In the twenty-eight years that I have worked in gyms and health-clubs I have seen my fair share of #fitnessresolutions fizzle out soon after the initial spark of inspiration.
Setting: any gym or health club in the first week of January.
Scene: parking lot full, cardio room packed with a waiting list, standing room only in group-exercise classes, and not a free bench to spare in the weight room.
The energy is palpable. As days pass, the crowds begin to thin. Day’s stretch to weeks and the enthusiastic crowds along with their energy seems to dissipate into thin air. What are left are the regulars, plus the few that have been added to the collective, minus the well intentioned that let their memberships expire from last years failed fitness resolutions. The end result is practically a net zero gain in membership retention.
Why do so many well-intentioned gym goers hastily resolve that their fitness resolutions are no longer worth their time and effort?
Ignorance and misinformation are the primary culprits responsible for this sabotage. Many venture into a fitness program with a goal, but no sense of direction on how to get there. They go through the motions of seemingly fit routines, however, not appropriate for their goal attainment. They get discouraged when the reality of their progress in not in alignment with their end desires. Others fall prey to gym culture myths or quick fix schemes that are either unsustainable or completely fraudulent in nature. An example often seen is the gym goer who embarks in an all out assault on their abdominal muscles in order to lose belly fat. Spot training is a myth. Sure, the exerciser will gain muscular strength, endurance, and burn some calories in the effort. That, however, will not specifically cause the fat in the abdominal region to miraculously disappear. Another example is the gym goer who adopts a crash diet or cleanse in order to lose weight. The simple nature of both strategies is that they are temporary food and calorie restrictions. Weight lost during this deficit will re-accumulate upon returning to previous eating habits.
Quick fixes or blind effort are not effective; the solution is setting goals, educating yourself to what the requirements are to attain them, intelligently putting a plan into action, and regularly evaluating your progress.
How not to be a casualty
Get your nutrition in-check. Nutrition is the one factor that you can control twenty-four hours per day. Proper nutrition will fuel workouts, aid in recovery, stop the accumulation of future body fat, and help speed up your metabolism. Prepare and eat whole foods every day. Avoid anything that comes in a box that contains ingredients you either do not understand or cannot pronounce. More specifically, adopt a plant-based diet. In addition to the performance perks of good nutrition, you will run less risk of the two biggest killers in America; heart disease and cancer. Do yourself a favor and Google plant-based diet to find solutions that work for you.
Exercise can be viewed as the physical work required to realize your goals. The nature of the exercises you should do is dependent on your goals. If you were planning on running marathons, the focus of training program would not be powerlifting. Conversely, endurance running would not aid in the strength of a power lifter’s bench press. Specific goals require specific training. If your goal is general fitness, then a well-rounded approach is required. Exercise can be broken down into four fundamental categories:
- 1. Strength Training
- 2. Cardiovascular Exercise
- 3. Flexibility
- 4. Activity-Based Fitness
Let us take a look at how the fundamentals break down for an exerciser whose goal is to tighten, tone, and become more fit in the process. The translation of what this actually means is that they want to lose body fat, add muscle, have a greater capacity to exercise, and decrease their risk for health associated disease. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) , an authority in scientifically backed exercise prescription, has a comprehensive listing of all fitness recommendations. Follow the link for the full prescription or continue on for the dummies version.
So what does this mean? Should you follow the recommendations exactly as prescribed? How does this translate to an actual training routine? The translation for a new exerciser is as follows:
Total body workouts Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Perform an average of 3 sets per body part. Use a weight that allows you to complete 12-15 repetitions for each set. If you are able to complete all 3 sets, then progress in weight by no more than 5% the next workout.
Perform 20 minutes of cardio prior to strength training on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Choose two more days for longer sessions that may increase over time up to 60 minutes per session.
Stretch after every cardio and strength session when the muscles are warm. Hold each stretch to the point of slight discomfort, not pain. Hold each stretch for minimum of 30 seconds for up to four sets.
If you have the opportunity to hike, run, swim, surf, bike, climb, or any activity that challenges you in any of the above the categories, then take it! I actually prefer and recommend activity-based fitness as an alternative to gym workouts. Find something you love to do, that challenges you physically, and get out there and do it.
I hope this helped define a clearer path towards the commitment of your fitness resolutions. This is a basic guide for general fitness. If you find that the parameters set are too vigorous, then that is ok. You simply need to consistently do more of what is recommended than what you are currently doing. Remember, that there is no one way to get to top of a mountain, but there are certainly harder ways than others. Follow the guidelines and you will most certainly be more likely to keep your resolutions and enjoy a smoother journey.
Please note that this guide has been written with “new years resolution gym goer” in mind. Complete fitness by others means such as yoga or activity based-fitness is absolutely possible; keep an out for future posts concerning just that.
Finally, if this article did not get you over the hump or you feel you need more information and motivation, then I recommend you seek out professional help in the form of:
1. A Licensed Nutritionist
2. A Certified Personal Trainer who can refer successful clients.
3. Your Doctor; who may be able to refer you to wellness programs relevant to obstacles you may be facing.
4. A gym that specializes in supervised and coached group exercise workouts.
Fill out the brief survey below, if you are interested in learning more on how to personalize a routine to meet your goals. Be well, stay strong, and may all your fitness related resolutions come to fruition!
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