I see it all the time ... the guy in the gym with the bulging biceps and the cleavage that would make Dolly Parton jealous, but he can’t run five minutes on the treadmill. The girl who takes every aerobics class that the gym offers, but can’t lift more than five pounds. Cyclists often have diamond shaped calves and chiseled thighs, yet they often have weak mid-sections.
It’s easy to ignore our weaknesses and focus on our strengths. Our strong points are the ones that come easy to us. Ask a triathlete to hop on the treadmill for a long run and they think nothing of it. Ask that same triathlete to do a chest and shoulder workout in the weight room and they often struggle.
What inspired my article today? Our local racing team had a training camp in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla., a few weeks ago. Where is that? About 20 miles west of Clermont in the hilliest part of Florida. Anyway, it was a three-day weekend of riding bikes, team bonding and training exercises. At the end of the second day, I had the bright idea that I was going to put the guys through one of my 30-minute abdominal workouts. I devote a portion of all of my group fitness classes to ab work, so I thought the guys would enjoy a taste of what I offer to my students.
I had planned on putting the guys through a 30-minute routine and I wanted to hit the upper and lower abdominals, as well as the obliques — the famous love handles. I had all of them spread out on the floor, and we got started.
Five minutes into the workout, I realized that there was no way that they were going to make it 30 minutes. They were dying! They were moaning and grabbing their stomachs like they had a good dose of food poisoning.
I couldn’t believe it. These guys could ride for hours and hours on their bikes, but most of them couldn’t last five minutes in an ab class. We finished 20 minutes and called it a day. I heard complaints for the next three or four days. Since that weekend, I have been sending the guys a weekly ab workout because they have got to work on that weak area. They don’t like it because the workouts aren’t easy for them, and that is the very reason that they need to focus on their abdominals.
I am guilty of ignoring another very important part of a well-balanced fitness plan ... stretching. I always feel rushed to get my workout done, so I often overlook stretching. I am as stiff as a 2-by-4. I know I shouldn’t ignore such an important element that has such positive benefits for my body.
I started attending a local yoga class about seven or eight weeks ago, but I haven’t been able to go the last couple of weeks. I have got to get back in there and get rid of the excuses for not going. Stretching reduces muscle tension, increases range of movement in your joints, increases circulation of the blood to various parts of the body ... the list goes on and on.
The more conditioned your muscles and tendons are, the better they can handle the rigors of sport and exercise, and the less likely they they’ll become injured. So why haven’t I made this a part of my “normal” routine? Simple. I’m not very good at it. Stretching is one of my weak areas and it’s taken a back burner to the parts of my fitness plan that I enjoy more.
My point today is very simple. Don’t ignore those weak areas. Don’t be one dimensional. Your body is a very complex machine that needs to be taken care of in all areas. It needs cardiovascular work for a healthy heart and to keep those unwanted pounds away. It needs strength training to develop strong muscles and build bone strength and density.
Incorporate a workout plan that includes cardiovascular work several times a week in addition to strength training that hits every body part. Add stretching to your daily routine for a well-balanced plan. I am not telling you to ignore those strong areas that you have worked so hard to develop. I am telling you to devote a little more time to those areas that you’ve been ignoring.
Strive to be the total package. Your body will thank you.
Michele Moulton has been a fitness instructor for more than 21 years and is a certified Spinning instructor. She teaches at PT Gym and is an avid cyclist. She is an accountant and a mother of two boys, Austin and Harrison.