Hard bodies need hard workouts, so go ahead and stretch yourself in the gym

By Vicky Hallett
Express
Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who's getting a better workout in a step class: the gym junkie who knows the moves and fluidly mirrors the instructor, or the klutz who's frantically jumping all over the place in a desperate attempt to keep up? If you said the klutz, you are right.

And we have a winning strategy for the gym: Don't be afraid to be bad.

People have a tendency to gravitate toward what they know. But while any exercise is beneficial, repeating a routine won't get you very far.

"You don't want to do the exact same thing over and over again. There's a huge advantage if you get a different type of challenge," says Jeremy Rucker, a trainer at the Gold's Gym in Clarendon. If your body grows accustomed to movements, they become too easy and you stop burning as many calories. Even worse, they get boring.

But it's still often tricky for Rucker to persuade clients to try something that feels uncomfortable, or downright goofy. So he likes to remind them of the first time they rode a bicycle. "You didn't do it right," Rucker says. "But you got better at it and now you're good."

Even if you never get especially adept at an exercise, it can be worth doing if you find the right form. Take tennis. Can't get a volley going to save your life? Sign up for Cardio Tennis, which incorporates tennis drills into a high-energy circuit.

The students in such a class at the Mount Vernon Athletic Club in Alexandria run through the rungs of a ladder, jump from side to side, shuffle in a figure-eight pattern and do other activities that raise their heart rates while waiting for the chance to hit balls tossed by the instructor. They can use it to finesse their backhand, or they can just swing at air.

"It's a different way of working out. You're not focusing on technique. It's open to anyone and good for all levels," says David Perren, a club tennis pro.

Hallett is the Fit editor for Express and one of The Post's MisFits columnists.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company