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Getting the most out of a workout

By Reggie Palma

LAST UPDATED: 9:50 a.m. HST, Apr 21, 2011

Why do we exercise? Why do we go out there and make the effort to fit it into our busy lives? If we are not doing it, why do we think about doing it?

The plain and simple fact is our bodies need it. We need exercise to regulate chemistry that dictates how we think, act, feel and process new information. When we feel the midday slump, full body blood circulation can oxygenate our brains and work wonders caffeine can't match.

The goal of any wellness program should always operate with the principle of keeping your body balanced and flexible and your mind clear and alert. If you have flexibility issues, injuries or eating habits that are left unchecked, your body will adapt, training itself accordingly.

For example, if you have weak core muscles and tight hip flexors from sitting for long periods, then your body will reinforce those deviations anytime you use it. This means your walking gait, running stride, and lifting form will reflect these imbalances. If left unchanged through your exercise program, these abnormal muscle patterns will be cemented.

However, when muscle imbalances and postural deviations are addressed, the body begins to self regulate and correct more toward the optimal state of health unique to each individual.

Issues such as weight loss or joint problems begin to fade away as the whole person begins to adopt a more "normal" way of life. You will feel more energetic during your run, better able to push through that last lift more strongly, and start feeling good after a workout rather than worn out and sore.

Keep these things in mind:

1. First take a deep breath all the way down past your rib cage into the very bottom of your lungs. Let it out fully. Do this two more times. This will give you the feeling you need to strive for in breathing during your walk, run, lifting session, bike ride, etc. If you are attempting to breathe deeply but feel tightness around your neck area, this is a sign that you are not using your core to breathe, and in turn, not using your core to exercise. Relax those shoulders and try again.

2. Following step No. 1, gently compress your belly button two inches toward your spine and your rib cage two inches lower toward your belly button during your exhale. Visualizing this pattern of movement will engage the deep core musculature in essence providing you with an internal lumbar support system. This is especially crucial while weight lifting as this should be done during the hardest part of the lift.

Making the first two steps a habit will help you engage the body the way it was designed and will begin to train a balanced healthy body.

3. Practice keeping a normal S-curve throughout the spine from your neck to you lower back.

Now get out there and move!


Reggie Palma is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. His website is fitnessatyourdoorhawaii.comE-mail questions to him at

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