EXERCISE ~ Wikipedia states Exercise is, ‘any bodily activity that enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health and wellness. It is performed for various reasons including strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, as well as the purpose of enjoyment.’
For many of us, exercise, getting fit or losing weight is always our number #1 New Years Resolution. For others, exercise might be on top of your things to do list, yet they never do it. Whilst for others, the very thought of exercise might just be that consistent mental demon convincing you to start next week, next month or after your holiday. Whatever excuse/s you have they tend to always be stronger than the commitment you require to start.
So in this blog I want to discuss;
1) Exercising For Results vs. Exercising for Lifestyle
2) What is the best intensity to train at, &
3) Cardiovascular Exercises vs. Resistance Exercises
The good news is, that it doesn’t really matter how long you have been inactive for, it doesn’t really matter about your age, your gender or your current health status. What really matters is that some type of exercise is always possible and for the majority of time, exercise can always be beneficial. So when you are reading this blog reflect on your training routine and make the necessary changes to get the results / desired outcomes that you are after.
1) Exercising for Results vs. Exercising for Lifestyle
Personally, I think most of us think we are training for results, yet the majority of the population are actually training for lifestyle. They do exercises that they like, for the time they think is right, at the intensity that they are comfortable with. They get frustrated because they eat “clean”, they do a “juice” detox, they restrict their calorie intake, they eliminate carbs but nothing changes. I believe that 90% of the training population would be unconsciously exercising for lifestyle because they are not aware of the training formula that brings results. I refer to these people as ‘Comfortable Consumers’. They make the conscious decision to exercise, because they know it is good for them, but never get the results they are after because they fail to change their habits to complement their training. Remember, you can’t out train a bad diet and people are afraid of change, they are comfort being comfort. I often say to clients that you don’t get any smarter reading the same book everyday and your body is the same. If you do the same exercises / workout day in day out, your body isn’t going change. Your body needs to be put under stress to create a physiological adaptation. More recently, I wrote a blog about ‘Getting Comfortable, Being Uncomfortable’, and that is exactly what we need to do in regards to exercise. Embrace change, embrace discomfort (physiological stress vs. pain), embrace intensity, and embrace personal improvement regardless of your age, gender or physical health status. We can always improve and our body will always adapt. These physiological adaptations might be reflected in someone’s weight loss, lean muscle mass, increased bone density, improved motor skills etc. it doesn’t matter. What matters is that whatever the results you are after are a direct reflection of your training and nutritional program and your desired goals. Unfortunately, the majority of exercisers and gym junkies don’t get the results they are after because they aren’t training with the right ingredients that promoted purposeful training. These people I refer to as, ‘Lifestyle Trainers’, they are training regularly, thinking they are doing the right thing, but their improvements and/or adaptations are minimal, if there are any at all. Therefore in an effort to become a ‘Results’ orientated exerciser rather than a ‘Lifestyle’ orientated exerciser it is imperative to incorporate change. This might include changing your intensity, resistance, variety, frequency, modality, hydration plan, sleeping patterns, nutritional habits, as all of these factors can impede your ability to get the results you are after.
So to make sure you get the most out of your training sessions, pay attention to my top five tips for results based training;
• Increase your workout INTENSITY – your intensity should mirror the results you are after. Recent studies have found that it is no longer time on task, bouts of high intensity training (for as little as 4 minutes) have better results for weight lose than long bouts of sub max exercise.
• FUEL your body correctly – the importance of nutrition is under estimated. The way you look, feel, function and sleep has a direct relationship with your biometrics and physiological output. So keep it simple and include plenty of whole foods, consume good fats (avocado, salmon, tuna, coconut oil, omega 3 fats) vs. bad fats (primarily in processed foods made with trans fats and saturated fats such as butter, cheese, ice cream, red meat etc.) and reduce your sugar consumption. The World Health Organisation recommends our sugar consumption should equate to about 25g or six teaspoons per day. However an alarming statistic in Australia from a recent health survey showed that the average Australian consumes 60g of sugars each day, or the equivalent of 14 teaspoons.
