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Healthful Convictions

Plan, Warm Up, Stretch, Exercise, Eat

By David Crocker, Trainer

To thank the readers of our newsletter for all their kind comments, I'll be offering free nutritional and fitness consultations starting in December. They will indeed be free, but you must sign up — just go to my email address — and leave your contact information.

In our efforts to get in shape and stay healthy, many folks stick to patterns that not only tend to hinder progress but can be down right dangerous. Let's explore some of these “healthful convictions” and why taking them to the extreme can throw a monkey wrench into our health and fitness programs.

1. Exercising without a plan: Okay, when it comes to the weight room, you're doing many things right. Hey, just the fact that you show up is better than most. However, for many exercisers, their priority in the workout arena is usually the same: get in and get out as fast as possible. Not so fast! One of the biggest time-wasters is going into the gym without a proper strategy. Make sure you not only get proper instruction from an exercise expert, but also use an experienced trainer who can identify for you the steps you'll need to take to achieve your fitness destination.

2. “I never eat sweets”: While it's true we should cut way back on simple sugars like candy, cakes, cookies, sugary drinks, syrups, and table sugar, it is equally true that eliminating all sweets can absolutely backfire. As humans, we're hardwired to crave sugar. That's the way we can discern if fruits and vegetables are ready to eat. Fruits and vegetables contain varying amounts of fructose and glucose, which are types of sugar. Actually, sugar in small amounts is healthy, and our bodies need one type of sugar — glucose. The body converts fructose into glucose. Glucose is then converted into glycogen for storage. Glycogen is to you what starch is to a potato. — it's animal sugar, and it is important for brain function and is also a key source of fuel for the body. Problem is the concentrations of sugars in fruits, vegetables, and other natural foods are relatively low. Much of the sugar that we eat isn't found naturally but is added to food and drinks to make them taste sweeter and more palatable. Having said that, folks who try to cut out all sugar can tend to “binge eat.” My suggestion is to make fruit your “sweet tooth” mainstay, but occasionally have that decadent dessert.

3. Not warming up: It's crucial to prepare before exercise, and that includes warming up your core temperature. Always remember, warm muscles work much better than cold ones. Increasing body temperature also activates synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is the lubricant in the arms, legs, hands, feet, and joints that allows our bones to slide past each other and keeps the cartilage from rubbing together damaging the bones. Much like the engine of your car when its oil drains into the oil pan at night, gravity pulls synovial fluid down, and settles while you sit, rest, or sleep. You should gently move joints to allow synovial fluid to lubricate them.

4. Not stretching: First, let's get clear exactly what we're “stretching,” when we stretch before exercise. Folks often say “I need to stretch my muscles,” but muscle doesn't actually stretch. You can elongate it, but it won't stretch. Tendons are what we're stretching. Tendons hold muscle to bone, much like a hinge holds a door to a wall. I once was head strength coach to the South Carolina Girl's Gymnastic Team. The difference between my athletes who could perform a complete split and someone who could not was not necessarily their muscles but rather their tendons. Tendons are like leather in two ways. First, the more supple they are, the stronger they can hold, and create balance (listen seniors out there!). Secondly, tendons are like leather, in that you can not condition them in one sitting but must stretch and condition them daily. In cold weather, it's even more essential to stretch because tendons are just below the surface of the skin, and if skin temperatures drop, even slightly, tendons will tighten. Also, never bounce a stretch. That's like snapping a rubber band.

Questions? Email David at David Crocker is a nutritionist and master personal trainer in Landrum.

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