I’m a Fresh Air geek. Love that show, and I walk around NYC with huge Bose headphones listening to podcasts of great interviews by my gal, Terry Gross. So when she recently interviewed another hero of mine, the NYTimes’ PhysEd columnist Gretchen Reynolds, I received a nice dose of double happiness. Their conversation got me through rush hour on the subway nicely, in fact.
To Stretch Or Not To Stretch?: Research now suggests that stretching before a workout isn’t necessarily a good thing, because it causes the brain to think you’re about to tear those muscles, says Reynolds. “When you stretch and hold a pose, the brain thinks you are about to damage yourself and it then sends out nerve impulses that actually tighten the muscles,” she explains. “… The result is, you’re less ready for activity, not more ready for activity.”
Don’t Skip The Warm-Up: Science suggests that a very easy warmup — a light jog, for example — may be all that most of us need. “What you want to do when you warm up is warm up the tissues,” she says. “You want to get the muscles, the tendons — all of the parts of your body — warm, and the best way to do that is to use those tissues.” Reynolds recommends jogging before a run or an intense sports match. Personally, I start my workouts with a set of 10 walkouts: begin by standing and bend over to touch your toes and then literally walk your hands out on the floor ahead of you and inchworm your body down to the floor until you are in a pushup position. Dip and float through into an upward dog (or do a pushup), push back into downward dog, walk back to your toes with your hands, and then, keeping your legs straight and using your glutes, abs and quads to lift you, return to a standing position. It’s part yoga, part elementary gym class, and it will get your muscles warm and moving. Just what ol’ Gretchen ordered.
Running’s Rewards And Risks: Running reduces the risks of heart disease and diabetes, helps maintain your weight and improves brain health. “There’s very good science that running for even 30 minutes or so doubles the number of brain cells in certain portions of the brain related to memory,” says Reynolds. “Running is wonderful for the health of your body.” But the injury rate among runners, she cautions, is extremely high — with as many as 75 percent of runners getting one injury a year. “So running can be very hard on the body at the same time it’s very good for the body,” she says.
Humans Were Made For Walking: Walking may be the single best exercise that exists on the planet, Reynolds says. It’s low-impact and has a relatively low risk for injury. “Walking appears to be what the human body was built for,” she explains. Even 15 minutes will reduce your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
Hydration Hype: We don’t need eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated. “What we now know is that if you drink to thirst, if you listen to the little voice in your head that says, ‘You need water,’ you will drink as much as you need,” Reynolds says. “You don’t need to stay ahead of your thirst. Drink what you want, and you will almost certainly be fine.”
The Ultimate Post Heavy-Workout Beverage: Use chocolate milk to replenish sugars after an intense 60 minute workout. Reynolds calls it an “ideal recovery beverage” because it has the right ratio of carbs and proteins to aid your body’s recovery process. But be careful, she warns. This is a recovery drink for muscles that have really expended a ton of energy. If you’ve, say, walked for 30 minutes, even though it’s great, you have not burned off the calories of chocolate milk. Calories in = calories out to keep your weight and to lose, calories in must be less that calories out. As Angela Landsbury sang, it’s a “tale as old as time…” and to date there’s no way around it, so if you enjoy fitness (a big calories burner), you’re way ahead of the game. Frisbee anyone? xxoo Steph