By Jolene Callahan
Fitness Fusion

Summer is a wonderful season in Montana, with long days, cooler nights and countless fun events and activities. It’s a great time to get outdoors and enjoy all the recreational activities that abound. But it’s important to keep a balanced body, as well, by integrating three crucial training components: stretching, strength training and core exercises.

You may think that stretching your hamstrings and calves is just something to be done if you have a few extra minutes before or after pounding out some miles on the trail or treadmill. The main concern is exercising, not stretching, right?

Not so fast. Stretching helps you improve range of motion in your joints, which in turn may help improve your athletic performance and decrease your risk of injury. It also helps reduce muscle tension and soreness by increasing blood flow and oxygen throughout the body, which in turn increases energy levels as well.

If you don’t stretch after exercising, one muscle group will become strong and tight, while another muscle group will remain a little weaker. In the end, you will end up with an unbalanced body, which will create aches and pains.

Strength training comes in many forms from lifting weights to body weight exercises – like pull-ups and squats – or through outdoor recreation such as rock climbing. It’s a key component to overall health and fitness, and there are a number of benefits to including strength training in your weekly activities.

By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. It also allows you to control your weight as you gain muscle, boosts stamina and helps manage chronic conditions such as back pain, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Adding strength training to your everyday activities will help you create a body that is strong inside out and well balanced.

Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program, but aside from occasional sit-ups and push-ups, they’re often neglected. It pays to strengthen core muscles – the ones around your trunk and pelvis – because they train your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work together in harmony.

This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the golf course, trails or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on a stable core, and weak core muscles can leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries.

Aerobic activity and muscular strength are the primary elements of most fitness programs, but to have a truly well rounded program, you should include core exercises and stretching in the mix as well.

Whether you’re a novice taking the first steps toward fitness, or a committed fitness fanatic hoping to optimize your results, a balanced fitness program is the best way to reach your goals.

Jolene Callahan is owner of local fitness and pilates studio, Big Sky Fitness Fusion & Pilates, LLC, located in the Meadow Village Center. For a list of classes offered, visit bigskyfitnessfusion.com.