Physical Training Apr 2001

The Fit Kick

By Bill Whedon

What You Really Need To Do Is...

If you ask ten people about exercise, chances are you'll get ten different answers.  The reason for this is that a lot of different programs work just fine for a lot of different people.  The differences aren't so much in the exercises performed, as in the arrangement of those exercises into an individual program.  Of course, you get the "aerobics bigots", the "weight-lifting bigots", the "running bigots", and a whole slew of people who believe firmly that being a one-trick-pony as far as exercise is concerned is the only way to go.  And of course, they have proof, in that they are real fit, so it must work for everyone.  Nonsense.

What Really Works
... is a mix of exercise, both aerobic and weight-bearing, plus a good dose of proper nutrition and plenty of rest.  And with that, here is a plan you can use and modify to suit your own level of fitness, and your own personal goals...

Aerobic Exercise
Start out by understanding what "aerobic exercise" is.  It isn't just wearing a leotard and hopping around to Fabulout 50s tunes with Richard Simmons, or buying a step and following a Gin Miller video.  Although those two are forms of aerobic exercise, they are not all there is to it.

Aerobic exercise is simply exercise which primarily uses aerobic pathways to provide energy to the muscles involved.  It is typically "endurance" exercise, in which the heart rate is elevated to 70 to 85% of age-predicted Maximum Heart Rate (MHR), and held there for 20 to 30 minutes continuously.  Strength training also elevates the heart rate, but not in the same way.  Don't let anyone tell you that weight-lifting (including the new "Pump" classes) is aerobic -- it isn't.  You should do aerobic exercise 3 or 4 times per week.  The Aerobic Exercise part of the plan is:

Now, here is a list of aerobic exercises.  It is by no means all-inclusive, but has lots of things to choose from.  You may like some other sort of workout, and if so, do it!  Pick something you enjoy.  Don't obsess on it -- do something else from time to time, just to give your body a break, and to cross-train. Weight-Bearing Exercise
Everyone needs to do some weight-bearing exercise.  Everyone.  Pumping teensy cute little pink weights in the aerobics room is not enough.  You need to lift heavy, too.  Yeah, you.

"Lifting heavy" involves picking up weights which are a significant fraction of your own body weight, and, in some cases, some multiple of your body weight.  To become and remain fit, you don't have to do a lot of it, but you do have to do some.

We Don't All Agree...
As becomes immediately obvious every time you pick up the newspaper, fitness professionals don't agree on any one "best" approach.  The latest "Pump" and "Spinning" fads, full-page newspaper ads from companies claiming "New Research" "proving" that anaerobic exercise "consumes up to 500% more calories than aerobic exercise"... what are you, the exerciser, to think about all this?  Let's start by assuming that there is some truth in claims for exercise varieties.  How that truth works for different people, however, can vary all over the map.  Single clinical studies generally prove very little, and no one study, even one done by a respected institution such as Tufts, should be taken as conclusive proof of anything.  So where does that leave us?  With common sense, perhaps.  And with that, here is a commonsense approach to weight-bearing exercise...

Preliminaries:  Dos and Don'ts

Exercises:  Upper body  Exercises:  Lower body Exercises:  Trunk Doing the Work Stretching And Relaxation
After each workout, you should take some time to do some serious stretching.  Your muscles are warm then, so that is the best time to do lengthy stretches.  Take at least 10 minutes to cool down and stretch out, but don't start the stretch until your heartrate gets below 120 BPM.  Stretch each muscle group for at least 20, and preferably 30 or more, seconds. Sleep is an extremely important part of total fitness.  If you are deprived of it, you will never perform at your best level, and severe lack of sleep can actually be dangerous.  Everyone needs different amounts of sleep, but it's fair to say that the averages run between six and nine hours per night -- much less, and your performance suffers because your body hasn't had enough rest to regenerate tissue, or to do all it's little "cleanup" chores.  Insufficient sleep can also prevent you from getting enough REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement -- dreaming), which can lead to problems, as well.

Many people find that too much sleep can also make you feel tired, drowsy, and irritable.  Sleeping far beyond the average, can also be an indication of a physiological, or sometimes psychological, problem.  If you consistently sleep for lengthy periods, it might be wise to talk to a physician about it.

And be sure to take some time off from exercise, even though you love it!  It's great to just kick off your shoes and give your body a break for a week, once in a while.  And, yes, you might lose a little bit of ground, especially if you don't watch the diet a bit more closely; but the benefits to be gained from the respite will probably help you regain any lost ground in just a few days, so don't worry about it!

Proper Nutrition
A big part of any fitness program is nutrition.  I'm not an RD or degreed Nutritionist, so I'm not going to give any specific recommendations here, but these general guidelines are good ones for most of us:

And, finally...
Be good to yourself.  Cut yourself some slack once in a while.  If you need to fix something about your body, remember how you got there, and that it's going to take some time to accomplish the change.  Get some testing done periodically, no more frequently than six- to eight-week intervals, so you'll have real benchmarks, and can actually assess how your program is working for you.

Stay off the scales during the week.  Weigh yourself only on Saturday morning, right after waking and first elimination, buck naked.  The rest of the time, the scales should just be used as a floor ornament.

Use common sense.  If a claim sounds too good to be true, it probably is an outright lie, or at best, a half-truth (like the "Lose 40 Pounds In A Month!! -- Ask Me How" bumper stickers).  There are tons of people out there, both in daily life and on the Web, attempting to prey on our insecurities.  Common sense is your best weapon against them.  Get fit the proper way, and you will stand a much greater chance of remaining fit for life.

And above all, make your fitness program an enjoyable experience.  Life is much too short to have it any other way. 

Bill Whedon is the owner of World Fitness. He has been a Certified Personal Trainer since 1994. He presently teaches aerobics at several sites, trains individuals who have a need but little money, and programs computers for a living. Bill lives in Lawson, MO.

This article was previously published at the World Fitness Organization website:
Free fitness information and counselling. Fitness Trainer certification programs

Physical Training Apr 2001