I’m not a tall, willowy vision of grace while doing yoga. I’m a short, muscular and very inflexible person who doesn’t look remotely cool when I do yoga. And I know that doing yoga isn’t about being “good at it” or “looking cool” but I would appreciate it if I could slide into a pose with some relative ease.
I am not doing myself any favours by avoiding the yoga mat. While I am strong and can run fast, I’m missing an important part of my fitness by not focusing on my flexibility.
A lot of us continue to ride the groove of the fitness routines that we know and love. I had a relationship in the 90s with the elliptical machine that lasted a little longer than it should have. It’s great to do cardio workouts four times per week, but it’s not going to build lean muscle tissue and make improvements on your body composition and lean muscle tissue.
Pushing yourself in the direction of the harder, more awkward types of fitness will help you make gains on your overall fitness. There are a number of aspects of fitness: flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination, agility and balance. You can assess yourself at home with these tests:
1. Flexibility – Sit straight on your sit bones. Keeping your back straight (ie. no rounding) lean forward and observe how far away your fingers are from your toes. Bonus points if you can get a friend to measure the distance.
2. Strength – A pushup test will show you how many pushups you can do to failure (on your toes). This is the point where you can’t do another pushup. You can also time out your maximum plank to give you an idea. For squats, do as many as you can an note the angle at which you end up when you come down into your squat.
3. Endurance – Use the Rockport Fitness Test to assess your cardio strength if you are new to cardio. The purpose of this test is to walk as fast as possible for 1 mile. After you have completed the mile, immediately take your pulse rate. If you do not have a heart rate monitor, you can manually count the number of beats for 10 seconds, and then multiply that by 6 to get your minute heart rate. Note the time it took to complete the mile.
4. Coordination and agility can be determined any time you attend an aerobics class. Goodlife has a BodyAttack class that helps build both agility and coordination. Other ways are to try Bootcamp or join an intramural style sports league.
6. Balance – it’s as easy as standing on one foot. Or standing on the subway without holding a rail. To build balance, incorporate one-
legged exercises like a single leg deadlift or a pistol squat into your routine.
Looking a little stupid will make you fitter and keep you humble. It’s natural when we get fitter to forget what it was like when we were just starting out. You will have more compassion to the new person in the weight room if you get out of your comfort zone.
Now if you excuse me I have a downward dog pose to do.