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The neck is the area of the body that is involved with every type of exercise you can perform. Whether you’re trying to work your abdominal muscles during some crunches or strengthening your lower body through some squats, the neck remains a vital component to workouts with everything from posture to avoiding serious injury. While you may be focusing on the spacing of your feet or keeping your chin in a level position during an exercise, it’s crucial to never forget about proper neck placement during physical activity. Consider these tips to boost your neck safety the next time you workout:

Neck safety exercises

The University of Rochester Medical Center insists that performing neck exercises before or after a workout is essential for not only avoiding injury, but for strengthening your neck as well. This is especially true if you’ve experienced prior neck pain whenever you’re undertaking physical exercise. Fortunately, there are a variety of simple neck workouts that require minimum effort while producing maximum results.

For starters, doing some neck rotations before you approach a weight bar will help to boost your flexibility and loosen up your neck before any strenuous weightlifting activity. Doing a few reps of slowly tilting your neck to the right and left as far as you can should be a practically mandatory dynamic to your approach to physical activity. Shoulder circles also do wonders for increasing flexibility for your neck muscles, as well as side stretches and head lifts.

Preventative efforts

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation also lists a number of precautionary measures anyone serious about protecting their neck should consider outside of the gym. If your job requires you to stay in position for long stretches of time, such as sitting at a computer desk or driving a car, make sure you’re taking frequent breaks throughout the day to avoid stiffness. Get up and go for a quick walk, or do some of those neck exercises while you’re seated at your desk.

In addition to taking breaks, the posture you have while working is almost as important of a factor for preserving your neck from injury. If you’re slouching over or leaning sideways at your desk, the longer you hold that position, the more unnecessary strain you put on your neck. This can also be related to when you’re sleeping. Harvard Medical School reports that the two best sleeping positions for your neck are either on your back or on your side. Sleeping on your stomach only arches your back, making it tougher on your spine and increasing the stress upon your neck all throughout the night. Harvard also suggests using pillows that conform to the shape of your neck instead of harder types.

Crunches

Crunches are one of those exercises that we take for granted, especially because having poor neck position during them may produce unhealthy consequences over time. One of the common mistakes in terms of neck placement during crunches is pulling your neck forward with your hands as your body rises with each crunch. This is a fast way to lead to soreness of the neck because you’re adding extra force onto it every time you pull your neck down.

The trick to having efficient neck position while doing crunches is making sure that it’s the core of your body doing all of the work. As you flex your abdominal muscles when your chest lifts up, keep your neck straight. A good way to keep your neck flat is by not lacing your fingers together behind your head. That type of technique is the primary factor for promoting unnecessary neck movement while doing crunches.

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Yes, it’s that time of the year where you try to come up with the ultimate goal that will further your fitness and whip you to be in better shape. Only, how often do these foolproof health schemes we plan out for ourselves actually pan out? For your next New Year’s resolutions, don’t make the same mistakes you make every year and make sure you have the necessary knowledge and skills to actually get the results you set out for yourself. Here are a few quintessential tips every health guru should adhere to for sticking to their New Year’s fitness resolutions:

Strive for something realistic

One of the easiest mistakes to make when it comes to failing to achieve your New Year’s resolutions is picking a goal that’s completely impractical. Only you know your work ethic and potential, but if your idea of a sufficient resolution is to lose 30 pounds in a month, you’re only putting more pressure on yourself. If you’re trying to lose weight, start off by not even having a specific number in mind. Just make it your resolution that you plan on losing a little bit of weight every week. If you’re trying to lower your mile time for running, pick a number that you’re only five to 10 seconds away from. Baby steps are the foundation for not only achieving your New Year’s resolution, but even going further with it.

Limit your resolutions

For those who truly believe in the plural value of “resolutions,” having so many goals to accomplish may be what’s holding you back from achieving them. Instead of having multiple fitness objectives, choose the one you think is most important, and go out of your way to stick to that individual task.

Avoid goals that were previously unsuccessful

If every year you tell yourself you’re going to lose weight, only to find yourself having the same number on the scale, it’s probably time to move on. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to pick a different health area completely, but instead try to find different means to accomplishing that goal. Instead of saying, “I want to lose 15 pounds,” try making a diet commitment that says you’ll cut down on high calorie foods or boost your fruit and vegetable consumption. Or say you’ll hit the gym at least every other day. Both of these are fitness-orientated goals that could also result in your original objective of losing weight.

