In today’s world of information being available to anyone and everyone, why do certain myths pertaining to exercise refuse to die? You know the ones:
- lifting weights for a woman will make them bulky
- the only way to lose weight is cardio
- carbohydrates are the enemy (the best fitness myth)
All the time I see people at the gym who do the same thing over and over again, not getting the results they want, yet being reluctant to change their ideas. It’s time people let go of this old mentality, and be open to try new ideas. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. After all, isn’t this what we all want: to get healthier, fitter, stronger and more confident?
Face your fears, step outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Myths can hurt your fitness
As a personal trainer, one of the major fears I have observed is women who are afraid of weight/resistance training. In reality, it is one of the best modalities of exercise that can and will change your body for the better. Over 30 years of hitting the iron, I’ve seen empowerment, strength and confidence from women and men when training with weights - more than any other mode of exercising. Not everyone needs to become a bodybuilder, but anytime you can successfully lift or move something substantial for you, it will feel great. It will become empowering.
Which fitness program is right for you?
One of the many problems are that there are always conflicts in which program is best. Someone can get results doing the xyz program, another one with the abc program. It can get a little confusing on what to follow, when to follow, and how long to follow. If you are feeling confused, one of the best areas to help you find your direction is to hire a fitness professional. Someone who is backed by either a Physical Education degree, and or some type of certification by an accredited organization, and lastly someone who follows their own advice. Now I know you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but in the fitness world, you want someone who can walk the walk and not just talk the talk. This will help you save a lot of time avoiding trial and error, help prevent injuries and keep you on your way to achieving your goals.
Clearly define your fitness goals
Next step, get definitive with your goals. Be clear, with a quantitative goal you can reach. For example:
- I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months
- I want to squat 225 pounds
- I want to improve my vertical jump by 3 inches
- I want to take 30 seconds off my mile time
Set realistic expectations. Visualize the changes you could make to your body in one year if you stay consistent and persistent. These are the goals that will help you define your approach to fitness.
How do you do this?
The best way to reach your fitness goals is to have a holistic approach. Consider your body and how it works together, spending time working muscles and areas that will help you reach your goals. Don't overdo any one thing but whatever mode you do choose, make sure you put some effort into it, challenge yourself, push yourself otherwise you will be just going through the motions and spinning your wheels.
- Resistance and Strength Training: For me, this is your foundation.
- Cardio: That can be the treadmill, Arc Trainer, SPARC, or exercise bike. You can also take group classes, which are a great way to use the energy of people around you to push yourself.
In my 30 years of training, I’ve done just about any and every split between strength training and cardio that’s out there. I can’t pinpoint which is best, because they all have had their benefits.
I will say though that weight training/resistance training has been the best in developing muscle and changing physique. As I have mentioned, this could be the cornerstone of your program. Get in at least three days a week with some type of resistance training. I have seen the best changes in men, women and teenagers with resistance training.
You can combine that with some form of cardiovascular exercise to keep the heart strong and to burn those extra calories. Try alternating between HIIT and steady state cardio - both will have their uses depending on how you feel and what your goals are.
Lastly, don't forget mobility and flexibility work. Keeping the body strong, limber and active is the best way to a healthier lifestyle.
Example whole body fitness program
While not an exact program to follow, here is an example to help you visualize what a whole body, holistic fitness program can look like:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Mobility work
- Resistance training
- Walking lunge with dumbbells
- Lying leg curl
- Dumbbell incline press
- Inverted rows
- Dumbbell shoulder press
- Barbell curl
- Cable rope triceps pushdown
- 20 minutes of HITT intervals on a treadmill, Arc Trainer, or SPARC
- Pilates, yoga, or other cardio class
Saturday or Sunday
- 40-60 steady state cardio on a treadmill or Arc Trainer
Most importantly: Listen to your body
You want to learn to listen to your body. Rotate any scheduled workout depending on how you feel. It will break up the monotony that exercise programs can sometimes fall into and allow you to focus on the day with a fresh and energized perspective.
If you are feeling a little tired on Monday and don’t have the concentration for weight training, switch and do a treadmill workout. This level of flexibility works wonders for me and keeps me more consistent in my training, even after 30 years. By keeping each day fresh, you will be able to put more energy into the workout, enjoy greater benefits, and lessen the chance of injury without getting bored with the same mundane routine day after day. Train hard, train smart.