Thursday, August 17, 2006

Choosing an Exercise

The best exercise is an activity that you enjoy enough to really pursue enthusiastically. Experiment with different forms of activity (cross training). Alternating new activities with old favorites will keep your enthusiasm high. Cross training also helps avoid injury due to repeatedly doing the same activity. Here are some suggestions:

Indoor (Facility) Activities: If the treadmill, stairmaster, rowing machine or stationery cycle doesn't excite you, sample some group activities that strike your fancy. Participate in a group cycling class, beat stress with yoga, find balance with martial arts, stay cool with indoor swimming, or kick some you-know-what with boxaerobics.
For more information: Equipment Dos and Don'ts

At Home Activities: You don't need to join a gym to experience a variety of activities. Your local video store or library will carry a variety of fitness videos that allow you to workout in the privacy of your home. Some equipment may be required, depending on the activity you select. A few inexpensive pieces of equipment include a jump rope, a set of hand weights (preferably with weight plates that you can add and remove), Dyna-Bands or tubing, or a basic step (for step aerobics).

If you enjoy working out at home then you may want to consider investing in a larger piece of equipment such as a treadmill, ski machine, stationery bicycle, or elliptical trainer.
For more information: Buying Equipment for a Home Gym

Outdoor Activities: Outdoor activities abound during all four seasons. Sample the variety of activities available to you. For example, take a hike to enjoy the Fall colors, learn to cross-country ski when Old Man Winter visits, walk among the flowers in the Spring, or dive into swimming during the hot months of Summer. Getting outdoors into the fresh air not only adds variety to your exercise program but it seems to provide an uplifting of one's spirit as well.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Starting An Exercise Program

To make physical improvements, you need to work your body harder than usual. This is referred to as the overload principle. As your body becomes more conditioned, you need to increase the frequency, intensity, or time of your workouts in order to continue improving your fitness level.

Frequency: How often you exercise. For beginners, consider starting with 2-3 sessions per week.
Intensity: How hard you exercise. For example, the pace you walk or run, the amount of weight you lift, or your heart rate count.
Time: How long you perform an activity. "Time" can also refer to the number of sets or repetitions you perform in weight training.

Exercise Component 1: Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise increases the health and function of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system. For maximum effectiveness, aerobic exercise needs to be rhythmic, continuous and involve the large muscle groups (primarily located in the lower part of your body.) Walking, jogging, cycling, aerobic dance, and stair climbing are examples of activities that use large muscle groups. Activities combining upper and lower body movements such as cross-country skiing, rowing, and swimming can lead to even higher levels of aerobic capacity.

Exercise Component 2: Strength Training
Strength training is the process of exercising with progressively heavier resistance to build or retain muscle. Unless you perform regular strength exercise, you will lose up to one-half pound of muscle every year of life after age 25. Muscle is a very active tissue with high energy requirements, even when you are asleep, your muscles are responsible for over 25% of your calorie use. An increase in muscle tissue causes a corresponding increase in the number of calories your body will burn, even at rest.
For more information: Strength Training Basics

Exercise Component 3: Flexibility
Flexibility is a critical element of an exercise program but it is often overlooked. Stretching is important for a number of reasons; increases physical performance, decreases risk of injury, increases blood supply and nutrients to the joints, increases neuromuscular coordination, reduces soreness, improves balance, decreases risk of low back pain, and reduces stress in muscles.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Aerobics or Strength Training

Which is better? Aerobic training (long distance running, stints on the Stairmaster) or anaerobic training (weight training & short intense conditioning work)

I've been asked this question hundreds if not thousands of times. First I'll give what I think is best and then I will talk about whether what I think is best even matters.

I my own professional opinion and from my experiences I believe a combination of strength training exercises (with free weights, machines, or bodyweight) and high intensity anaerobic exercise (e.g. Sprinting, running up hills, or stairs etc... have yielded the best results for me and the people I've worked with. I'll take it a step further by just looking at what the elite athletes do. The first thing that comes to my mind when it comes to ideal body composition (low body fat levels) and weight loss are long distance runners and sprinters. Marathoners run and workout for what seems like forever. One hour runs 4 to 6 times a week are the norm for many of them. Combine that with strength training (which many won't do because they're too tired and over trained from running) and you're working out almost everyday. Sprinters on the other hand use short intense workouts to build their speed. Many sprint 2 to 4 times a week for about 30-45 minutes and strength train 2-4x a week for about 30-45 minutes. Many times it looks as if they're not even training hard because they rest a while between their sprint sets.

With out getting too far into the details of the workouts of sprinters and marathoners I'll say this: The sprinters get far more in return for what amounts to less time spent working out. Just take a look at an elite marathoner (they look stringy and many times weak and sickly). Now look over at an elite sprinter and they look like an Adonis (It all boils down to what their training offers them. Long distance running will improve your aerobic endurance but at the cost of you overtraining, possibly having more colds, less muscle, you not looking and feeling your best and also leaving less time to do other things you might like. Sprinting and strength training will not give you the endurance to run 2 hours but you will look better, have more muscle, less fat, have more time to do other things. So I guess it's safe to say that I think strength training and anaerobic work wins in my book. Absolutely! Now does what I believe really matter when it comes to finding what works best for you?