9 Rules to Structure a Workout for Best Results
How to Structure a Workout Session
When you know how to structure a workout, you are in a position to help your body in any given situation. You may just need a brief loosening and re-adjustment of your position during a very uncomfortable situation, or you may be planning to go for a jog or a two hour yoga class. Whatever your exercise routine involves, and whatever method or discipline you are following, the basic structure of a workout remains the same, and comprises the following 9 elements:
- Environment (the space to move)
- Self Observation with a Mirror or Video (the visual awareness of your body)
- Clothing (comfort in what you wear)
- Ventilation (fresh air)
- Breathing and Timing (use music?)
- Warm Up
- Content (which exercise routine is for you?)
Points 6 (Warm Up) and and 8 (Relaxation at the end of a workout) are usually respected in most dance and fitness classes. Unfortunately, the remaining points above are often ignored by professional institutions like gyms and fitness clubs where people come in dressed in their latest fitness attire and expensive trainers to compete, judge, compare and, if lucky, to socialize, with little awareness about what their bodies have to say about it all. So let us go over each of the 9 rules for quicker, safer, and longer lasting benefits of exercise.
1. Environment (Space)
Find enough space to move freely. Enough space means lying on the floor on your back with your limbs stretched out to make the largest possible X shape without hitting any people or furniture. In terms of physical exercise, your true height is not the measurement from the floor to the top of the head. I always make my clients aware of their true height in space by asking them to rise up onto the ball of the feet (relevé) and reach up high with arms overhead. Ditto with your true width: spread the arms far out sideways to become aware of the full amount of space your body can occupy, they go round and round to feel all your personal space. A room full of furniture or a crammed aerobics class just doesn't give people the space the body needs to move through its full potential range of movement.
2. Self Observation with a Full Length Mirror
Step out of yourself and see yourself as others see you. To control your posture, you need a full length mirror in which you can see your whole body from all directions. This may be achieved by standing with your back towards the large mirror and using a small handheld mirror at an angle to find your profile and your back view. In addition, taking video shots of your practice will often reveal unexpected surprises about your performance, which once observed, can be improved.
As I mentioned before, wearing the latest fitness gear and most expensive training shoes is not going to help you get fit. If you are working out at home, wear nothing, or your pyjamas, shorts or very loose bottoms and Tshirt. Most importantly do not wear shoes. If you are working out at the gym wear the most comfortable and most simple attire and, if allowed, take your shoes off.
4. Ventilation (access to fresh air)
Air conditioned or centrally heated buildings are not the body's favourite places to be in, let alone to exercise in. With the lack of clean fresh air in cities and city buildings, it is almost impossible to find a place to exercise that will give you enough clean fresh air. Some people do Tai Chi in the parks, others play volleyball on the beach. Any form of outdoor activity is beneficial to the body. Walking, playing games, climbing a mountain, cycling along a river bank... There are many activities that you can chose from instead of locking yourself up in a noisy, crowded gym where opening a window is impossible for "security reasons"!
5. Breathing and Timing
Coherence of action, breathing and timing is shown below. An exercise is like a wave of energy, breath and rhythm. Try this now just by squeezing a fist while following the chart below to feel the power of breathing and timing. Simple 8 bar phrased music helps to keep the timing steady.
Now that you know the basic necessities, we can proceed to the correct sequential events that must occur in any properly structured workout session.
6. Warm Up
Before you start a workout, consider which body parts you will be exercising. If you are going to do a full-body session, warm up the whole body by dancing around for five to ten minutes before you start. Or if you don't feel that energetic, just do some improvised floor movements to loosen your joints and get warmed up that way.
7. Content - No Pain, Just Gain
Every "body" is different with different needs. The content of your workout will depend on whether you are working alone or in a group led by a teacher. If you are working on your own, you should know exactly which exercises work for your particular needs. If you are in a class or at the gym, you may have been given exercises to do that you either don't need, or that are really uncomfortable for you. In that case don't do them. Exercise is not punishment. Performing the right moves for you is an extremely pleasant experience. Dumbly following moves that are uncomfortable will do more harm than good. Learn to remember the moves you like and are effective for you. Ignore those that you hate doing. Never force yourself to perform an uncomfortable or painful exercise.
Fun is the Half of it
Exercise without fun cannot, in the long run, be sustained. One of the most fun, and beneficial ways to exercise is using a Yoga Swing. The advantages are manifold in that you can perform risky, new moves in complete safety to any level, and enjoy very rapid progress. Watch the next video to see for yourself.
A Fun Way to Exercise - Yoga Swing on Venice Beach
It is absolutely imperative that a workout is closed off with a period of full relaxation. During this relaxation, lying flat on your back with your eyes closed, you visualise every part of your body, starting at the feet, flowing up the through the body, to fully give in to gravity. On each expiration, your body parts sink deeper into the floor until you can hardly feel the weight of your body at all. When you have reached complete relaxation, you may slip into a meditative state. This altered state of consciousness clears the mind of worries and clutter. It is the cream on top of the cake. When you are ready, slowly come back to the here and now, ready for a full recovery.
A Mantra for a Relaxing Meditation
When you decide to come out of relaxation, back to the normal day-to-day world, follow the following procedure:
- Take a deep breath and a full body stretch, like when you wake up in the morning.
- Rebuild yourself by slowly getting up, to a deep squat, then
- lift your buttocks until your legs are straight but leave your upper body down, still forwardly bent, with your arms shoulders still relaxed. Let the head and neck hang loose.
- Now slowly pick up your spine from its base, from the coccyx, one vertebra at a time until finally you
- lift up your neck (again, starting at the base), and
- head last of all. Then, to fully re-energize,
- lift your arms up high while you
- rise up on your toes and try to touch the ceiling. Now
- slowly lower the heels while maintaining the wonderful tall, stretched feeling in the spine.
- Finally, lower the arms and relax the shoulders as if your arms were the empty sleeves of a coat.
That's it! You are ready to go, content, stronger, taller and completely revitalized.
Where do YOU Exercise?
Structure a workout with your space all set, a way to see what your body is doing (mirrors or video), dressed loosely, breathing fresh air, knowing your favorite exercise programs to your favorite tunes. At the end of your workout, take time to fully relax, to clear your mind, followed by a slow, tall stretching up towards the sky, to fully recover and maintain the benefits of your efforts until next time. Provided you stick to these 9 rules for a safe well structured workout, you will always enjoy your practice and look forward to the next session.
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