Listen, it’s no secret anymore. I’m getting up there / sprouting grays / becoming more seasoned. Whatever your euphemism for “getting older” may be… it’s happening. And I have never been the idle type. From dance, cheerleading, gymnastics, and simply calisthenics in the gym, I’m active practically every day to every other day of the week! So you may be wondering where I’m going with this. Getting older + active lifestyle = growing aches and pains, worries and woes alike. In the past few months to a year, I have noticed sore joints, back pains, fatigue, and decreased flexibility slowly but surely settling into my list of things to complain about at my next doctor’s appointment. But in this same time period, I have noticed a few things that have been my salvation in the gym (besides actually asking for salvation from the good Lord Himself to power through my reps).
1. Take Your Tonic: Put Nutrients in Your Water
I’m not into protein mixes or shakes. That just seems like a bad recipe for my bowels in the long run. But I have tried mixing aloe vera juice and lemon in my water for a long time and it gets a green check mark in my book. It gives me so much energy! I was able to run faster, do more reps, and do them for much longer. Not to mention, when I was incorporating this into my lifestyle, my skin was the clearest that it ever was! I’m talking no pimples and little to no evidence of every black girl’s nightmare: spots of pesky hyper-pigmentation. It was practically as smooth as a baby’s bottom. And I mean, the "my skin could have passed as Blue Ivy’s left butt cheek" type of “smooth as a baby’s bottom." So let’s explore this logic here shall we?
Aloe vera juice is a natural anti-inflammatory supplement. Therefore, it’s known for aiding in digestion, boosting the immune system, reducing triglycerides and cholesterol in the bloodstream…things that yes, I do give some cares about now, but definitely more so things I’ll care about once I’m much, MUCH older. Never too early to start caring though, right? But more importantly for someone like me in his or her 20's, it's also thought to detoxify the body, and improve the hair and skin. HELLO beauty gurus! Also, fat deposition is, in itself, a form of inflammation, people! And while I could waste space and time and simultaneously bore your brains out on the inflammatory pathway of fat deposition as proof, just trust me on this one guys…ok? (No really, TRUST me, I rotated under a bariatric surgeon and had to do a presentation on the inflammatory process of fat accumulation EVERY DAY in medical school…insert long, exaggerated sigh). And as stated before, it's an anti-inflammatory agent, so it’s also thought to aid in fat loss and boost your workout. Phew, feel the burn!***
Lemon juice carries similar effects to those of aloe vera. But what makes it even better is its Vitamin C content. This vitamin (also known as ascorbic acid) gives this agent the ability to reinforce the immune system. I usually get sick every year, but while drinking this, I have been able to avoid the flu, a sore throat, and all other disgusting bugs alike. It has also been thought to be of benefit to the skin…decreasing wrinkles, blackheads, and acne flares, since it is also an antiseptic. Please recall my previous allusion to Blue Ivy’s butt cheek… I was a walking testament to this! With those benefits, it’s a no brainer to at least try this tonic!
I will admit it’s harder for me to incorporate this drink into my regimen as of late, given that I drive straight to the gym from work. But if you can make a pit stop at the fridge before your work out, try mixing 1 oz of aloe vera juice with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice (from actual lemons) in 16-20 oz of water. Either drink this before you go to the gym, or during your actual work out. The taste is a little on the bitter side when you first drink it; however, that taste becomes acquired, and the benefits outweigh the downsides. If you can’t bear it, try adding just a bit of honey, agave nectar, chunks of fruit, or a PINCH of your favorite fruit drink mix. If your fruit drink mix is filled with sugar, be advised that you may be undoing all of these effects with so many carbohydrates and sodium in the mix, hence my emphasis on PINCH! Two cheers for clear skin and energy!
2. Check Your Pains at the Door: Take / Apply Medicine 30 Minutes Prior to Working Out
Listen, my new onset knee pain has me doing no less than screaming for mercy. And with the hopes of not grossing you all out too soon, I simply must draw attention to my cycles, which are, how you say, UNBEARABLE. Nothing is worse than not being able to complete a set of lifting, not because you’re tired, not because you’re feeling the burn, but because you’re feeling reminders from either your joints that you’re one day closer to being 80, or your uterus that you’re not pregnant. Like, really uterus? We gotta work on your timing.
Whenever I feel disrespectful aches, pains, and / or PMS cramps, I take an NSAID (i.e. ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) or rub a menthol cream on my sore joints 30 minutes prior to working out. This helps me power through my work out without stopping secondary to unnecessary pains. But also, if I feel these pains a-brewing, I get my mind in gear for what kind of workout I can expect BEFORE I leave for the gym. I try to focus on exercises that don’t spotlight muscle groups that overwork my aching joint or pelvic area. Also, dehydration can lead to an increase in pain, so staying hydrated during your workout as well as straying away from high-intensity workouts during pain episodes are of prime importance!
3. Stretch It Out: Do a Pre-Work Out Stretch
Split leaps and grande battements (pronounced: bat-mas; you're welcome) used to be apart of my daily routine, just as much as washing my face and brushing my teeth. And obviously as I’ve strayed away from the dance floor, my muscles inevitably have been nearing the edge of a cliff that towers over a pit of broken hips and muscle soreness galore. But being flexible has more benefits than just randomly popping a split whenever you so desire to. It prevents pulled muscles and injuries, reduces soreness because it increases blood supply and nutrients to the muscles, and corrects posture. So prepping your work out with this routine should be an easy addition. I know this blog post is privy to things done BEFORE working out, but just know that I do this before, and after working out. I not only stretch my legs, but all muscles head to toe. My neck, my back (no, we are not finishing that song now…let’s keep it PG peeps), my sides, my abs, and my legs…no muscle is exempt!
So there you have it folks... my three tips for a pre-work out that will hopefully make for a successful gym "sesh"! Try some of these out in the next few weeks in your work out routine and let me know how it turns out! Happy sweating!
*** Supplements aren't put through the same rigorous testing as drugs, so safety levels remain unknown; consumption may cause interaction with drugs, herbs or foods, etc., according to the American Cancer Society. As with any supplement, check with your doctor first.
***Any images used may or may not be solely my own. Any borrowed images have been cited as not my own, and no plagiarism was intended.***