Sunday, June 26, 2011

Make The Most of Your Workout (or, Hot Yoga, Pt. 2)

After successfully surviving my first week of hot yoga classes, every other day, I thought I'd pass on some tips that helped make my class experience a success (meaning, these kept me from passing out, throwing up, falling over, or finding myself otherwise discouraged):

1.  HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE!  It can't be emphasized enough.  When you are exercising in a hot environment, adequate hydration will be THE most important determining factor in whether you crash or soar.  On my fist visit to the Hot Yoga studio, I did get dizzy at one point and in retrospect, I realized that I had not had enough water during the previous day (a good rule of thumb for how much water you should consume under "normal" circumstances on a daily basis:  take your body weight, divide it in half.  That number is the number of ounces of water you should aim to drink every day.  So, if you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink 50 ounces of water every day - since half of 100 is 50.  Now that is on a NORMAL day.  When you are going to be sweating through a 60- or 90-minute class in 100 degree temps, you will definitely need to be adding about 30-40 extra ounces of water, at least.).  Water is THE best fluid to be consuming to prepare for this type of exertion.

2.  AVOID CAFFEINE!  Caffeine is a diuretic.  It takes extra fluid OUT of your body through increased urination.  If you can't imagine life without caffeine, consider switching to half-caf coffee (50/50 regular & decaf) or better still:  black or green tea.  Limit yourself to no more than ONE serving of caffeine, if you must indulge, but be sure to drink 8 oz of water before AND after drinking your caffeinated beverage.  (Alcohol is also a diuretic, while beer is mostly made up of water, wine and liquor can zap fluid supplies in your body as well).

3.  EAT.  Some people think that exercising on a completely empty stomach will help them to not feel nauseous while exercising.  The best way to not feel nauseous while exercising is to be properly hydrated (see #1 above), AND properly nourished.  Just as your car needs gas to run, your body needs nutrients to "run".  Nutrients are needed to fuel your muscles, which are needed to make your body work  (including your heart).  Even if you don't have time to eat more than 2 hours before your class/workout, eating a complex carb like some raw carrots or a slice of sprouted-grain bread with some "clean" protein (like natural nut butter or a palm-full of raw nuts), or a LARA bar.

4.  PLAN FOR TOMORROW'S WORKOUT TODAY.  Your muscles are MOST receptive to nutrients within the first 15 minutes after exercising.  Having a coconut water (MUCH better used by your body than synthetic sports beverages) to replace minerals, an ounce of healthy protein (a hard boiled egg, a palm-sized serving of raw nuts, a slice of lean turkey) and a piece of fruit or a carrot make a great post-workout refueling snack that will help to insure a better workout the next time you hit the studio or gym.  Be mindful of how you are treating your body all day before your next workout.  How you care for yourself today WILL have a direct affect on your performance tomorrow.

5.  REST YOUR BODY.  You can't expect your body to perform at optimal levels if you are not allowing your body to adequate down time.  During a full night's sleep, our body performs its clean-up chores.  Some of these chores can only happen when we are not doing anything else.  That's why we are admonished by many health professionals to get 7-9 hours of sleep.  While sheer determination might get you out of bed for a workout after only a few hours of sleep the night before, will-power won't keep you on your feet when your body is exhausted.

In addition to these tips, some changes I made to better prepare for hot yoga included:

*  wearing as little clothing as possible (modesty goes out the window when the heat is pouring in) - I HIGHLY recommend a sports bra instead of a cottony shirt (cotton gets really heavy when soaked with sweat), or even a synthetic tank (starts to feel like a big wet tourniquet around my stomach)

*  filling my water bottle with ice before filling with water AND taking an extra bottle of water (also with ice & water) to leave in my cubby for a nice cool drink after class

*  taking a hand towel AND a towel for my mat

*  wearing a bandanna (skullcap-style) to keep my shorter, layered hair from escaping from my headband and hitting me in the face)

Making those few changes (as well as observing the tips above) made a HUGE difference in my hot yoga experience.  As I said in my previous post, I am hooked!

Elly Haddad is a certified holistic health coach, member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, author of 7 Days of REAL Food and founder of Elemental Fit ( - a health coaching practice devoted to educating and equipping overworked women to create balanced lives for themselves and their families.  She works with clients all over the United States in-person and via phone conducting one-on-one counseling sessions, corporate wellness workshops, teleseminars and cooking classes.  Through improving overall health, her clients find success in conquering cravings, developing healthy eating habits, weight-loss, stress reduction and more.  

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