First things … October 2013

Today is the first day of the new month .. we all like “first days”.  There is just something about the start of things that resonates with people.  To start our October, we begin a new feature called “First Things”.  This will be a short compilation of questions (and hopefully answers!) and discussion topics that have crossed my path over the past month. So let’s get started!

The first general area is a big one and goes something like this:  I go to the gym for an hour 3 or 4 times a week and have done this for a couple years.  I feel better after I get home but I haven’t lost any weight and have lots of aches and pains.  What am I doing wrong?

Wow .. where do I start.  First, a caveat to the corrections.  You get a pat on the back for your commitment.  Actually pushing yourself out the door to do anything is a pretty good thing.  You’re not giving yourself enough credit for taking that step.  But, there are some changes you really should make because over the long haul, the continued frustration over lack of progress will likely cause you to quit.

Before suggesting some specifics on the exercise side, let me point out a few places you probably need to address at the same time….

1. How much do you sleep?  If you’re getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night, you’re probably not getting enough. Optimal will differ from person to person, but 6 is a reasonable starting point.

2. Do you track your food and beverage intake? For now, I”m not going to harp on “what” you are eating, but let’s face it, most of us put a lot of stuff in the tank that isn’t very for us.  The starting point is being mindful of what you are putting in your body.  Actually track it for a while and you’ll probably find yourself looking for ways to make better choices.  Any education before that sinks in tends not to be very effective.  Start keeping track and educating yourself will flow quite naturally.

3. Do you sit all day at your job?  Many of us have jobs that don’t require a lot of movement.  Stand up and move around frequently. It helps a lot!

4. Do you go to the gym every day? For most of us, that’s not a very good idea. Recovery time matters and unless you are on a specific program that is regulating your recovery periods, I strongly recommend NOT working out every day.  (note — I draw a sharp distinction between “working out” and just living a mindfully active life)

Okay.. so.. some fixes … it has been said that “what doesn’t challenge you doesn’t change you”.  There’s a good bit of wisdom there.  So you spend 30 minutes on treadmill or elliptical and it doesn’t seem to be doing much.  These machines, even the high end ones, don’t tend to challenge you in a way that your body can’t adapt to quite quickly. As your body adapts, you get less and less benefit from that 30 minutes.  Running at a slow to moderate pace?  Same thing except you’re probably feeling the effects of the pounding on your joints.

Now, before we go further, I”m not completely against running.  Heck, back in the day, I logged a lot of miles. And last time someone checked, I still had high school records on the board from track that date back to the late 70s.  My caution to you is make sure your goals line up with your methods.  Do you run 5K, 10K, half marathons,etc … ?? Well, then you probably need to be logging more miles than I’d normally advocate.  That is sport specific training.  But don’t expect it to be the be all and end all to reach your health goals.  If, on the other hand, you are trying to build strength or lose weight, you must adapt your running to the goal.  You have to take muscles to failure in ways that don’t adversely impact other things going on in your body (reality is that your health and fitness is mostly about hormones … exercise is just one piece of the puzzle for impacting hormones…).  So, assuming you are not running as training to run races, I have 2 modifications for you..

1. sprint   (yes .. sprint .. running very hard .. now, your sprint might not look like Usain Bolt’s, but it will tax your body and do so very quickly!)  Incidentally, visual cues alone out to convince you that sprinting is good for you …  put a couple pictures side by side .. one of a world class sprinter, another of a world class marathoner.  While the marathoner has some remarkable physical capacity, let’s face it, we’d rather look like the sprinter.  His/her training builds strength and muscle mass. The marathoner probably has a very low body fat percentage, but beyond that, they often don’t look terribly healthy.  But I digress….

2. run up hills … if you have access to a hill, running up the hill is even better than sprinting…

So, other than running, what should you do?  I’ll try to summarize these in a few bullet points and then take on each topic in greater depth throughout this month

  • Add resistance (swing, push, pull, lift and carry things)
  • Get off machines (forcing your body to balance things strengthens you .. machine isolate you from being responsible for balance .. also, unless you are very diligent, you will not use machines to work opposing muscle groups)
  • Reduce time, increase intensity (40 minutes is really the top end … keeping the intense part of your workout under 20 minutes is even better .. but make that a high quality 20 minutes)
  • Variety is good (variety keeps the body from adapting and causing your progress to slow and well, variety keeps the workouts interesting!)

Bottom line .. if you have gotten off the couch and are doing anything, you’re moving in the right direction. Even if you keep doing what you’re doing, it’s better than spending your time doing nothing.  But if you could increase the impact of your exercise at the same time as your decrease the amount of time spent doing it, wouldn’t that just plain make sense?

What should you do next?  (or where should you start?)  Come join us for a ropes session … safe, fast, effective.  Whether you are just starting out or you are already an elite athlete, they workouts scale you your level.   See the upcoming classes link above for info. Contact me if you have questions.  Not sure yet? At least sign up for our free weekly newsletter. You’ll get links to our class workouts and a suggestion for the weekend.

Let’s Get Moving Again!

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Categories: General, Tips

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