Key to improve is effort

It's an effort to advance in any sport. Increase that effort a little each day and you will begin to excel. If you are trying to achieve and you stay at the same level, you will maintain and cease to improve.

Exercise movements can be executed with different levels of intensity, especially when the mind is somewhere else and the movement becomes automatic without the brain attached. You have to put total concentration and effort behind your sport before you begin to gain. Running in place with the feet skimming the ground completes the movement but does little for muscle conditioning. Leg movement with the knee lifted to the waist accomplishes so much more for the muscles, heart and lungs.

Speaking of lungs, combining proper breathing practices with your sport enhances the level and duration of your exercise, whereas, becoming anaerobic hastens the end of your endurance ability.

Blank faces in an exercise class make me want to turn up the music and set off a cannon. The body is present but the mind is gone. If you really want to advance from a beginning stage in your particular sport, then you have to make the effort. Take the exercise moves apart mentally and try to do the movements with more precision.

Think about what you are trying to accomplish, and what your goal is. If you jog, make your stride wider, your run time longer or include a hill or two. Racket sports can improve with the addition of weight or strength training moves. Even sports that relate to self defense need controlled effort and constant advancement to succeed.

Three weeks of concentrated effort in your chosen sport should bring about a significant increase in your ability. If you wish to advance further, your effort should include interval training along with more practice. Three practice sessions per week is a good goal. Try three days of hard effort and three days of an easier workout or an alternate style of exercise that will give your body time to recover. You may find that the effort you are able to give on the hard days may double.

I see a gradual increase in ability in all my students, young and old. The effort it takes to achieve this is not lost on me. It's important that progress toward advancement in any sport is slow and safe and the increase in ability is gradual. Try to concentrate more when you exercise and keep your mind on the reasons for the moves. You'll find it's a lot harder that way.

• Jerry Vance is the owner of Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through the Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.


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