Starting an exercise program is an accomplishment. Sticking with one, however, is the real key to lifelong health. What follows are some tips on taking your workouts to the next level – and, equally as important, some ideas on making sure you adhere to your new activities and get the absolute most of our every workout.
Beyond the Basics
In my experience in the fitness industry, I have found that simple straight forward exercise routines are the easiest for people to follow, understand and stick with. However, there are many different types of exercise routines out there.
As you advance in your exercise knowledge and skill level you will begin to experiment with different amounts of reps, sets, training schedules, and incorporating different exercise routines. Don’t be afraid to change the combination of body parts you exercise after you master the basics. Mix it up to keep your body challenged. You don’t have to perform chest exercises with triceps every time, for example; you can combine your chest workout with biceps, your back or any other body part.
I continuously mix up my body part combinations to keep my workouts fresh and exciting. Also remember that more athletic styles of yoga and interval training are types of resistance training as well, so don’t be afraid to mix in other strength-based exercises that you like.
Avoiding Workout Distractions
When working out, you will get better results if you maintain a total focus on exercise, rather than the rest of the world.
To this end, my biggest pet peeve when it comes to working out is the use of cell phones and smart phones in the gym. Unless you are someone whose profession requires people to contact you in emergency situations, your cell phone should not be with you as you work out. Besides being bad gym etiquette, your cell phone detracts from your ability to get a good workout, which is the whole reason you are there in the first place.
It drives me absolutely nuts when I see people chatting on their cell phone or checking their social media status when they should be focused on getting a good sweat. How are you going to concentrate on your exercise technique with a cell phone in your hand or against your ear the entire time? You’re not – you are just wasting your time! (Of course, if you are exercising outdoors you should always carry a cell phone for emergency purposes. Note: social media updates are not an emergency!)
This principle of staying focused on the workout at hand not only applies to the use of cell phones, but also to avoiding the distractions of magazines, newspapers or anything else that could shift your focus away from your real goal of getting fit.
Use your workouts as a way of tuning out the world for a while and focusing on you. You will notice working out is the best stress reliever around. Take advantage of some precious you-time by eliminating everyday distractions and you’ll get so much more out of your time at the gym.
Hiring a Personal Trainer
If you think that the exercise portion of this program may be difficult to follow, or if you want an extra push, consider hiring a personal trainer (PT). Hiring a trainer is a great idea if your finances allow. Here are some basic guidelines for getting the right help.
- The most important trait of a good PT is that he or she practices what they preach. I have seen far too many trainers over the years in terrible physical shape. If you can’t maintain and follow the principles you are attempting to teach, odds are that you are not passionate about what you do. Would you want someone managing your finances that is bankrupt and doesn’t pay his or her own bills? I hope not!
- Make sure the PT has a personality that works well with yours. If you feel uncomfortable during your training sessions, it will be difficult for you to get the results you want. It will be also hard to remain motivated, which could be detrimental to your goals. If this happens, just ask to work with a different trainer. Gyms understand that this happens from time to time and are usually very accommodating.
- Beware of the trainer who is pushing the latest physical workout fad and is not open to any other exercise ideas. This reluctance is probably an indicator that he or she doesn’t understand other concepts in exercise science and can only work from one workout template.
If your trainer pushes you beyond reasonable limits of safety, tell them you are not interested in running a faster 40-yard dash or in completing a Marine-worthy obstacle course. Make sure the program your PT designs is tailored to your goals, not your trainer’s needs.
Choosing an Active Lifestyle
Before you start exercising, consider once again the pre-historic man/woman (Primal) principle. How would our prehistoric brethren get their exercise? Their sport was life itself: hunting, gathering, building and maintaining shelter, and basic survival activities such as sprinting away from a predator.
They would not have been able to spend three or four hours in a gym during the week. Obviously, there were no gyms! Their physical activities they performed would have been of short duration and high intensity, unless traveling for long distances.
It is estimated that prehistoric hunter-gatherers expended three to five times the amount of energy that we do every day, all while consuming far fewer, if any, empty calories. Keep this in mind when you work out. Make it intense and exciting by always changing your routine.
The human body is highly adaptive when it comes to exercise. If you do the same routine every time you work out your body and mind will go on autopilot and you will see fewer results. If you are going to take the time to work out, why waste your time? Do it right, and mix it up!
Sitting and Heart Attacks
Scientists at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana analyzed the lifestyles of more than 17,000 men and women over nearly 13 years, and found that people who sit for most of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of heart attacks. Similar results were found when separated by age, sex, smoking status, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity status.
In addition prolonged sitting can lead to:
Bad posture. The fascia, the tissue that connects individual muscles into a full-body network, begins to set in place when you stay in one position for too long.
Excess weight gain. This happens for two reasons. First, you burn 60 more calories per hour when standing versus sitting. But more importantly, when you spend too much time sitting, one of your largest muscle groups (the glutes, i.e., your rear) becomes lazy and quits firing. This is called gluteal amnesia, and it means you burn fewer calories.
Lower back pain. Weak glutes change the way your pelvis works, putting stress on the spine. Here’s the other unseemly thing that happens when your pelvis tilts forward: your belly protrudes, giving you a “beer belly effect.”
It pays to get up out of your chair as often as you can!
Planning for Success
Another obstacle you will face is your social network. Studies have repeatedly shown that people’s life accomplishments directly correlate to the quality of the company they keep, most of the time. This is especially true when it comes to dietary habits and exercise.
But therein lies the solution: A combination of good nutrition, a well-devised exercise program, and a strong social support network is a winning combination for transforming your body and mind.
You are more likely to stick with this program and complete it if you are surrounded by people who are trying to accomplish or maintain similar health goals. When an individual is serious about getting healthy and the people near and dear are not supportive, that person almost always fails to improve their fitness and well-being.
Now, this is not about severing relationships with family and friends who are unconcerned with health or nutrition. Simply, if you find yourself alone in your goals amongst family and friends, you will need to find an alternative social group who will be supportive and help keep you motivated. One good way to achieve this is to encourage your family and friends to do the program with you!
Nevertheless, if your current social network is a major obstacle, I highly recommend you join a gym. Why? People at the gym are probably there for the same reason you are: to get in shape. Not only will you be surrounded by like-minded folks, but you will also meet new friends and professionals who can assist you in your health and nutrition goals.
If you do decide to join a gym, do your homework and find the right gym for you. It should have a positive environment that is supportive of the goals you are trying to accomplish. There is no magic formula for finding the right facility. You just have to physically go to each gym in your area and try them out to see which one will best suit your needs.
Most gyms are listed on the Internet and can be searched with key words like “gyms” or “health clubs.” Make sure to include your location in your search. Many gyms also advertise in the yellow pages, but the Internet is usually the best place to start looking. Some of the biggest and most respected fitness chains are:
David Barton Gym
24 Hour Fitness
The Sports Club/LA
MVP Sports Clubs
Still, don’t rule out smaller, private gyms. They may, however, be harder to find than the locations of a major chain and may only have one facility.
I actually belong to a local small gym, and a large chain for when I travel.
Narrow it down to two or three gyms and try them out for a couple of weeks before you decide which one you want to join. Each gym will have its own social culture and personality so it is important that you find one that suits you. If you can find a family member or friend to join with you, gyms often offer discounts for a friend or family member package. Best of all, your exercise time can lead to life-long friendships with like-minded people. If you have the financial resources to join a gym, I definitely recommend you do so.
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