Huff and Puff

Where do I begin?   That is a relevant question every year at this time.  I am speaking of shaking off the dullness of wintertime restrictions in activity and the feeling of being out-of-shape.  But first let me ask if you were able to actively rest these past six weeks?  Were you successful in avoiding an immune response to the flu, sinus and respiratory infection?  I hope so.  And that nasty season isn’t quite over yet here at 47o North latitude, so be judicious in stressing your physical self for the next four weeks.  Get plenty of water, sleep and easily digested meals with optimum GI regularity.  And let’s think about sequencing during this time as well.

Sequencing is a term used in strength and conditioning and athletic training.  Simply, it refers to the order of exercise stresses we engage in for an adaptation to occur with minimal extraneous stress to tolerate.  Remember we have the ability to recall the best we ever were physically.  It is easy to decide what we did in our youth (even last summer) is what we should be doing right now, in order to be in shape.  The increasing amount of sunlight (there are daily increases, up to today of 117 minutes over the winter solstice) encourages us to push, push, push.  Move we should, but in a sequence that promotes success and lessens injury or burnout.

So, here is a brief anatomy lesson to support my strategy.  Exercise physiologists primarily are concerned with the metabolism as it relates to the working of the heart and lungs together.  We are interested in the results from a single bout of exercise and the effects of chronic bouts of exercise, commonly known as training.  In order to study this heart and lung metabolic response, the muscles and bones of the skeleton must be engaged in a repetitive motion.  This motion initiates a circulatory system response in the arteries and veins, coordinated by the nervous system through the endocrine system, or hormones.  The beauty of exercise is that every single time you decide to move for an extended interval, all of these systems are engaged in a coordinated manner.  And the end result, for physiologists, is that you can breathe the body’s most important nutrient – oxygen – in larger quantities.  The more oxygen you are able to bring into and distribute throughout your body, the healthier you become.

In terms of sequencing, I invite everyone to find a nice large party balloon.  Hopefully it’s brightly colored!  With eye covering in place, begin to blow up that balloon. Focus on engaging your abdominal and diaphragm muscles when exhaling hard into that stretchy rubber bladder.  Continue until it stretches to the point of bursting.  At this point count how many additional breathes it takes to POP that balloon!  With this activity you have increased inspiratory volume per breath, expiratory volume per breath and lastly, forced expiratory volume of the lungs.  These volume changes work together to make the lungs more elastic and fill bigger when it comes to breathing our most vital nutrient…oxygen.   This is first in an important sequence of events to get us ready for a summer of fitness, fun and food.  What comes next?

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