Remind yourself… All the time

Simple psychology can allude to the fact that the more you’re reminded of something, the more likely you’ll remember it. This especially relates to accomplishing New Year’s resolutions. If you’re serious about getting in better shape, your dedication will partly rely on constant reassurance. Put a marker board, schedule or calendar with your proposed workout plan on your bedroom door, so every time you wake up you’ll have to walk right past your resolution strategy. Set constant reminders in your phone ahead of time, and even consider having a friend give you weekly calls to check up on how your resolution is coming.

Break down your resolutions

If you’re really serious about tackling your New Year’s resolution, don’t just concentrate on one big goal. Break it down into several smaller steps that will work toward something larger. This especially applies when it comes to losing weight. Reward yourself whenever you accomplish a milestone in your resolution as well. If you step on the scale after an intense workout to see you’ve met your monthly goal, treat yourself to a soothing massage or buy yourself those shoes you’ve been keeping your eye on.

Make it public

One of the overlooked dynamics to failing a New Year’s resolution is because you only have yourself accountable for your progress. Let’s say your goal is to run a marathon by the end of a year. Write a Facebook post announcing your decision, or tell all your friends during a get-together. Now that everyone’s assuming you’re going to complete your challenge, the pressure is on, so you’ll be not only letting yourself down if you decide to give up on your resolution.

Hire an expert

For anyone’s who is sick and tired of failing to meet their own fitness expectations, maybe it’s time to finally seek some professional help. An efficient New Year’s resolution could be to hire a personal trainer. All it takes to accomplish your goal is to follow through with enlisting their help, and once you have, you’ll essentially be guaranteed to see your fitness results increase while your body will feel better than ever before.

Grab a friend

Who says New Year’s resolutions have to solely pertain to you? Talk to your friends or family members to see if anyone else is interested in getting healthier for the new year. Chances are you’ll find someone who’s willing to hit the gym three times a week with you, and you’ll have someone by your side to boost your motivation in conquering your goals.

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It simply can’t be stated enough that hydration is the backbone to effectively exercising. Providing your body with sufficient fluids before, during and after physical activity produces a wide variety of health enhancements, ranging from avoiding serious injuries to relieving sore muscles to transporting nutrients that keep your energy levels up. But staying hydrated during your workout doesn’t have to be limited to drinking tons of water throughout the day. There are plenty of alternative methods in addition to regular water consumption that will enhance your exercise training and boost your overall health. Here’s a quick overview into how hydration helps you get the most out of physical activity, as well as other ways to effectively hydrate in addition to water:

Why hydration is important

Even the slightest inclination of dehydration can prove drastic to your body. According to the Human Performance Research Center, even if just one percent of your body weight is dehydrated while working out, you may experience increased cardiovascular strain and decreased ability to transfer heat within the body, which can result in heat-related injuries for your muscles. To put it simply, hydration is essential for exercise, so your body can regulate body temperature, lubricating your joints as well as converting energy from nutrients.

Detecting dehydration

There are plenty of symptoms that can be associated with a lack of fluid consumption before your workout. According to the Mayo Clinic, detecting the following symptoms can be signs that you’re mildly or moderately dehydrated:

  • Sleepiness or fatigue
  • Reduced urine output
  • Severe headaches or dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Dry and sticky mouth
  • Extreme thirst

In addition to these symptoms, there are essentially two ways to monitor how hydrated you are while exercising. The first factor is your urine color, and the darker your urine is, the more dehydrated you probably are. The second indicator is sweat loss. Obviously, the more you sweat, the less hydrated you stay, so if you’re finding yourself completely drenched, take a break and consume some much needed water.

How much water is enough?
Those who are concerned about hydration affecting their workout should be monitoring their water intake from the second they wake up. According to the American Council on Exercise, approximately two to three hours before you plan on exercising, you should have already consumed between 17 and 20 ounces of water for the day. Prior to your official workout or during your warm-up routine, you should consume another 8 ounces of fluid, and for every 15 minutes during physical activity, 7 to 10 ounces of fluids should be ingested. Within the first half-hour after leaving the gym, you should drink an additional 8 ounces of water, and as for the rest of the day, the ACE says to consume 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

Excessive fluid intake

Of course, there is such thing as being overhydrated, and the results can occasionally be devastating. One of the biggest risks associated with consuming too much water before or during physical activity is hyponatremia, which is when the body isn’t receiving enough sodium because it’s been flushed out of your system. General symptoms of hyponatremia usually include headache, vomiting and swelling of the hands and feet, which is why you should cease working out once these symptoms have been detected. While hyponatremia is considered rare, the cases of the disorder usually involve endurance athletes, such as long-distance runners. Whether you’re a jogger or a marathon trainer, measuring and controlling your water intake is crucial to avoid this unfortunate condition.

