Living with Vitality column: Get stronger by venturing inside for weight training
Fitness equipment and exercise routines aren’t always intuitive, and trial and error is never a smart strategy when it comes to injury-free fitness. Read on to learn what Vail Vitality Center trainer Angela Muzic recommends for how you can make your workouts safe and effective.
VAIL VITALITY CENTER: What are the benefits of working out in a gym, with equipment and weights, versus only participating in outdoor recreation?
ANGELA MUZIC: Living in the mountains, it seems as though everyone participates in multiple outdoor activities, which is great. Being outside is incredible for the mind and body. However, as we repeat certain movement patterns, such as hiking uphill or biking singletrack trails, we develop patterns of overuse in muscles, which can not only cause dysfunction in opposing muscle groups, but also lead to muscle and joint pain and injury.
All too often I hear “I work out every day and I’m healthy; I’ve never had an injury, but my back or my knee has been so painful.” The outdoor athlete should be aware that coming into the gym to resistance train will not only improve their athletic efficiency, it will also help prevent injury by encouraging proper muscle-use patterns.
VVC: What are the most common ways you see people misusing equipment at the gym?
MUZIC: I think the gym can be an intimidating place. There are a handful of people that I see using equipment properly and progressing their workouts effectively, but many people I see in the gym are unsure as to how to program for their goals. Most of the time, I see people trying things with poor form or doing the same routine over and over. The body is made of levers with specific functions, and when you work out with bad form or train the same patterns of movement, be it on a machine or while using free weights, you are encouraging and training poor patterns of movement and muscle activity.
Your body will remember this, and again, you will suffer compensations and encourage incorrect patterns, which can lead to injury. I would remind members and guests that the coaching staff is comprised of educated experts; we are here to help. Don’t be afraid to ask how to use something or to get advice on how to achieve your fitness goals. We won’t bite; I promise.
VVC: How many times would you recommend someone work with a trainer to understand all the gym equipment and how to use it properly?
MUZIC: That is really an individual assessment. I have had the privilege of working with all types of people, and I believe every demographic could benefit from working with a coach/trainer. I, on occasion, work with other fitness professionals to keep on track and to be sure I haven’t developed dysfunctional movement patterns in my active outdoor and gym life. An educated professional’s eye and expertise can only help.
From my experience it takes about three sessions to really get a full assessment of an individual’s body. From there, we can dive into your individual programming with specific machines or weights. Everyone is unique in his or her body movement, athletic (or lack of) history and learning style. I would recommend at least three sessions with a coach/ trainer. From there, you can decide if you want to continue or work on your own.
Even if you go back to the weights without your coach, be sure to check in at least every four to six weeks to get a new assessment and to stay on track. Our bodies are always changing and adapting.
VVC: What are the easiest machines in the gym to use, and which are the most effective?
MUZIC: I wouldn’t say any of the machines are easier than another, but the machines that you sit on are usually safer than free weights. They keep you in set ranges of motion and, especially for novices, help you feel and understand which muscle you should be working using diagrams and descriptions. That being said, when used properly, I believe the squat rack is by far the most effective spot on the fitness floor, though it can be intimidating. If you have never used it or have not learned basic lifting techniques, ask the nearest coach. We love to help.
Since moving to Vail, Angela Muzic has trained athletes of all levels, including professional athletes and Olympic snowsport athletes. Call The Vitality Center at 970-476-7721 to schedule an appointment or email email@example.com.