• Prioritise RESISTANCE training over Cardiovascular Training – it has been a long-standing belief that if you want to lose weight the best and most effective way to do this was by doing cardio (particularly running). However, the opposite is actually true. Sedentary muscle burns more calories than sedentary fat, so resistance training whether this is body weight, machine weights or free-weights is a necessity. So firstly change your mindset about your relationship between cardio vs. weight and then change your program (i.e. incorporate HIIT).
• Respect RECOVERY – sleep is the most underrated ergogenic aid. Without adequate sleep you will never give your body the best chance of recovery. Recovery aids repair, repair rejuvenates your muscles, lean muscle activates your metabolism leading to a leaner lighter you.
• Implement VARIETY – as I stated earlier your body will only respond and change if it is put under stress. So it is important to implement different stressors into your program weekly. This could be as simple as the order of your exercises, the rep range, and the number of sets you perform for each muscle group or the weight you are lifting.
2) It’s All About Intensity
This is a fantastic debate and something that the majority of the training population get wrong. Why, because they simply don’t know what intensity to work at or they hate being uncomfortable and can’t push themselves at the intensity required. The scale to measure your level of intensity is called the Borge Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and the range is between 6 – 20. On a personal level I believe this measure is a little confusing, as you have to understand the range and the intensity required, (i.e. 6 = very, very light, 9 = very light, 13 = somewhat hard, 17 = very hard and 20 = maximum exertion). For decades the general consensus was if you wanted to lose maximum weight, low intensity for longer duration was the key. However, the latest research articles suggest that small bouts of high intensity exercise brings the best results for fat lose. Therefore, when I am prescribing exercise programs / intensity for clientele I get them all to understand and learn their own RPE on a scale from 0 – 10, (0 = siting on the couch having a beer or a wine, whereas 10 is exhausted, struggling to get your breath back). Personally, I believe the “best” fat burning range would be between 7 to 8 /10, which is roughly at an intensity where you could only answer ‘YES’ or ‘ NO’ answers if I was trying to have a conversation with you. Give it a go, it is certainly a way to get “comfortable being uncomfortable”.
3) Cardiovascular Exercise vs. Resistance Exercise
You should run if you are training for a ‘running’ race, for meditation purposes, for the feeling of freedom, for stress management, for the ‘Zen’ or because you love it, not for weight loss purposes. It has long been the go to modality for everyone that wants to lose weight quickly. However, the latest research shows that cardiovascular exercise is no longer an effective form of weight loss, hence the term being ‘skinny fat’. The only way to change your body shape is by combining both cardiovascular and resistance training exercises into your routine. Nevertheless, I think you should also be mindful of the fact that to get the optimal results you are after the order of exercise is also important. I would guestimate that the majority of gym users probably do cardio exercise before resistance training. Yet studies have found that if you perform your resistance training exercises first you will actually burn the majority of your glycogen stores. This leads to burning more body fat mainly because of excess post exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC.
Resistance training gets a lot of negative connotations but the positives by far out way the negatives.
➢ Increase resting metabolism by 7%,
➢ Sedentary muscles burns more calories than sedentary fat,
➢ Minimises muscle loss (we lose 3.5% of muscle mass each decade after the age of 30, or 1% of lean muscle mass per year after the age of 40),
➢ Resistance training helps develop better body mechanics, & it also
➢ Plays a role in disease prevention
So, when you are considering your ‘resistance’ options, consider whether you are going to use free weights, machine weights or body weights and then consider the best rep range for the results you are after.
➢ 1-5 REPS = strength
➢ 5-8 REPS = strength + muscle
➢ 8-10 REPS = muscle + strength
➢ 10-12 REPS = muscle with some endurance
➢ 12-15 REPS = endurance
Remember, “A PEAK is surrounded by two valleys”, you can’t train at 110% intensity all the time. Understand what training method works for you and then make the appropriate changes to suit your end goal. I call this bio-individuality as what work for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for another. At the end of the day, create purposeful change.