Pump it up!
Number #5 in our series of daily intentions is “Working out or Exercising.” This is something that drives several considerations, and I will briefly touch upon a few of those in this article. First and foremost, I have to say that intentional movement which was #4 on our list of daily intentions should take priority in most cases. However, as we progress, adding these intentions to our lives, we must begin discussing exercise. Unfortunately, there is so much misinformation pertaining to the topic of exercise it is difficult to know what is true and what is not. I will try to extract the good from some of this confusion.
If you have not been accustomed to an exercise program, there is a separate list of concerns for those who have exercised for most of their lives. If just beginning a program, there are a few critical concerns. First, what is your current level of fitness, and what is the correct amount of exercise to perform? I recommend that you check with your doctor to stave off any major underlying health issues. Armed with the knowledge that you are healthy enough to begin a program is a great start to the process. Secondly, my suggestion is to find an exercise program that is “enjoyable.” I chose this word carefully because a lot of health experts would suggest the word “fun.” Honestly, other than golf, very few of the 45 years of exercise routines I have used are what I consider to be fun. However, they are both rewarding and enjoyable. If you are fortunate enough to have fun with your program, all the better.
As I have gotten older, and I mean significantly older from those days when I was a competitive athlete, my perception of exercise has dramatically changed. It has moved from what I would consider “training” to a routine that provides health, fitness, and specifically longevity. I have really put an emphasis on efficiency. In other words, I no longer have the time or desire to spend our in the gym each and every day. Efficiency is the key, in other words, where can I get the most bang for the buck? Those days of heavy lifting or running miles upon miles are now replaced with those routines that provide taxing my energy systems which provide the best results for health and fitness.
What does all this look like? In a Reader’s Digest version, this involves a workout that allows me to push into my training heart rate for a period of time, usually 10 minutes or more, and also incorporates moving body weight or objects for some strength work. The term that is most associated with this type of workout is HIIT. Here is a bit more detail on what a HIIT workout looks like and the various types of HIIT. One thing to remember, if taxing your aerobic capacity feels like too much in the beginning, start slow and allow your body to adjust to the extra stress on the body.
There is a very big myth in the health and fitness industries that you have to run miles or get on an elliptical trainer for hours and hours to really see significant changes in your cardiovascular health. This is simply not true. You can see significant health gains, particularly cardio gains, with HIIT workouts. You will also produce far less oxidative stress to the body. Oxidative stress in a sense is the body’s negative response to exposure to oxygen, much like metal rusting when exposed to oxygen over time. There is even a specific form or HIIT style workout that I am particularly fond of and those are referred to as Tabata style workouts. These particular workouts can be done with one simple movement or a combination of movements with one thing in common, 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of active rest. This can even be done with a super-fast walking pace for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds slower walk. Regardless of the exercise that is performed, the concept stays the same for 20 seconds full go and recovering for 10 seconds.
I am also a believer that regardless of the exercise program you are participating in, should also incorporate other fitness components such as balance, and flexibility. Incorporating these is crucial to maximal growth and safety. In a nutshell, balance can be added simply with exercises that demand balance to execute. Lunges with or without additional weight are a great example of this. You could even set up a Tabata style workout with alternating leg lunges. As I mentioned before, alternating with 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off would assist in building leg strength along with cardiovascular endurance and help with balance all at the same time.
Building flexibility into your workout requires a little additional effort but is well worth the effort. Though many individuals and even some fitness experts continue to believe that stretching should be left as a final stage of an exercise routine, I somewhat disagree. Stretching should be built into the actual exercise whenever possible. Moving or taking a weight throughout the full range of motion also creates flexibility. So anytime that you are performing an exercise, consider doing it with an intention of adding stretching to the movement.
Finally, I believe it is important to consider working with a trainer who not only can help you maximize your workout but also help you stay motivated. The key is to find a professional who understands where you are in your fitness journey. There are professional trainers who can help you start slow and begin new fitness challenges as you progress in your conditioning.