In the first installment of the fitness series I addressed issues concerning safety and technique. Please remember that every additional concept is cumulative. In other words, babe, you still gotta breathe properly, maintain proper alignment and execute good technique.
In this second installment I will be addressing five practices to maximize the positive results of all your blood, sweat and tears. First off, if you’re working smarter, not harder (nag, nag, nag), hopefully there will be no pain and all gain. So, here’s practice number one: Safety! As to the other four, I will discuss consistency versus variety, symmetry, nutrition and rest.
Push yourself, but use caution when working out!
Creating a space in your busy schedule may be challenging, but anything valuable requires investment. Find a 45-minute, to one-hour slot you can commit to three or four times each week. You will find that you probably have more time for fitness than you initially grumbled about and that it is actually very rewarding to reserve these personal breaks for yourself. That is one aspect of consistency, the other being a dedication to safety and technique (couldn’t resist).
By contrast, you do not want to fall into the type of consistency that leads to injury, boredom or stagnation. Doing the same workout repeatedly is not only ineffective, it can also be dangerous. Your body-heart-mind-soul requires variety. As you build muscle and expand oxygen volume, you also develop neural synapses. Contrary to the stereotype, fitness can make you smarter (or at least brighter, faster and more alert). Mental and intellectual acuity are improved through physical training.
By training with different methods you will see greater improvements in less time with fewer injuries. Excess repetition over time can cause arthritis, strains, pulls, sprains, bulging these and throbbing those… I was referring to bulging discs and throbbing joints.
I would suggest having a different regimen for each of the three or four days you exercise. Day one might be free weights, while day two is swimming, day three is rock climbing, and day four is yoga. If you want to do only walking or cycling, fine. But, go on a different route each day.
• Do the exercises in reverse order.
• Slow the repetitions enough to eliminate momentum
• Focus on eccentric effort on day one, concentric effort on day two, isometric effort on day three, and one set of each on day four
• Try pyramid, reverse-pyramid, and circuit training
• Use light weights with 30 seconds of rest between five to six sets of 12-25 repetitions
• Use heavy weights with 90 seconds of rest between three sets of six to eight repetitions.
• Alternate standing on one foot for a set, then switch for the next.
• Use an instability surface, such as a bosu or wobble board.
It’s mantra time once again: K.I.S.S. Keep it symmetrical, sexy! In other words, if you do something on the left, do it on the right. Work the front, then work the back. As above, so below. Muscles work in pairs or groups. They only pull, they cannot push. This means it requires one set of muscles to bend your elbow, but the opposite group to straighten it. Ergo, you have to work all sides of a joint. This will encourage faster development, bolster aesthetic appeal and reduce the risk of injury. Incidentally, this means that you cannot have a strong core by doing abs only — you must include lower back. To get a sexy chest, work upper back as well. For powerful biceps, strengthen your triceps. All those examples were upper body!
Remember the lower body. Think of yourself as a cathedral under construction. Without a strong foundation to hold up the structure, you won’t have enough stability to create all the towers and stained glass windows.
• Chest/upper back (upper body)
• Biceps/triceps/shoulders (upper body)
• Abs/lower back (core)
• Thighs/hamstrings/butt (lower body)
• Shins/calves (lower body)
Nutrition is critical. A normal balanced diet without special requirements should be approximately 55 percent complex carbohydrates (fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains), 30 percent fat (way more unsaturated than saturated) and 15 percent protein. Carbohydrates are for fuel; fats are for vitamin metabolism, organ protection, and brain/nerve function; proteins are for repair and growth. Stay hydrated!
Finally, your body grows and repairs itself during times of rest. Each person is different and there are arguments as to whether or not we actually require eight hours each night. Not enough sleep is dangerous, as lethargy can lead to injury while exercising. Too much sleep can pose similar problems. Erratic sleep provides little curative effect, which hampers the development of muscle and nervous tissue. Consider the benefits of balancing work, chores, personal time, socializing and rest. Sleep adequately, dream deeply, live happily!
Jack Kirven holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA and a national certification in personal fitness training through NASM.
— Q-Notes’ “Health and Wellness” column rotates between physical fitness, spirituality, medical wellness and green living.