Sports drinks or water?

Perhaps the biggest question when it comes to effectively hydrating while working out is whether sports drinks are a sufficient substitute for water. While there are certainly a few types of sport drinks out there that aren’t loaded in calories, carbohydrates and sugar, the fact of the matter is that water always has the upper​ hand on sports drinks when it comes to proper hydration. According to Harvard Medical School, while some sports drinks may provide your body with more electrolytes, they often contain unnecessary calories, which may produce a negative impact upon your workout. The verdict seems to be that water is always the best way to play it safe when it comes to avoiding dehydration.

Alternative ways to hydrate

While water may be the key to effective hydration, what you put into your diet before and after a workout also can make a positive impact. According to the Institute of Medicine, 20 percent of your water intake should be delivered from foods. If you’re looking for some quality snacks that will help your hydration, consider celery stalks, which are made up of 95 percent water and bursting with healthy vitamins and minerals. Fruits such as watermelon and strawberries are also made up of more than 90 percent water, and feature plenty of antioxidants in addition.

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Anyone who works out can attest to the daunting anticipation of feeling sore muscles after strenuous exercise. While the motivation of feeling healthy and looking great certainly overrides any potential discomfort after a workout, finding new alleviation strategies for a post-exercise routine is essential to relieving the tension inside your body. Here are a few suggestions for easy and accessible homemade remedies that will help you soothe your sore muscles and get you ready for your next workout session:

Grab a cup of joe

Physical activity is a natural way to stimulate your body and make you more alert, so firing up the coffee pot and pouring yourself a cup of joe may seem sort of counter-intuitive after exercising. However, studies have shown that sipping a cup of coffee after workout is not just for waking you up, but could help out with relieving your sore muscles. According to researchers from the University of Georgia, consuming moderate dosages of caffeine, essentially the equivalent to two cups of coffee, could potentially reduce muscle pain experienced through working out by nearly 50 percent. Dr. Victor Maridakis, the lead author of the study, elaborated on how moderate caffeine use after exercise could vastly benefit those new to working out.

“If you can use caffeine to reduce the pain, it may make it easier to transition from that first week into a much longer exercise program,” Maridakis said in a statement.

Discover the wonders of epsom salt

While a warm bath in the tub is an essential post-workout routine for some, there’s even a better way to help treat those stressed muscles. Adding a cup or two of epsom salt into a tub of hot water has been known to be extremely beneficial to a tired and worn out body, according to SaltWorks​. Epsom salt isn’t actually a salt – it’s a compound of magnesium and sulfate, which has long been used for rehabilitation and therapeutic purposes, especially for relieving muscle tension. So next time you return from a demanding day at the gym, load up the tub, drop a few cups of epsom salt in, let it settle and prepare yourself for instant relaxation.

Oils are essential

Most people only tend to associate oils and lotions with making your skin smoother and better scented, but certain oil products can do wonders for loosening up your muscles. Relief massage oils are specially formulated for helping your muscles relax while also hydrating your skin, and are a simple way to make your body unwind after some serious exercise. After you’ve had a warm bath or shower, spread some of these muscle relief oils over any specific areas that are feeling discomfort and gently massage the lotion in.

Eat the right foods

There are plenty of snacks you can consume after a trying workout that will give your body the boost it desperately needs. The more antioxidants you ingest before physical activity, the better you’ll protect your muscles from any wear or tear after a workout. Cherry juice is a great source of antioxidants that has been noted to alleviate sore muscles after exercise, as well as blueberries.

Be your own masseuse

Of course, a quick and easy way to get those knots out of your muscles is giving yourself the gift of a therapeutic massage. A personal massage roller is how you can specifically target those sore muscles and work to make your body feel relaxed and refreshed in the morning. Plus, you don’t have to spend any money or schedule reservations to receive all the alleviating benefits!

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