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by Kurt Lockhart CISSN, ACSM-CPT

A few years ago, I took one of those dolphin and wildlife tours when vacationing on the Gulf Coast.  In making small talk with the captain of the ship, he explained to me that the vessel was powered by twin Detroit diesel engines from the 1970s.  I’m no gearhead, but was in awe of how these things were still humming along after more than 40 years in service.

The captain told me that for every 60 minutes of runtime on the boat, he tries to put in at least 20 minutes of maintenance to keep things running smoothly.  I couldn’t help but think to myself — what a great analogy for our fitness routines.  Many of us spend hours exercising at high intensity throughout the week but fail to dedicate even a fraction of that time to body maintenance.  And regardless of whether your body has been in service 20, 40, or even 60 years, a consistent maintenance routine can improve performance, speed recovery, and prevent injury.

Benefits are as clear as mud

To say the research in this area is mixed would be an understatement.  The one constant is that the maintenance activities outlined below have shown the ability to stimulate bloodflow in a low or controlled heart rate making the three outcomes below more likely:

  • Enhanced oxygen and nutrient delivery
  • Speedier glycogen resynthesis
  • Improvement in readiness to train at subsequent workouts

This makes a body maintenance routine the perfect fit for a mini-challenge.  It’s something that can be implemented right away in minimal amount of time.  And if you are consistent over the 10-day period you should be able to notice at least a small difference if the routine is going to be effective for you.

What are body maintenance activities?

To make things simple, we’re going to break some of the more common activities up in four categories.  Note that your maintenance routine may mix and match across multiple categories or focus on one specific activity/category

Posture/Range of Motion

Stretching, Foundations Training*, ROMWOD*, The Ready State* Gentle/Restorative Yoga, CARS (Hip, Shoulder, Ankle)

*Options are subscription services, but have 5-7 day free trials perfect for demoing out during this mini challenge!

Basic Movement Patterns

Walking/Hiking, Crawling

Manual therapy

Foam Rolling, Massage, Dry Needling, Cupping, E-stim

Temperature or Compression Therapy

Cold water immersion, Cryotherapy, Normatec, Sauna, etc.

Keys to success

  1. Consistency. A little bit of maintenance work each day beats sporadic recovery days once your body is already feeling sore and beat down.
  2. Focus on non-training days first. If time is very limited, focusing on your non-training days will help provide bloodflow benefits when you’d otherwise be very sedentary.
  3. Get support. I’m a fitness pro, but I still subscribe to Foundations training as a body maintenance tool that is pre-programmed and gives me the accountability of daily videos to perform. Plus I know that if I’m invested even just a few bucks a month, I’m going to prioritize it.
  4. Two birds with one stone. Mix parasympathetic activity with your maintenance work. Take some time to meditate or pray during your walks. Implement breathing exercises during your stretching. Quality of self-care time beats quantity of self-care time.

Sample Maintenance Routine

For the next 10 days, I’m going to spend 10 minutes following my workout practicing crawling. On non-exercise days, I’m going to complete a 30 minute walk, spending that time in prayer.

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