The sequence below flows seamlessly, stretching all major muscle groups while augmenting joint mobility. It’s a great finish for any type of workout.

Hit the Hips!

Eager class participants want to tap into their highest potential, and group fitness instructors have been acknowledging this by offering workouts that are more explosive, more powerful and fuller in range than ever before. However, intense, dynamic workouts demand a warmup that truly prepares the body. Specifically, you must target the hips—hip flexors, piriformis, glutes and hip rotators—to avoid possible tweaks from all those lunges, squats and burpees (not to mention repetitive stress from cycling and running).

How to Handle Exercise-Related Muscle Cramps

You’re running along your favorite path and then it happens: You get a cramp in your hamstring. While theories abound, there is limited consensus on why exercise-associated muscle cramps (EAMC) develop and how to get rid of them. A research review from the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida may clear up the confusion.
The review, published in Muscle & Nerve (2016; 54, 177–85), featured a series of studies analyzing the etiology and treatment of EAMC. Here’s what they learned:

Tai Chi: The Perfect Balance for Aging Adults

Why tai chi?
These Chinese movement patterns have been around for centuries. In recent years, study after study has proven the benefits of tai chi—particularly for older exercisers—yet most fitness professionals seem to know little about it.
That’s too bad, because just about any fitness client can learn tai chi, and any fitness professional can teach it. Like other types of exercise, tai chi simply requires you to learn its movements and experience its benefits.

The Poetry of Yoga

Some 80 million Americans were expected to try yoga last year, according to the 2016 Yoga in America Study (Yoga Journal & Yoga Alliance 2016). Couple this statistic with the continuing effort to entice baby boomers with new and effective movement class designs, and you get a sense of the opportunity yoga provides for dedicated teachers with skill and creativity.

A Yoga-Based Finish

Sun salutations integrate strength, endurance, flexibility, controlled breathing and mindfulness. This cycle of postures is traditionally used in many yoga classes to warm up the body, as the sequence addresses all major joints and muscle groups while increasing blood flow and circulation. However, it also helps to release stress on the spine and promote relaxation, a perfect combination for a cool–down!

Why Cross-Train Flexibility?

In nearly 40 years as a fitness educator, I have never been sidelined by a significant injury, in spite of decades of high-impact classes, rigorous weight training, participation in competitive aerobics, and group exercise schedules that sometimes exceeded 25 hours per week. I attribute my longevity in this grueling business to one thing—cross-training all aspects of fitness, including flexibility.

Training the Pelvic Core

"I wish someone had told me this could happen to my body after having a baby!" . . . "Why did my doctor tell me I could return to exercise at my 6–week checkup?"

Flexibility Plus

Stretching has become a controversial topic, and some research questions its efficacy. You may have wondered whether you should include stretches in your cooldowns. As a general rule of thumb, if it's weak, strengthen it; if it's sore, rub it; if it's locked, unlock it; and if it's tight, stretch it. This works in theory, but we don't know exactly what's going on with our participants' bodies. What we do know is that most people want to move more freely and with less pain.