Monthly Archives: June 2012

Stretching 101

I was on the massage table when a young lady walked in…(heart skipped a beat)

“Do you stretch after your workout?”

“sometimes?” (most often, NO)

“Even if you said yes to me, I can tell you’re lying”

“Jonathan, you need to stretch every time when you finish you workout, ESPECIALLY when you’re putting your body through so much heavy weights”

“Yes Ma’am…”

She continued digging right into my calves as she worked through both my legs muscles to release tensions from weight training.

I was never a fan of stretching because by the time I am done with my workout, all I want is to jump in the shower, and get out of the gym. What benefits do I get from stretching? yah, i might feel a bit loosened, but I’m sure in time my body will recover anyway. So why bother?

It was only up until I begin to feel pain and tightness in my lower back, I started to include 5- 10 mins of stretching after my workout and reaped the benefits immediately. I feel better, the pain and tightness in my lower back’s gone.

So why do you need to stretch / start incorporating stretching to your workout?

  1. When you’re warming up for your workout, spend 5-10 minutes on stretching will help increase joint mobility, and blood flowing to the your muscles, which aids oxygen and nutrients exchange between cells. This will help optimize your workout so that you can lift heavier or exercise at a higher intensity.
  2. When you stretch, you prepare your body for better posture while you exercise. After a whole day sitting at your desk, we tend to round our shoulders, and hunch a little bit. If people start doing a shoulder press without stretching, often you’ll see most of them really arch their spine, or with a cable triceps pushdown, you see a lot of rounded shoulders, it’s how the body tries to compensate for lack of strength and bad technique.
  3. Muscles break down when you force them to grow through heavy lifting, and you know it from the soreness you feel the next day. White blood cells surround the torn muscle fibre, laying down new cells, and thats how you grow bigger muscles. If you think about it, stretching encourages the tear between muscle fiber which means more new muscle cells have to be built for recovery = happy days.
  4. Stretching increases flexibility. When you have better flexibility, you are able to exercise with full range of motion. It prevents unnecessary injuries and you will have better body coordination and balance which is very important as you get older.

How to start incorporating stretching into your workout routine?

  1. Start small, and gradually build it up. You don’t have to touch your toes straight away if you can’t. All you need to do is just gently let your body hang a little bit, allow your mind to connect with you body and it will tell you when it is ready to go further.
  2. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. If you’re just holding it for 10 seconds, it doesn’t really count because it won’t make any significant difference in lengthening muscle fibre.
  3. Remember to breathe. When you breathe, this is where you start tapping into that mental power to have mind body connection which allows the natural flow of energy to unclog any blockages or tightness.
  4. Stop if it starts to hurt. If it is slight discomfort, it is a challenge to work through it and you’ll reap the benefits once the discomfort has passed. But if it starts to hurt, your body is telling you that you’re not ready to go that far just yet. Patients my friend.
  5. Remember to stretch both sides. You don’t want to be lop sided do you? if you look in the mirror you can tell there’s a difference with your posture, either one side is tighter, traps are higher (tight shoulders), you might even have weird facial expression.

If you need help with stretching, try approach some gym trainers and ask for help. Most trainers have basic understanding to different types of stretching and are very happy to give you a few pointers to help loosen you up.

“The Intensity of stretching should increase and rejuvenate from moment to moment.” – Guruji Bks Iyengar

Image: Stretch and TwistCobra

How to start losing weight NOW

Do you remember what you have for breakfast this morning?

Did you have breakfast this morning? 

Whenever people said to me, hey, I’m trying to lose weight, and I’ve been cutting out all the junk foods, chips, and oily deep fried stuff, but I am not seeing much results yet? What’s going on?

“What did you have for breakfast?” Most of them look at me and said, I don’t have time for breakfast, I need to rush to work, I need to catch the bus to college. Really? Its not like I have 25 hours a day, and I have 1 hour extra to prepare and have breakfast. I have 24 hours a day just like you. What is the difference? A decision to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Some said to me, I had coffee and a cigarette? WHAT? How is that a proper breakfast? Some of my work colleagues have toasted chocolate baguette with a hot coffee. I said that’s good, but if you REALLY want to lose weight, I reckon you can do better. 

People who eat breakfast maintain a healthy weight compare to the ones who don’t because breakfast helps kick start your daily metabolism, burns fuel for energy, and keeps you focused at work. When you don’t eat breakfast, what do you do when you get hungry around 10am? the vending machine started calling out for you, and most often you choose convenience over healthy options because you are STARVING.

It is also important that you choose the right food. When I was doing my weekly groceries shopping, I saw a big giant box of Milo cereal on sale for $5.00. I put two in my cart. BAD IDEA. Back then when I was ignorant and bought into what the TV advertised, Milo help kids to focus and gives you energy. Yeah, check the sugar content, and you’ll be surprised where you get all your energy from. Rule of thumb is, anything more than 5 grams of sugar is not ideal for you when you’re trying to lose weight. 

Things you should consider having for breakfast are like rolled oats, whole grain breads, eggs, milk, yoghurt, fruits and lean meat. These foods provide sustained energy release and instead of making you feel like you have energy spike, it makes you feel full throughout the morning, and stops your craving for vending machine junk.

Now, if you’re really not a breakfast person, but you’ve decided to commit yourself to trying it, I would suggest you to start with a glass of milk, a small serve of fruit, like a banana or half a pear. Then you get to work, you can have 1-2 boiled eggs with some yoghurt, and wholemeal toast. You want to strategically wean yourself over instead force feeding yourself. That way, you body will gradually start getting use to having breakfast.

I can assure you that you’ll see a change in energy level, you will feel more focused, and energetic. When you commit to having breakfast, you’ll start losing weight.

‘What are you having for breakfast again?’  

Image: Fruity Breakfast, Blueberries with Oats