Decisions, Decisions

February 12th, 2013 posted by Karen Millard

Why is a desire to get fit usually accompanied by a need to spend money? “I’m going to get fit,” we say, and promptly rush out and spend a fortune on gadgets for abs, gadgets for buns, gadgets for the total body. And all it ever takes is “three easy payments.” Getting fit, we fail to realize, does not have to go hand in hand with going broke. So why do we do it? Why do so many people wind up with unused exercise equipment cluttering up their homes? Claude Bouchard, an obesity expert at Quebec City’s Laval University, might have the answer. Quoted in the January 11th edition of Canada’s Maclean’s magazine, he points out that we now use about 300-400 fewer calories every day than we did fifty years ago. What we used to do for ourselves, we now expect a machine of some sort to do for us. And that, presumably, includes getting fit. Which brings me to the point of this month’s column: that getting fit has nothing to do with spending money and everything to do with effort and commitment. That’s why I’m going to help you plan a program before I suggest ways to fine-tune it with specialized equipment. It’s a question of priority. Remember the cornerstones of the fitness triangle? Cardiovascular (or aerobic) fitness, strength training and flexibility. Ideally, you’d give all three equal emphasis. But this is the real world. You have work to do, children to take care of, a home to maintain and only seven days a week in which to do it all. In my first column I asked you to discover your own motivation for exercising.

Day one

: 40 mins cardio

Day two:

40 mins cardio

Day three:

upper body strength training

Day four:

30 mins cardio

Day five:

60 mins cardio

Day six:

rest!

Day seven:

lower body strength training.

Decision:

to emphasize cardiovascular work over strength training

or

Day one: 40 mins cardio

Day two:

total body strength training

Day three:

40 mins cardio

Day four:

40 mins cardio

Day five:

total body strength training

Weekend:

rest

Decision:

to emphasize strength training and time with the family over cardiovascular work. Now that you know, you can base your program around it. If you want to lose weight, you’ll need to devote more time to fat-burning aerobic exercise; if you’d like to tone your muscles, you’ll need to spend more time with the weights. Notice I just said “more”. You can’t be truly fit if you ignore parts of the triangle. Besides, you’ll be more successful if you allow the elements to work together. A well-muscled body burns calories more efficiently and a flexible body suffers fewer injuries, resulting in less down-time. So how to begin? By keeping your money in your pocket and planning a program you can live with.

  • It doesn’t really matter what you do, whether it’s aerobic dancing or jumping rope; walking or jogging; following along to an exercise video or stepping on and off your basement steps. Just so long as you do something. A combination of some or all would be ideal.
  • If your goal is weight loss, aim for five to six days a week of cardiovascular work, thirty to forty minutes at a time. There. Did that shock you? Whatever happened to “twenty minutes three times a week”? Here’s the unfortunate but unavoidable truth: twenty minutes three times a week will do your heart and lungs a lot of good, but it will not burn a significant amount of fat. To do that, you have to get moving, start sweating and keep at it. Now here’s the inevitable disclaimer: you don’t start out at this pace all at once! First see your doctor. Then start slowly. Five minutes at a time, at a comfortable but brisk pace. Keep this up for five or six days. In the second week, add two to three minutes per session. Increase your duration in five to ten minute per week increments until you’re up to your forty minutes. (By all means do more if you have the time and inclination, just follow a long workout with an easy one to allow your body a chance to recover.) It’s important to note that in the early days of fitness training, it’s the frequency of your workouts that will result in the greatest improvement. Later, when you’ve lost the weight, you can cut back on frequency and increase intensity and duration.
  • If your goal is to reshape your body or gain strength, you’ll need to add a strength-training segment. Strength-training, with all its variations, rules and guidelines, actually merits its own column. I’ll deal with it separately very soon! For now, you need to understand that each muscle group must be worked at least twice a week, with no less than forty-eight hours between sessions, to allow muscles to recover and gain strength.
  • Flexibility can come at the end of each strength-training or aerobic session in the form of stretching, or you can make it an enjoyable part of every day. Fifteen minutes of stretching when you wake up, before you go to bed, or to relieve the tension after a long stint on the computer can feel wonderful. So can yoga while you watch T.V. If you choose to incorporate stretching into every workout, bear in mind that the most important time is after, not before, your workout. If time is limited, you can safely skip the pre-workout stretch, but you must start off slowly. Walk for ten minutes before you break into a run, lift light weights before picking up the ten pound dumbbells. Muscles should be warm before they’re taxed; and then gently eased out when they’re tight.

After I’d had my babies and was desperate to get my shape back, I happily worked out for forty minutes in the morning and spent an hour with the weights at night. Now there isn’t a hope of committing that much time to my body. Compromises and decisions had to be made. To the right side in the gray box are two sample programs that continue to work for me depending on how my life is going at any given time. Remember, it’s the day-after-day commitment that counts. Show up, make the effort, and you will succeed.

Karen Millard (11 Posts)


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Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!


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