An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | July 8, 2013

Lifestyle fitness: Proper preparation before exercising

By Airman 1st Class Austin Harvill 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Approximately 115 deaths occur in gyms across the U.S. each year as a result of everything from weight-lifting incidents to heat exhaustion, according to the New York Times.

Sadly, fitness professionals believe many of these victims could have avoided such tragedy had they been better prepared by stretching, hydrating and learning about exercising before they hit the gym.

Bob Ornelaz, Fort Eustis, Va., Fit-to-Win director, uses different methods to help clients understand their limitations.

"Preparation is critical to any workout routine I make," said Ornelaz. "Knowing yourself and your limitations is part of that preparation, too.

"MicroFit gives users an overall picture of their present fitness condition," he continued. "Utilizing blood pressure readings, body fat composition and so on, the program shows us your current level of flexibility, aerobic strength and anaerobic strength."

Ornelaz said flexibility plays an important role in total fitness. Knowing an individual's flexibility will give a picture of what exercises might be dangerous and how each person should approach their routines.

"I definitely require my clients to stretch after their warm-up and after their exercise," said Ornelaz. "Stretching muscles can help [shorten] recovery times and prevent injury so that client can be happy and pain-free after a workout."

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, stretching before a workout and after a warm-up prevents muscle strains, and some studies show post-exercise stretching might reduce muscle soreness.

For activities such as weight-lifting, stretching might be more important if exercises involved wide ranges of motion. ACSM states static stretches of less than 30 seconds do not impair strength, and workouts consisting of less vigorous movement need not require as much stretching. After an exercise, however, ACSM recommends stretching used muscles.

After stretching and warming up, Ornelaz said, there are two different ways prospective athletes might begin training; aerobically or anaerobically.

"Aerobic exercise concerns heart strength, fat loss, lung efficiency and vascular efficiency," said Ornelaz.

Ornelaz said preparation for an aerobic exercise requires individual knowledge of self. Those wishing to hit the treadmill to trim their waistline need to know one key component before beginning an exercise.

"Understanding your target heart rate is critical to improving your cardiovascular strength and losing weight," said Ornelaz. "While individual cardio-intensive workouts may work different parts of the body, it is always necessary to know your target heart rate so you don't exhaust yourself too quickly, or work yourself too little."

Ornelaz suggests seeing him for a completely accurate measure of individual target heart rates, however there is another mathematical method. By taking 220 minus the age of the athlete, one can find maximum heart rate. In order to workout aerobically, maintain 65 to 80 percent of that maximum for long periods of time.

Following aerobic endurance, strength training requires knowledge of muscular power and exercise know-how. Weight training and bodyweight exercises comprise the majority of strength work, and understanding varying difficulty levels could be the difference between pain or gain.

Utilizing strength tests and fitness awareness gives Ornelaz the capability to place his client in their comfortable range of workouts.

"First, I test bicep strength to see how a client's overall strength measures up," said Ornelaz. "Second, I see what the client knows about exercise and recommend they begin with either bodyweight, selectorized, plate-loaded or free-weight exercises."

The different types of exercises vary in difficulty, and knowing what type best suits an individual's desired results is paramount to muscular fitness. Tony Arroyo, Langley Air Force Base, Va., Health and Wellness Center exercise physiologist, suggested one way to learn how to work out safely without the help of a trainer or test.

"When I instruct a client new to the gym, I always start them off with light weights performing about 15 repetitions per set," he said. "Using selectorized machines and exercising large muscle groups will give you a good measure of your strength prior to a workout routine, and make you comfortable with the different motions an exercise requires."

Both Ornelaz and Arroyo believe everyone can benefit from using the Fit-to-Win office at Fort Eustis' McClellan Fitness Center or Langley's HAWC at the Shellbank Fitness Center before beginning a workout routine. Both offices offer an opportunity to individualize workout routines and find what methods work best with each client's different goals and fitness levels.

Beginning a workout routine can be challenging at first, but properly preparing for a good gym session means that challenge only becomes easier each and every day.