A Fitter U Q&A: September 2015

Fitness is a complicated subject.

There are many facets to living a fit and healthy life, and it’s hard to know the right path in each situation. 

With that in mind, every month DrexelNow will feature a Q&A with Joe Giandonato, Drexel Recreation Center’s manager of health promotion.

An expert in fitness, Giandonato holds master’s degrees in exercise science and is a certified strength and conditioning coach. He leads the Recreation Center’s team of personal trainers. 

Giandonato will answer emailed questions from the Drexel community on fitness, health and wellness to help guide those interested in a positive direction.

  • “What is the best way to get back into shape following a pregnancy?"

Many new mothers fall prey to setting insurmountable goals largely revolving around weight loss. Tracking lost inches and pounds only frustrates already overwhelmed new mothers.

Focus on the process instead of outcomes. Those engaging in regular physical activity will inevitably reap the rewards of improved glucose control, cardiorespiratory fitness, and neurocognitive function.

Don't forget to factor in logistics such as time and available equipment and nearby fitness facilities, previous experience, and, lastly, the amount of weight gained during the pregnancy. New mothers must be cognizant of immense time demands.

If the amount of weight gained during pregnancy exceeds 10 percent of their initial body weight, their regimen will warrant the inclusion of lower impact exercise like walking, cycling, and elliptical training.

Make sure to prioritize progression. In a physical activity program, key variables — like frequency, intensity (as determined by heart rate or perceived exertion) and duration — influence the regimen’s success and sustainability. Each variable can be progressed to increase your exercise capacity. Increases that are too sudden, especially among those who are not ready, may result in illness or injury.

Those returning to exercise following a hiatus would be best served by ascribing to the recommendations set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine. Those recommendations entail an accumulation of a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week while sustaining a 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

A good rule of thumb is increasing exercise duration by 10 percent each week and exercise intensity by 10 percent every two weeks thereafter. 

  • "How do you tell the difference between an injury and soreness when exercising?"

Differentiating between the two is important in achieving long-term musculoskeletal health and viability.

Interestingly, the mechanisms driving injuries and muscular soreness share a number of similarities, namely the incitation of inflammation. Damaged tissue also impedes oxygen delivery, drawing a host of chemical mediators which work together to restore blood flow, clear metabolic debris caused by exercise, and set the stage for subsequent repair processes. Inflamed tissue may impinge afferent nerve fibers, triggering an increased sensation of pain.

However, in the event of injuries, pain is usually associated with a marked decrease in function. Ordinarily, injuries occur when the forces of your exercise are imbalanced, causing damage to the muscles and tissues trying to create force in the exercise.

There are also injuries that result from regular exercise, or overuse injuries, which are attributable to disproportionate stress to recovery and excessive frequency. These too can be displayed in inhibited function.

It’s always a good idea to check with your physician if you suspect an injury.

  • "What is with Crossfit? Is it just a fad? And is it safe?"

Few topics within the fitness industry have been as contentious as CrossFit.

Crossfit is not a fad, but a sport. It birthed a training methodology that is flawed for competitive athletes because it disregards the standards of progressive overload and the structure of correlating exercise volume and exercise intensity.

It can be safe, if properly employed. However, great variability exists among its affiliates in the quality of coaching provided to participants. Some affiliates just underscore cultivating an intense training environment, whereas others emphasize teaching the movements.

Ultimately, those interested in CrossFit must first consider their goals and weigh the risks versus rewards associated with its rigors.

Have some questions? Submit here through email and Giandonato may answer your question next month.