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Can’t I Just Exercise? — Going Beyond Just Moving

Published on October 24, 2012 by in Fitness

Often times I hear people’s ideas of how they are going to get in shape and lose weight. A lot of times I’ll listen to friends coming up with self-generated workout routines. Often times it goes something like this:

“I am going to hit the gym more this year”

“I’m gonna hit the ol’ elliptical machine (or treadmill) for a few minutes each day”

“I’m going to exercise 3 times a week”

Hey, I am all for people getting active and I am not going to rain on anyone’s health and fitness parade – I am all for people getting active in any way, shape, or form. I will say that there are better ways to work out than just going for a run, walking, or throwing a few weights around here and there. I am going to share some tips on making the most out of a workout routine.

When choosing a routine it should have the following 3 elements:

Strength training – this can be done with body weight, free weights, resistance bands, or machines.

Cardiovascular activity – this can be any activity that elevates the heart rate to a point at which calories can be burned.  Running, cardio machines, dancing, exercise videos, and biking/cycling are some examples.

Flexibility – good old stretching. This could be yoga or any series of stretches that work the entire body to reduce soreness and prevent injury.

One of the best ways to incorporate all of these parts of fitness is to work with a professional in the field. This may be a personal trainer you see at your local gym or a trainer featured on an in-home workout system such as P90X or Brazil Butt Lift. These trainers are knowledgeable and know what works to get the best results. They understand things like hypertrophy, plateau effects, nutrition, and muscle confusion – things most of us don’t have a background in. The systems that trainers put together help take all the guess work out for you. You’ll know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, all while getting the maximum results.

Not ready for a trainer yet? Still on the fence?

Here are a few things you can do to maximize your basic workout routines at home or in the gym:

Cardio intervals – This basically involves different levels of intensity during a workout, mainly periods of high-intensity activity followed by a steady, moderate pace of activity. If you are running, biking, using an elliptical machine, or any other activity, you can incorporate interval training. Always start with a warm up and some stretching. Next, try going as fast as you can go for 30 seconds followed by 2 minutes of moderate speed. Go fast for another 30 seconds, then back to moderate. Continue the cycle as you keep going. It’s amazing how many more calories you can burn with those short bursts of intensity.

As you improve, you might want to go for a full minute of intense, full -speed activity followed by the moderate pace. A little further down the road you might even find yourself doing 2 minutes of intense activity followed by 30 seconds of moderate activity, similar to the max interval training or high intensity interval training seen in Insanity and Turbo Fire.

Mix up strength training routines – When doing resistance workouts (weights, bands, machines, etc.), try sticking to the same routine for 3-6 weeks, and then mix up the workouts with different routines and exercises. This will help with both muscle toning or gaining muscle, whichever your goal may be. This style of muscle confusion, as coined by Tony Horton, is what programs like P90X demonstrate.

Stretching – Stretching and warming up/cooling down are an important part of any routine. Stretch before and after any workout. It is also a good idea to stretch on days you are not working your muscles hard. Doing a yoga or stretch routine for 30 minutes or more, once or twice a week can have amazing benefits. You can even do this while watching your favorite TV show or during a ball game on TV.

Note: all of these elements are integrated into about every Beachbody routine. Some have more cardio than strength training (Insanity, Turbo Fire); some have more weight training than cardio (Body Beast); some focus on mobility (Tai Cheng); some are more of a balance of everything (P90X, 10 Minute Trainer).

My challenge for anyone exercising without some professional training assistance is this: Step up the current routine you are doing. Don’t just go for a walk, spend some time on the treadmill, or kind-of/sort-of do some bike riding. Integrate some interval training and add in some strength training as well. Or… if you want the best results… find a program that suits your goals and reap the rewards.

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