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MASTER CLASS: Let's get personal about these workout programs

by Matt Parrott | March 22, 2021 at 1:49 a.m.
Beverly Lindberg demonstrates step 2 of the Modified Side Plank at Little Rock Athletic Club where she is a personal trainer. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Celia Storey)

Workout personalization is a key contributor to enjoyment, program effectiveness and adherence. That is, whether you like your workout, whether it works and whether you are going to stick with it.

Personalization is the secret ingredient that transforms a standard exercise session into an invigorating, individual experience.

I believe that life is about experiences. In my mind, material things become more valuable if they help create richer, more meaningful moments. A new car is a good example of a material item that influences thousands of experiences. Conversely, an expensive vase that sits inside a china cabinet does not.

Fitness consumer expectations have also become more focused on the quality of the workout experience. Fitness studios such as Orange Theory (high intensity interval training or HIIT) and Cycle Bar specialize in creating a stimulating environment with specific music, lighting, technology and staff training. This strategy is all about creating a memorable experience that the customer wants to repeat.

But individual — meaningful — fitness experiences can be created without paying hundreds of dollars a month.

Music is an incredibly effective resource for elevating any experience, but it's particularly valuable in a workout situation. Specific types of music inspire, motivate and elevate mood. In my opinion, investing in a good pair of Bluetooth headphones is a must. Create a playlist on your phone, connect the headphones and rock on.

Visual stimulation can also create a better workout environment, especially if it is instructional in nature. Fitness streaming services typically include a downloadable app for Smart TVs that allows participants to join a yoga or HIIT class any time of day. Such visual support is not only more motivating, it expands your base of knowledge.

Exercise modification is a key element of any personalized workout session, because most movements are not "one size fits all." Even basic exercises such as squats or pushups should be modified to match fitness levels and range of motion and to accommodate any injuries or physical limitations.

This week's movement demonstrates exercise modification at work, and it's one that I use regularly. The Modified Side Plank will challenge the core muscles while reducing intensity for those with back problems.

1. Lie on your right side on an exercise mat. Position your right forearm underneath your body to support you.

2. Bend your knees to 90 degrees.

3. Raise your hips off the mat to bridge yourself between the right forearm and your knees (not your feet).

4. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.

This modification is a perfect option for introducing the plank into a workout program. Bending your knees creates a shorter bridge distance and doing side planks with straight legs, thereby making the exercise achievable for almost all fitness levels.

As strength and confidence increase, try straightening the legs for a few seconds. It's a great way to personalize the workout experience to match individual needs. Enjoy!

Matt Parrott has a doctorate in education (sport studies) and a master's in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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