Keep feeling the burn

Britain’s sporting success has inspired many of us to take to the outdoors this summer. But in order to keep healthy don’t let the cooler months slow your progress, writes Edwin Grey

The last few British summers have been filled with celebration and sport. In 2012 we witnessed the nation’s athletes win 29 gold medals at the Olympic Games. This year, we celebrated Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory and Chris Frome triumph at the Tour de France.

With the nation basking in sporting success, it’s no wonder 1.4 million people play more sport now than in 2005, when London won the right to stage the Olympics. Unsurprisingly, with temperatures reaching record highs this year, many people have turned to the great outdoors for their dose of summer exercise. But without the expertise of a health and fitness team to hand, how do you exercise without injuring yourself? Also what do you do to aid muscle recovery after a summer of physical activity?

ON SEASON

We often refer to the summer months as the ‘on’ season. Having a busy few months of sports, exercise and physical activity can mean that you suffer injury or strain during the ‘off’ months. This is largely because your body wasn’t prepared for the activities you did during your ‘on’ season and you may have pushed it too hard.

SUNSHINE

Being active in the sunshine does have many positive effects on the body; supplying it with a much needed dose of the sunshine vitamin – vitamin D, improving mood and energy levels. However, rather than going from little or no physical activity to lots, I recommend gradually increasing the amount of activity you do. This can help to prevent injury and build up fitness in the safest way possible. Exercise is a short term stress, but the body adapts by repairing, recovering and increasing our fitness as it goes along. Also, continuing with some physical activity in the ‘off’ months will help to maintain fitness and can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.”

OFF MONTHS

During the ‘off’ months it is a good idea to focus on fitness, strength and flexibility without too much impact on the joints. The muscles and joints take the majority of the impact from exercising on hard surfaces which are often found outside. Taking a few simple measures to help your muscles and joints work more effectively can make a big difference to how you feel when you move, as well as preventing injuries when exercising. Well-conditioned muscles and joints are key to fully developing your endurance, strength and flexibility.

When moving your routine back inside, I recommend exercises which place marginal strain on the muscles and joints. Spin is perfect for this, it is a great high intensity workout that places minimal stress on the joints and will help keep your fitness levels high. Pilates and Yoga are also great classes that improve flexibility and the core stability muscles, aiding recovery and helping to prevent injury.

KNOW YOUR MUSCLES

1. Approximately 40 per cent of your body weight is made up of muscles.
2. The largest muscle in the body is the gluteus maximus in the buttocks.
3. When you move you use approximately 200 muscles.
4. 75 per cent of a muscle is made up of water.
5. There are around 650 muscles in the human body.

Edwin Grey is a physiologist at Birmingham’s Nuffield Health Fitness & Wellbeing Centre www.nuffieldhealth.com