7 Things You Should Have in Your Fitness Program by Stuart MacEwan
1. A selection of heavy exercises. Squats, pullups, deadlifts, clean and presses are a few examples. Heavy exercises are multi-joint compound movements that are done with sufficient weight to cause failure before the completion of 8 to 10 reps. This kind of repeated movement causes extensive skeletal and muscular stress, leading to increased strength and density of bones and connective tissues. Another great benefit from heavy movements is the generation of highly metabolic hormones leading to overall body muscle development and fat loss (when combined with a controlled diet). Every fitness program should have heavy movements included at least twice a week. Heavy movements have greatest effect when they are done weekly with regularity.
2. A wide and varied selection of moderate and light weight exercises. Think lunges, step ups, leaps, pushups, twists and balancing movements. The idea is to create a strong connection between your brain and your muscles to enhance your mobility, balance, endurance and coordination. A moderate weight should allow you reach full fatigue somewhere between 12 to 20 repetitions. Many programs use heavy movements and lighter movements on the same day starting with the heavy movements during the first half of the workout and progressing to lighter movements during the last half. Remember, variety is the key to allowing lighter movements to create a more mobile and balanced body.
3. Your program needs a focus on body weight exercises at least once a week. This includes Yoga, Barre, dance, gymnastics, many martial arts and Pilates. Weight training builds and shapes your muscles. Bodyweight exercises teach your body to use the muscles you’ve built in a synergistic and coordinated way. They help build your endurance and awareness of how your body moves in space. Many people decide to do bodyweight exercises more than once a week; the more the better.
4. A flexibility focus. At least 2 to 3 times a week you should spend 5 to 10 minutes stretching your body with good static stretches. No need to get super creative here; all the basic stretches you learned in school or by playing sports will do fine. Most people need to pay attention to stretching calves, hamstrings and chest muscles since they tend to be more shortened than other muscle groups. Stretching (holding each stretch for at least 30 to 60 seconds) will help balance the opposing muscle groups of the body, allowing you to move through your full ranges of motion without undue restriction. Stretching after a workout will also help correct and prevent the buildup of knots (adhesions) in your muscles, helping to prevent future injury. Yoga, Pilates and Barre classes are great programs to receive the full benefits of total body flexibility and mobility.
5. Play a sport for at least part of the year. You may be all grown up, but your inner child needs to play. Tennis, soccer, parkour, jujitsu, skiing, softball and golf are all good examples to enjoying the body you’ve worked to hard to create. Grab a 6 pack of beer and make some friends while earning some grass stains on your knees. I’m pretty sure you’ll smile a lot and take your workouts in the gym even more seriously when you have a sport to enjoy.
6. Take a break. Sleep 8 hours. Take weekends off. Take a long vacation. Even better, take a few weeks every year to skip the gym and give your body a rest. When you workout hard, you are tearing your body tissues down. Your body wants to heal when you sleep at night, but at least once a year it’s a pretty good idea to take 2 weeks off from the gym and give your body plenty of time to heal up. Even if your connective tissues are rock solid, your central nervous system will thank you. You may come back to the gym a teeny bit weaker, but you will catch right back up very quickly and may even notice new results with your program soon after your mini-rest.
7. Love your body with food and water. Nourishment comes in many forms. Look at it this way… you are literally made from what you eat and drink. If you are trying to create a body that looks like a temple and you use building materials like sticks and mud you are going to look like a little pueblo in Mexico. If you want to look like a Greek temple statue, you need to use marble as your building blocks. Pay attention to what you eat. Shop around the outside isles of the store to find all the meats, fruits and vegetables that are minimally processed. They should all be recognizable as actual meats, and vegetables. Notice all the boxed and bagged goodies are on the inside isles in the store? These are the processed goods, and it’s hard to actually tell what they are made of without reading the label. You don’t need processed goods in your life or your kitchen. Invest in a slow cooker and practice some easy recipes using only the items you find in the outside isles. Its easier and cheaper than you might think.