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Rework Your Workouts

Our experts share the best ways to make the most of your favourite exercise.

two people running together

Exercise provides many benefits, but sticking to just one type isn’t actually enough. “When I look at any activity, I want it to check three boxes: Cardio, strength and mobility,” says Dr. Andrew Miners. To help you incorporate all three facets into your favourite workout, Dr. Miners, Dr. Jason Abrams and Stephen Salzmann share simple yet effective strategies.

Before you start

“Not every activity is right for every person—or every health condition,” says Dr. Abrams. Talk to your doctor to determine activities that are appropriate for your overall fitness level. Next, a trainer can work with you to design numerous different workouts to ensure you’re switching things up in the right manner. “Consider what fits your lifestyle. Often, 10 minutes three times a week is better than a single hour-long workout once a week,” he adds. “Choose an activity you love to do that you can commit to doing regularly.”

If you love…

Walking

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“Walking is a great year-round activity, and ideal for exercise beginners,” says Dr. Abrams. “Just getting outside and getting a few steps in the morning, at lunch or after dinner is better than doing nothing,” says Dr. Miners. “But it’s useful to monitor how much you’re actually ‘walking’—particularly if you’re walking your dog. My dog is old and slow and stops to sniff something every minute or so, so there’s not a lot of actual walking happening then.”

Tip: Use the “talk test” to ensure your walk can be considered a cardio activity: Walk fast enough that your heart rate is elevated and you’re slightly out of breath but can still carry on a conversation. You should also be walking fast enough to engage your glutes, Salzmann says.

Try: Walking in different directions and on different terrains. From one lamp post to the next, do the grapevine or side-steps. “You may look a little silly, but you’ll check that mobility box,” says Salzmann. To improve strength, add extra load by carrying a backpack or light hand weights. To improve cardio, add hills to your route or do “sprints” where you walk as fast as you can for a few blocks.

Running

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“Running is easy, it’s quick, it’s a stress-relief and it helps your mental health, but you can develop repetitive strain injuries that can be prevented by focusing on a more balanced approach, including strength training,” says Dr. Miners.

It’s easy to break the “rule of too” with running, says Miners. Too much running, too often or too soon can cause injuries: shin splints, knee pain, back pain or even shoulder pain. “It’s easy to think that when you feel pain, you should run through it,” says Dr. Miners, “but that’s when injuries occur. A good rule of thumb: Go to pain not through pain.”

Try: To improve mobility, do a dynamic warmup before you start running, such as leg swings, high knees, heel-to-rear jog, windmill arms or any other movement where joints and muscles go through a full range of motion. To add strength, add in body weights after your run.

Cycling

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“Cycling is great from a medical perspective,” says Dr. Abrams. “But too much cycling, depending on your posture, can actually be negative for mobility—particularly if you go from sitting at your desk all day, hunched over a computer, to sitting on a bike, hunched over the handlebars,” Salzmann adds.

Try: Doing dynamic exercises before you get on the bike—see “Running” for suggestions—and stretching and strength training when you get off. Also try “spinga”—spinning classes that add a yoga element at the end, which can improve mobility. Adding body-weight exercises can boost strength.

Yoga

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“Yoga is great for flexibility, which reduces your risk of injury when you’re doing other activities, or developing chronic musculo-skeletal problems in your joints,” says Dr. Abrams. “There’s also a mindfulness or meditative component to yoga, so it’s good for both the body and mind,” adds Miners. “Just be aware that some low-exertion yoga classes may not exert the body in a way that provides strength or aerobic benefits.”

Try: A style of yoga you don’t already practice, Salzmann says. If you enjoy hatha yoga, which is great for mobility, add in an ashtanga class, which provides an element of cardio, or a hot yoga class. Plus, a wide variety of poses held for longer periods can build strength.

Starting to get bored with your favourite exercise?

“Resistance training done properly is a one-stop shop to hit all three buckets—high cardio, high mobility and high strength,” says Dr. Miners. “A good trainer will have the creativity to ensure every workout is different and challenge you and your body in a fun way.”

Medcan can help you with your overall fitness, health and wellness. Arrange a personal training consultation by emailing Medcan’s director of fitness Stephen Salzmann at stephensalzmann@medcan.com or arrange a Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation consultation by emailing SportsTherapyRehab@medcan.com.

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