Exercise Principles

While people may not think of living organisms as machines, in many ways, they perform a lot like machines. So it's not surprising that coaches often refer to an athlete’s body as a machine during training.
Years back, I remember friends who played sports talking about how their coaches told them to consider their bodies as machines and to “take care of the machine and it will take care of you.”

When my wife and I began training to run a half marathon a few years ago, our running coach continued the theme I had heard my friends talk about years before. There was talk about the importance of proper nutrition (fueling the machine), proper equipment (outfitting the machine), and proper rest (downtime for the machine).

And while the complex computer models and analytics of a biomechanics lab, like East Carolina University's lab featured in the story Just Moving Along, weren’t used to help a group of amateur runners train, we were taught several principles of biomechanics. I still use them today when I exercise and I want to share them with you!

  • Balance Principle — This can best be summed up with the age-old phrase All Things in Moderation. This applies to exercise in the sense of not overdoing it, which could lead to injury. More is not always better. It also applies balancing your workout between cardio and strength training. It even applies to exercising opposing muscle groups, such as working biceps and triceps.

  • Overload — This is the idea that in order to improve, an athlete needs to continually work harder as the body adjusts to existing workouts. In other words, if you are training to run a half-marathon, you need to continue to increase the distance you run in training. Your body will adjust to only running a mile if that is all you ever do. However, the increased loads must be applied gradually and progressively over time, and enough time must be given for recovery.

  • Recovery — I list this separately, even though it is mentioned above, because it applies not only to the rest that is needed right away, between exercises, but also to the longer periods needed between events. Stretch and cool down after workouts. Take some time to rest after an event before hitting the gym again.

— Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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