One of the topics I wanted to touch base on is picking exercise you enjoy, that's authentic to how YOU enjoy moving your body. Often when I am in a consultation with a client-to-be they say "I want to be fit, but I don't want to run." There seems to be this ongoing notion that in order to be fit you have to run or do the hardest form of exercise your body can tolerate. That's just not true! You don't have to mimic anyone's sense of fitness "style" or go for the current fad. Fitness is personal and should be something you enjoy (95% of the time). Most important though, is if you're doing workouts that aren't enjoyable...guess what? I guarantee you will not sustain them either. I encourage you to definitely try new things, however, also stick with what you love and look forward to doing and aim push yourself within the realms of knowing how you like to spend your "fitness time". You want fitness to be a lifetime goal not an occasional endeavor!
In my opinion there are three essentials in any exercise program that offers all the important components.
- Cardiovascular Exercise: No matter what you choose it is essential to find a form of cardiovascular activity you can do on a regular basis. Heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S., so that is a huge incentive to keep up on cardiovascular exercise. This can be done by walking, hiking, running, jogging, swimming, biking, machines, Zumba, Step. You want to elevate your heart rate for a sustained amount of time, getting into a range where it would be hard to hold a conversation or you would be speaking in broken sentences. Not only does cardio improve your heart efficiency, it also burns a great amount of calories when done in conjunction with strength work. My favorite things to do are outside. As a trail runner I look forward to my runs of all lengths, rain or shine, if I get to be on trails I love or out exploring!
- How much cardio do I do? This answer depends solely on your goals. According to ACSM Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week). So in other words you can do shorter intervals of harder work or longer duration with more moderate work.
- 2. Muscular Strength & Toning: Strength and toning is an important part of not only having a balanced body, but to function well each day, performing each task you so desire. Most people use weights in order to fulfill this requirement of fitness, however, you can also use your own body weight or other forms of strength and toning like Pilates or a harder power yoga. Having more lean mass actually bumps up your metabolism at rest, since muscle is more efficient than fat, those with a higher lean mass actually DO burn more calories at rest. You want to aim to work each major muscle group 2-3 days per week using a variety of exercises & equipment. You can do the following: free weights, machines, group bootcamp classes, body weight exercises, TRX, etc. No matter what, a strong body is a great thing to have. I always tell my clients, no matter what, you should be able to hold your own body weight at any given point in time.
- 3. Mind-Body Work: (Flexibility): Stretching is an essential part of having a healthy body and fitness routine, yet it's the one thing that is always overlooked! That's why I believe stretching and mind/body work goes hand in hand. Adults should hold stretches about 10-30 seconds, repeating those stretches 2-4 times. Stretching helps improve muscular function, reduces over-use (or over sitting) injuries, and allows us time to re-connect with breath. Mind-body is work is essential, because of the crazy and hectic days we lead. Often we just "get in" our work outs, missing the connection that is provided by thinking about small adjustments to our alignment, breathing, and muscle isolation. Yoga is a favorite for many, I enjoy Hatha yoga where you have time to hold poses for a longer duration (also good for cardio & strength) and have time to focus on mental strength and breathing. Pilates is also a great form of mind-body work, focusing on breathing and core recruitment. Tai Chi, creative movement, and meditation are also wonderful forms of mind-body work and you can always add in additional flexibility moves.
- No matter what you do, don't force yourself into a mold that doesn't fit! Don't feel like you have to make excuses or apologies for the exercise you like and dislike-after all, it's your time, health, and happiness!