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Saturday, 16 June 2012

How to Get Flexible, Easy Exercises for You

One of the rewards of getting old, if you can call it that, is getting stiffness in your limbs or losing flexibility in your body.

You really notice this when you try to run up the stairs or if you’ve been asked to bend down and touch your toes. The latter exercise really hurts.

Body flexibility relates to the the range of movement in your joints. The degree of flexibility differs for each individual. But the degree of body flexibility can be improved by doing some simple stretching exercises.

This is one area of exercise I’ve never taken seriously. I’ll go the garage and use the bench press straightaway, or just jump on my bike and pedal of the train station without giving a second thought slow down and perform a few stretching exercise first.

When you think, a few stretching exercises isn’t that onerous if they are the only exercises we do in our struggle to stay or get fit.

Keeping our bodies flexible is important as a lack of flexibility can trigger physical symptoms such as pain syndrome or balance problems.

You can measure how flexible your body is by doing a Sit and Reach test. This will test flexibility of your lower back.

You do the test by sitting on the floor with both legs outstretched and parallel to the floor. Both feet point upwards with the heel on the ground.

With arms outstretched parallel to your legs, the aim is to see how far you can lean forward so that your hands outstretched are at the same point as your toes.

If you can lean forward so your hands are at the same point as your toes, that’s a zero reading. If you can lean forward so your hands go beyond your toes, that’s a positive reading, if you struggle to get anywhere near your toes that’s a negative reading. You want to aim for a zero or positive reading.

While you can do the Sit and Reach test at home, your local gym should have a Sit and Reach box so the measurements will be a little more formal.

get more flexible If you’re like me you’ll be in the negative zone. Try out some simple exercises where you stretch your arms above your head, touch your toes; while standing rotate each arm in big circles, imagine your drawing the biggest circle you can; finally stretch your neck from side to side and forward and backwards several times.

These simple exercises will improve your flexibility and may go some way to delaying onset of symptoms resulting from lack of flexibility in our bodies.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Bike Commuting – Getting Prepared for the Commute

Do you have an old bike in a shed or garage that’s hardly ever used and when ever you see it do you say, ‘one day I’ll get out on this bike’? I’m sure you’ll not be alone. Several of my friends say the same thing.

You could find your self saving money if you took up the challenge to commute to work or to the bus/train station on your bike.

Ok, here are lots of excuses you could list for not getting on a bike; the weather – it’s too cold, it rains too much, it’s too windy; safety - the crazy drivers, pollution from exhaust fumes; security – where to park when you arrive at your destination.

To be fair, these are valid reasons for not commuting by bike. With a few precautions you minimise the risks.

Here are ten ways you can prepare your old bike so it’s fit for commuting:

1. Tyres/Wheels. If the combined weight of accessories and carry on gear is more than 10 pounds change the wheels to 36 spokes and make sure tyres are wider than 700x28c, with a quick release lever.

2. Gears. A 21 speed gear set should see you through most cycle terrains you’re likely to come across. If you need to change the gear set, unless you’ve an aptitude for mechanics then this is best left to your local cycle shop. If the number of gears on the bike you have is less than 21, I’d do a test run on the commute journey to see how much effort is required. This way you don’t have the stress of getting to work or the bus/train station for a certain time.

3. Pannier Racks. If you’re like me you always take a bag to work. (I envy my colleagues who arrive to work empty handed). If your bags holds a laptop or work files you need to protect. Make sure the rack you buy will support the intended weight. I have a quick release pannier rack which is attached to the seat post. You can fit these in a couple of minutes.

4. Mudguards. Most bikes are sold without mudguards, but they are a must of you commute in the rain. Without mudguards your bags and clothes will get dirty.

5. Rain Protection. Riding your bike feeling wet and cold will quickly put an end to your commuting by bike. Lookout for the following features when buying cycling rain gear - waterproof, taped seams, pit zips on jackets, tail on the jacket, and adjustable ankle and wrist cuffs. For heavy rain, get a helmet visor to keep the rain away from my eyes.

6. Visual Jacket. This is a must. If you’re seen by drivers you’re less likely to have an accident and one where the driver says, ‘I’m sorry I never saw you’.

7. Cycle Helmet. Wearing a helmet is not to my knowledge a legal requirement but it does offer some protection if you have an accident.

8. Bike Repair Kit. At a minimum your kit should include puncture repair, set of bike spanners, and chain repair took.

9. Water. If your commute is over a mile carry a bottle of water so you feel refreshed at the end of your journey.

10. Cycle Pump. A necessity if you suffer a puncture – provided you’ve got a puncture repair kit.

A little preparation for your commute means your journeys will be free from stress getting snarled up in traffic and you’ll no longer look at envy at cyclists that breeze past you in stationery traffic.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Gym Membership, Should I Join?

After weeks of talking about attending a gym I finally bit the bullet and visited a nearby gym attached to a hotel.

A week’s holiday at home meant no stress from commuting or dealing with the challenges of my job.

There was an opportunity of an introductory offer which I took as there was little to lose.

I think one of the main barriers to joining a gym is commitment - this is both good and bad. Commitment compels you to attend the gym regularly because you’ve paid for it, often a few months in advance. This is good. Commitment compels you to attend the gym regularly and few of us like to be compelled to do something. That’s bad.

The gym I visited was small and didn’t have a vast range of equipment. It wasn’t packed wall to wall with Mr Universe types or pseudo Olympians. I didn’t feel intimidated because of the small size, as many standalone gyms can be the size of aircraft hangers.

I tried out most of the equipment. My favourite being the Spinning cycle, this had all the usual features like time, distance, calories burned, heart rate and ability to simulate the type of terrain which changed the effort needed to turn the pedals.

If you haven’t visited a gym for a while and need that extra push to go, lookout for introductory gym offers like a free gym pass, take advantage of any gym membership trials.

Dealing with the struggle to get or stay fit means dealing with one of our fears and that is commitment. Feeling compelled to go because we’ve spent the money means we just don’t go. However, joining a gym even on a trial basis has made my struggle to get fit a little easier.