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...
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.
Warm up for about 10 minutes before starting
the exercise. Walk, jog in place, move both lower and upper body.
Begin your aerobic workout, and get your heart
rate up. You can tell when you're just about at the correct level
by trying to talk. If you can say a few words before you have to
take a breath, that's just right. If you must gasp for each word,
that's too hard. If you can recite a lengthy poem, or sing a song,
you're not working hard enough!
Maintain the workout at your Target Heart
Rate (THR) for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you can go for 30 minutes,
so much the better.
Drink water during your workout - about 6
to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. Drink even if you don't feel thirsty.
If you feel thirsty, you're already dehydrating.
After the workout, cool down for about 5 minutes,
or until your heart rate goes below 120 beats per minute (20 beats in 10
seconds). Now take some time and really stretch those muscles.
Stretch each group for at least 20 seconds, preferably longer. It'll
Walking - walk indoors, outdoors, on a treadmill,
whatever you like. With friend(s), or alone.
Jogging - same
Running - same
Rowing - on the machine at the club, or in
a rowboat or shell on your private lake.
Swimming - in pool, river, lake, or ocean
Hi-lo aerobics - at the club, or rent or buy
Step aerobics - same
Boxaerobics - same
Cross-country skiing - don't stop!
Ski machines - at the club or in your home
Stair-climbers - same
VersaClimber or clones - my favorite!
Butt-kicking, aerobic in the Extreme! In the club or at home
Rock climbing - the real thing! Make
it a long climb! (This is also really good muscle work!)
Ellipticals - If you like 'em, go for it!
"Gliders", "Riders" - if you're very deconditioned,
or have need of a gentler exercise mode, these are for you!
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.
"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...
Exercises: Upper body
your weight workout with a light warmup and stretch session of about 10
weights or selectors for all exercises which will cause significant fatigue
in fewer than 15 reps
If you feel that a muscle is about to fail,
Don't continue the exercise.
If lifting free weights, Do
be certain to use an experienced spotter!
continue a set with lower weight if you fatigue or fail sooner than 15
If you find that you can do more than 15 reps
without failure or significant fatigue, Do
increase the weight next time.
one set of each exercise
exercise only two times per week, or at 72 hour intervals.
spend your life in the weight room!
Exercises: Lower body
Bicep curls (biceps)
Kneeling triceps kickbacks (triceps)
Bar dips (triceps, pecs, lats)
Bench Press (triceps, anterior delts, pecs)
Wrist curls (forearms)
Bent-over rows (lats)
Lat pull-downs (lats, biceps)
Doing the Work
Seated leg lifts (quads, hip flexors)
Hip extensions (hamstrings, glutes)
Toe raises (tibialis anterior)
Heel raises (gastrocnemius - upper calf muscle)
Prone leg lifts (glutes)
Side-lying leg lifts - lower leg, weight added
(hip adductors - inner thigh)
Side-lying leg lifts - upper leg, weight added
(hip abductors - outer thigh)
Choose a program from the above which suits
the areas you want to make stronger. You may wish to consult a Certified
Personal Trainer to assist you with this. (You shouldn't try to do
all of these in one session!)
Vary your workout. You need to know
that doing identical exercises in endless repetition, will eventually cause
you to "plateau", and will also probably bore you silly. Mix and
match from the above to avoid this, and don't continue the identical set
of exercises, in the same order, for more than six or eight weeks at a
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.
It's better to move slowly during the stretches,
than to "bounce"
Extend stretches as far as you can, even to
mild discomfort, but never to pain!
Try "holding" a stretch at it's tightest position,
then relaxing, then pulling it back into stretch.
There is almost nothing better than a massage
by an experienced therapist, after a workout!
Calm music and dim lights help many people
relax after exercise. Try it!
Don't skip the stretch and drive home -- you
might take on the shape of your car seat!
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!
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
No matter what the latest fads are, for most
people a diet high in complex carbohydrates, low in simple sugars, alcohol,
and fats, works exceptionally well, when coupled with a suitable exercise
plan. You should obtain less than 25% of total caloric intake from
fats, less than 25% from protein, and about 50% - 70% from complex carbs.
And for those carbs, be sure they are low GI (Glycemic Index), and you
won't have the "insulin spiking" problem. Fructose instead of white
sugar. Fruit juice instead of soda. Whole-wheat instead of
regular pasta. And so on.
Get out of the "3-meals-a-day" habit, and
into the habit of eating small amounts of food all day long. Watch
the actions of virtually all of the other hominids with whom we share the
planet, and you will see that pattern of eating is the overwhelming favourite.
You're never _really_, _really_ hungry, so there isn't nearly the temptation
to chow down on the heavy stuff at supper. Just watch those ratios,
and the total caloric intake.
In general, most supplements other than some
extra antioxidants and, perhaps, a multivitamin if you're not going to
be able to eat properly, (women should be sure to get sufficient calcium!)
are just a money sink. If you're a power lifter, or a competition
athlete, it might make some sense to pop some pyruvate or creatine triphosphate,
but for most of us, they're just an expensive zero. Our bodies manufacture
quite enough of both, to sustain us through our workout. Similarly,
stuff like chromium picolinate does precisely nothing to improve the fat-burning
capacity of non-diabetic people. The bottom line for most of us is,
don't bother with supplements unless you have deep pockets and a lot of
wishful thinking going for you.
As I have said many times in the past, don't
deprive yourself continually of things you enjoy eating. An occasional
candy bar, or couple slices of garbage-can pizza, aren't going to instantly
leap onto your hips or gut. And if you stop thinking of those things
as "rewards" for being so "good", not eating them, then the tendency to
overindulge when you do eat them, will be much less.
Drink water. Lots of water. Drink
water whether you're working out and sweating, or not. It's the best
drink in the world for you. "Sports Drinks" are another money sink,
unless you're participating in a marathon or other very lengthy competition,
where you need to maintain electrolyte balance. An hour of aerobics,
or a half-hour of weights, isn't going to severely deplete you unless something
else is wrong with your diet. Generally speaking, if your sweat still
tastes salty at the end of your workout, you're probably just fine with
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
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.
article was previously published at the World Fitness Organization website:
fitness information and counselling. Fitness Trainer certification programs