There is a fad that is sweeping across America (and the world for that matter). It is categorized as healthier living. With more than 30% of Americans being classified as obese, it is time for this fad to kick into action!
Gratuitous Disclaimer: I am afraid that before I talk about this fantastic subject, I must first warn you of the inherent danger associated with it… Working out and exercise can be dangerous. You can be seriously injured, crippled or killed. The opinions, stories and ideas presented here are my own and do not constitute a recommendation of or endorsement for any particular or general use. You should seek a professional medical evaluation before starting an exercise program. If you choose to workout, you do so at your own risk.
With that painful dissertation out of the way…
Exercise is an essential part of life. Without it, our immune system falters, our muscles atrophy, and fat reigns in our bodies. On top of all that hype, I am in really good shape. As I type this Blog entry, my weight is 186 pounds and I have ~12% body fat. I am stronger than I’ve ever been in my life and I am 46 years old. Don’t let my young age scare you away… There are people in their 70’s who are still weight lifting and having excellent results and gains! Join the mayhem!
There are literally hundreds of reasons to exercise… My top picks are these:
Those are just some of my reasons for staying in shape, but you get the point… Now, I want to address some of the more popular ways to achieve this so called strength and physical fitness level.
In it’s simplest description, anaerobic training is bursts of high activity that trigger anaerobic metabolism and result in lactic acid creation. One of the most famous forms of anaerobic exercise is weight lifting. Athletes and fitness buffs use anaerobic exercise to strengthen and/or increase muscle. Basically, you work yourself until ample lactic acid builds up in your targeted muscle group and they fail.
For strength training, most people will try to do between four and eight repetitions of exercise in each set. By doing eight or fewer repetitions, you are primarily targeting the fast twitch (power) muscles. It is essential that you bring the muscle group to complete failure (sometime beyond failure with advanced techniques like negatives, stripping, etc.)
For mass training (think bodybuilding), most weight lifters will shoot for muscular failure between eight and twelve reps. This allows the fast and slow twitch muscles to be a part of the exercise and gives the most overall growth (hypertrophy) potential.
Endurance training (and/or trimming) usually entails doing more than twelve repetitions, as this will primarily use slow twitch (or endurance) muscles. And, fat is burned as you keep your heart rate high for an extended period of time.
The jury is still out on what type of aerobic activity is better than another. I use aerobic exercise like running to burn fat. I shoot for three days per week (with rest days between each session). During each daily activity, I try to workout for 45+ minutes and get my heart rate into a target area of 75% of my maximum predicted heart rate (MPHR = 220-your age). I should mention that I do not believe in this formula, because I am 46 years old and have had my heart rate up to 189! Your true MHR can be determined by a physician using a standard Stress Test.
This is my go-to (favorite) cardio-based training. As a hemophiliac, I find the bike riding is easier on my joints (hips, knees, and ankles) than running, so I can train more often and go for longer times. Also, for whatever reason, I find riding exhilarating and fun!
I believe that running is the most popular of all cardio (aerobic) exercises. Probably because you can do it pretty much anywhere and you don’t need any equipment to do it. Heck, many people even run barefoot, although I don’t recommend this. I struggle with the boredom of running long distances, but do like a short 6 mile or so run. If you’re just starting out running, make sure that you don’t increase your distance by more than 10% per week. Otherwise, you’re inviting an injury!
Except to get from point A to point B, I don’t walk much. I find it boring and it takes forever to get what I want from it. Instead, I will run or use the elliptical. I should mention that I do walk before and after my runs as a warm-up and cool down. I also like to do one walk per week with my wife as a “getaway” for both of us, since we’re soulmates and best friends.
I know that many people swear by walking, so I didn’t want to leave it out… However, it ain’t my cup of tea. To reiterate, I do walk a good distance each day, but not for exercise, I use it to get from point A to point B.
I swim a couple of times per year. If I had a heated pool (or indoor) I’m sure I would do this on a regular basis. I think that swimming may be the best way to get a serious aerobic workout. If you do this, good on you!
There are many other forms of aerobic exercise (far too many to list here). I just covered the tip of the iceberg… But, you get the general idea.
Stretching is great to help relieve muscle aches after workouts and runs. It’s also keeps you flexible, renews energy, and helps to avoid injuries. For this reason, I believe that stretching should be a part of everyone’s workout plan. I stretch on my aerobic days. I stretch large muscle groups by slowly (never go fast, bounce, or jerk) moving into the stretch and holding it for 22 seconds. Near the end of my 22 seconds, I strive to stretch just a little bit deeper. Also, I only stretch after my workouts, as I have found that cold muscles do not stretch nearly as well and you might even invite injury or pain while stretching cold.
Have you heard of HIT (high intensity training)? It is incredible! Essentially, it consists of lifting weights two (or fewer) days per week. Each workout is a full body workout and it only takes 27 minutes to complete. On top of the anaerobic benefits, you also get aerobic benefits too. This is because there is very little resting in HIT and your keep your muscles working the entire time by a neat thing called “time under tension.”
I know what you’re thinking, How can you get a full body workout in fewer than 60 minutes per week? I’m here to tell you that it works. I have been doing HIT for more than four years now and I have made steady strength and mass gains since starting. For the first time in my life, I am relatively injury and pain free. If you wanna give HIT a try, start by checking out Dr. Ellington Darden’s HIT forum:
Also, I would suggest picking up his book: The New High Intensity Training.
What do you do to stay fit? Do you stretch?
That’s it for exercise… If you would like to learn more, simply drop by my forum and checkout the Fitness board here:
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