Work Hard, Relax and Breathe Deeply by Ainsley Laing

So, you’ve just completed a really good heart pumping, muscle exhausting workout. You stretch briefly and into the shower. Another day’s mission accomplished. But in the back of your mind, there’s a nagging feeling that your workouts are missing something.

Now, if you are like me, you are overwhelmed with the “should do’s” and “must do’s” with regards to fitness (and I’m a fitness instructor!). Every week there’s something new and the message seems to be that if we don’t do it, we are not going to be the most fit we can be. What’s a fitness buff to do?

Relax that’s what! No I mean that literally. After an exhilarating workout, the body is hot, the muscles are stretchy and the mind is full of feel good chemicals…the perfect state for a few minutes of deep relaxation.

No time you say? Well, how about including deep breathing in your stretching routine? It adds no time to your stretch (after all you are doing it anyway, aren’t you?) and really increases the oxygen to the muscles.

Over the last couple of years, since the advent of the popularity of mind/body (yoga, pilates etc.) exercise methods, I have started including some techniques into my regular classesand asked for feedback. After all, most of my clients are very busy people who want “all in one” workouts with results.

There’s one popular technique that I found easy to implement that you can try. I must warn you in classes it’s common for people to fall asleep doing this!

After you finish your workout and cool down (your heart rate is no longer elevated) try this:

  • Lie down on your back
  • Tell your whole body to relax and sink into the floor
  • Breathe in very slowly while counting to 7 slowly (think: 1 and 2 and 3 and…)
  • Breathe out slowly to the countof “7 and 6 and 5 and….to 1
  • Repeat the breath cycles 5 times to get the feel for it
  • Now begin your regular stretches using the same breathing technique
  • Hold each stretch for 2 or 3 breath cycles
  • Take note of how the muscles relax into the stretch with each breath cycle.

Wow! There’s something really nice about how the body and mind feels after stretching and deep breathing. I find that when I concentrate on my breathing and stretching, there’s no room in my brain for thinking about anything else – no worries allowed…

Next time you stretch, try it. It’s a great way to teach your body to relax after a workout and to really improve your flexibility…both physical and mental!

Copyright 2006 Ainsley Laing, MSc.

Ainsley Laing, MSc. has been a Fitness Trainer for 25 years and writes exclusively for Body for Mind eZine. She holds certifications in Group Exercise, Sports Nutrition and Personal Fitness Training.

Why Core Exercise By Jeff Mims

I’ve come across many clients who don’t seem to understand just how very vital core strength and flexibility are in virtually every athletic undertaking. Those that have been convinced of its importance rarely seem to fully grasp what I mean when I talk about core-focused workouts.

If you’re goal is to improve your sports performance or functional strength, you absolutely must improve your core strength. So many insist that isolated resistance training is plenty, but the reality is that lifting weights from various stationary positions is not going to greatly increase your functional strength because you rarely need strength in those positions in most sports or activities.

Another popular misconception is that isolated strength is what wins athletic events, including fighting and martial arts. This couldn’t be further from the truth, especially when it comes to martial arts. Power, agility, and conditioning create winners, not isolated strength. Power and strength are not at all the same. To get these you need core and lower body strength as well as coordination and excellent balance.

So the next question is, “What exactly comprises core?”

I’ve heard countless people refer to “core training” as working their abs doing situps and/or leg raises. What happened to the lower back and the hips? What about the upper legs, not to mention the obliques. The core is comprised of the entire trunk of the body, not just one muscle set. Many of these same people know that working their arms means doing both their biceps and triceps. They need to work on both the pulling and pushing muscles in the arms. They also know that they must work their shoulders (and chest/back) to really benefit from arm strength.

Many people that practically live at the gym (especially men) are so enthralled with their arms, they seem to forget that they spend most of their day on their legs, and their core muscles are constantly employed in some capacity to keep them upright, even when sitting. The stark reality is that in most common activities arm strength means virtually nothing if the person can’t keep his or her balance or generate power through his or her hips and legs.

Hopefully we’ve at least partially established that core is crucial for generating power, keeping on balance, and improving posture to alleviate back and hip pain. So what isn’t core training about? While core training will help you get in better shape and lose weight, the thinking that doing situps and nothing else will help you burn fat in your abdomen is a total fallacy.

Certainly any exercise is better than none. But if anything, situps alone will cause your abdominal muscles to grow and make your midsection appear larger. What’s needed in order to lose weight is a balanced exercise and fitness program, such as the FitDaily program. Situps are a good start, but they are not nearly enough. The individual needs to build muscle and burn calories to reduce overall body fat. It is not possible to target a specific area for fat burning.

Copyright 2008 Jeffrey M. Mims is the founder of

He is also a writer, professional fitness and conditioning coach, and martial arts instructor in the Baltimore area. For more information and free daily workouts go to