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(ARA) - Your health is always a priority, and making sure you exercise regularly is your goal. Because life is busy, you want to get the most out of any time you dedicate to getting in shape. So how can you maximize your efforts?
"Whether you're a professional athlete or an 'average Jane or Joe', adopting some simple strategies can make a huge difference in your physical fitness," says Mackie Shilstone, a sports performance manager who has worked with professional athletes like tennis star Serena Williams and baseball hall-of-famer Ozzie Smith.
More than 3,000 professional athletes over the past 30 years have turned to Shilstone to give them the edge they need to win. Here are three easy steps he thinks everyone should take in order to get the most out of their exercise regimen.
Step one: Prepare
If you are just starting a fitness program or have not exercised in some time, it's important to see your physician first. After you get the go-ahead, remember that preparing before any physical activity is crucial. What you put into your body can make all the difference, so getting adequate sleep and eating healthy foods gives your body what it needs for peak performance.
If you're like most Americans, there is one very important nutrient you're likely not getting enough of: omega-3 fatty acids. Because you can only get these essential fatty acids through what you eat, and the typical American diet is low in omega-3s, most people do not get as much as they need. The good news is that you can easily fill any void by incorporating a high quality fish oil supplement into your daily routine.
"Research shows that supplementing with fish oil helps you maintain a healthy weight, elevates mood, supports hydration of the cells, and keeps your joints lubricated, flexible and mobile," says Shilstone. "Because most people do not get enough omega-3s in their daily diet, I suggest taking Ultimate Omega Sport supplement by Nordic Naturals."
Step two: Perform
You've given your body all the fuel it needs to perform well, so now it's time to get in the game. After a good warm up, your body is ready for physical activity. If you're beginning a new workout routine or trying a new activity, remember to start slow and go at your own pace. Listen to your body's internal cues and slow down or take a break if you need one.
Shilstone recommends you follow the guidelines on exercise from the American College of Sports Medicine. He says the goal is to exercise a minimum of 30 minutes for five days a week at a light to moderate intensity. This means at an intensity level before you break a sweat. Alternatively you could exercise three days a week at a light to moderate level, and two days you could push yourself harder to a level where you do break a sweat.
Shilstone stresses the importance of staying hydrated during any exercise. "To promote joint and muscle health, remember to stay hydrated. A basic rule for sedentary people to follow is to drink one ounce of water for every two pounds you weigh, daily. For a 180-pound sedentary person, this means 90 ounces of fluid per day. More may be needed as you become more physically active. Temperature plays a factor as well," he says.
Fitness doesn't have to be boring, so choose an activity you enjoy. You might even want to try something new, like taking a dance class or trying rock climbing. Remember to have fun and enjoy the endless ways you can exercise to get healthy.
Step three: Recover
Be sure to follow any physical activity with stretching to help reduce muscle soreness. A proper cool down, including gentle stretching, allows the body to relax and recover.
After a workout your energy stores will be depleted. It's a smart idea to eat a combination of protein, like a fast acting whey protein along with a maltodextrin carbohydrate source such as a sports drink, within two hours after your exercise. Shilstone recommends a 1-to-2 ratio, such as 20 grams of whey protein to 40 grams of maltodextrin. This gives your body additional fuel to heal and rebuild muscles.
Studies show that omega-3s from fish oil support the body's natural anti-inflammatory response and protects against free radical damage, so your supplement can also help revitalize your body in time for your next round of activity.
"These three tips can help anyone of any age perform better," adds Shilstone. "There's no better time to start being physically fit than the present."