OK, you’ve made it to the gym, you’ve donned your sneakers, and you’re ready to go! Or are you?

If you’re headed for a workout, whether by yourself or in a group, it’s really important that you warm up before you get into it, and cool down when you’re done.

Feel the Heat

Why warm up?

It gets your body ready for activity by getting your blood flowing to your muscles. As your blood vessels dilate, your muscles get more oxygen to help them do the work you’re asking them to do. Warming up also raises your body temperature, increases respiration, and lets your heart rate rise gradually. This all helps your body get ready for the more vigorous activity you’re prepared to do. It’s kind of like pre-heating your oven before cooking.

In general, warm up with an easier, slower, less intense version of the exercise you’re planning to do. For instance, before going for a run, warm up by walking quickly for five or ten minutes. Your warm-up shouldn’t tire you out, but you might work up a mild sweat. Slightly longer warm-ups are best for people who are newer to exercise and for those who are getting ready for some extra-intense activity.

Too Cool To Cool Down?

Think cooling down is just for wimps? Think again. When you stop exercising suddenly, the blood that’s been helping your muscles work can pool. And the heart and brain won’t get the oxygenated blood they need quite fast enough, which can cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded, nauseous or even faint.

You want your heart to get back to its resting rate gradually and allow your body the chance to recover. Many people skip the warm-up and cool-down. After all, they make your workout last longer, and we’re always pressed for time these days.

But to get the most out of your exercise routine — and to feel extra great afterwards — a few added minutes on either end of your workout will be well worth it.

 

Healthy Recipe of the Month: Twenty Minute Chili

The hardest part of this recipe is opening the cans of beans, tomatoes and hominy. The chili’s flavor is deep and full, as if it simmered all day.

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-ounce (450g) can low-sodium pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 14.5-ounce can (435g) Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, crushed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon chopped chipotle or jalapeño peppers (from a can)

optional:

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/8 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa

1 pinch cinnamon

1 16-ounce (440g) can yellow hominy, rinsed

Chopped cilantro or green onion

Lime wedges

Preparations

1. Spray a large, heavy saucepan with cooking spray and set over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.

2. Stir in beans, tomatoes, chili powder, chipotles (if using), cumin, oregano, cocoa and cinnamon. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Add hominy and cook until heated through.

3. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro or green onions. Serve lime wedges alongside.

Makes: 4 servings

ARISTA White

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