Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Summer: the Key to Building Your Personal Resilience (Part 1)

Well, I don't know what your weather is like today, but here in Ottawa, Canada (officially the planet's second coldest national capital), it's 28 C / 82 F and with the humidity if feels like 39 C or 102 degrees F. 

So summer is definitely here!  And despite the heat and humidity, summer is very important to building your personal resilience.  The key is knowing how and why. 


On the most elementary level, summer is great for fitness.  You're likely to spend more time outdoors, even if that's just walking, gardening or soaking up rays at the beach.  One area where it's easy to make huge fitness gains in the summer is the flexibility of your connective tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fasciae) and your joints.  You see, the higher ambient temperatures make your body more pliable, so it's easier to stretch and there's less likelihood of injury when you do.  So if you've ever thought about improving the range of motion of any part of your body, summer is the time!

One person I know plans to increase his flexibility enough over the summer to be able to sit comfortably in the full lotus posture by September.  I've known others, especially martial artists and other athletes, who wanted to work up to the splits (or at least closer to it ;-).  All this brings up the key question - why should you care about improving your flexibility?

For starters, flexibility training will help protect your soft tissues and especially your joints from injury - in other words, minor mishaps that would previously have injured your knee, twisted your ankle or thrown your back out are no longer such a threat.  Flexibility training will also improve your blood circulation, as well as your energy (qi) circulation, giving you better health and more vitality.  And finally, stretching is a natural detox, something we'll talk about more in a later post. 

Here's a great resource for you on flexibility:


Needless to say, it's also a great time to start a Hatha Yoga program, since the yogic stretching and postures (asanas) will be easier.  The same applies to certain types of Qi Gong.  Whatever kind of stretching you use, though, just be sure to warm up first and build slowly.  Increased flexibility can make a big difference in how you feel phyically and emotionally, so you'll be glad you did.

Fitness in General over the Summer:

Summer is also a great time for strength training, simply because there's less chance of injury to the joints and soft tissues, given the higher temparatures.  Is it a better time for cardio than other seasons, though?  Well, the jury is out on that.  Some point out how much easier and safer it is to go running in the summer than with snow and ice under foot.  Granted, but on the other hand, high heat and humitiy can be a serious hazard for runners in the summer.

One great thing to do in the summer is to change your fitness routine to make it season-specific, to take advantage of what's more easily available in the summer, such as cycling, swimming and more. 

So I'd encourage you to use the summer to build up your resilience in ways the season itself can help you with.  Next time, we'll go on to look at some other resilience-building activities best done in the summer. 

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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