Whether you want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or just tone up your muscles, you can find the perfect fit for your fitness goals. There’s a suitable cardio-, body weight and resistance training exercise for you
By Laurence Mossman
The fitness industry is booming! You only need to look around and you’ll find another popular gym or fitness class opening up. Scroll down your social media feed and you’ll see ads inviting you to try the next exercise fad or diet. Drive down the road and you will see cyclists, runners and people outside a café drinking a trim latte whilst kitted out head-to- toe in Adidas. The growth of the fitness and wellness industry as a whole has to be a positive thing.
Whether you’re looking to shed a few pounds you’ve gained due to overworking or you’re a semi-professional bodybuilder, there are multiple ways to reach your fitness goals, if you so wish.
Now with so much information out there, plus your officemate telling you to try an exercise program because it worked for her, how do you know what’s right for you? I propose that with the multitude of exercises out there, there are a handful which have proven more effective and reign supreme over the rest. In this article I will share, through articles read and my personal experiences as well as others’, to ensure that even if you are a beginner or looking to find an exercise program that will stick this time, you will be able to find what works for you.
Reaching your fitness goal is just as much about the mindset than the physical act of working out. I will talk briefly about the following topics:
1. What motivates you to want to work out?
2. Finding exercise you can actually enjoy
3. Plan, Plan, Plan
4. Support Group
5. Fast Five
At the end of this article I will include five effective forms of exercise for any level. So before you even pick up a dumbbell or put on your workout gear, ask yourself, “Why?”
What motivates you to want to work out?
“Begin with the end in mind.” This powerful quote by Dr. Stephen R. Covey from his bestselling book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ has been applicable to the most successful businessmen and those looking to take control of their lives. So naturally when it comes to health and wellness it applies just as much. We have to know what our fitness goals are. Individuals who have a clear picture of what they want to look like and those who have a goal waist measurement are more likely to succeed than those who work out blindly because everyone else seems to be doing it.
This writer strongly suggests that anyone embarking on their fitness journey, or looking to up their game, write down their goals and measure them. It is only when we set goals and measure them that we can create an accountability and urgency needed to set a strong foundation for health. For example, if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, the first thing you should do is grab the tape measure, step on a scale and take a photo of yourself. While this may seem daunting for some, by knowing our starting point we are able to accurately measure our progress and ensure we’re heading in the right direction.
Just imagine your boss telling you that the 2019 company goal is to increase monthly sales by 150 percent… then you don’t bother to find the data for 2018 monthly sales. It becomes a guessing game. With a starting point and a measurable goal written down, you’re well on your way to reaching the pinnacle of health.
Finding exercise you can actually enjoy for your goals
So, you’ve got a picture of Chris Hemsworth or Gal Gadot attached to your fitness goals… now you’re asking “how do I get started?” There are a multitude of fitness programs out there which can be incredibly confusing if you don’t know where to start. But we are very fortunate to have many forms of exercise developed over the years, and fine-tuned in recent times.
Before I break down a few types of exercise let me quickly talk about the two main types of “workouts.” In simple terms we will categorize these as “Fat-Loss” and “Muscle-Building.” Oftentimes these can overlap depending on the exercise, but most people are usually leaning toward one or the other in their fitness goals.
Fat-loss can be achieved through two main principles. The first is cardiovascular exercise in which one aims to get their heart rate up in order to burn calories and strengthen our heart. The second of course is nutrition. A great exercise program is only as effective as the food that accompanies it. Of course there are other important factors including sleep, hydration, supplementation and stress levels which can affect your health, but for this article we will just focus on fitness.
For those wanting to look in the mirror and see superhero-like biceps and abs, or to bring out those lines around the arms and legs when you wear your favorite dress; Muscle-Building is the way to go. Let me preface this paragraph by saying that muscle-building doesn’t imply bulky bodybuilder physiques like some may think, but rather the healthy growth of muscles in order to build the body that you want. Now building muscle or toning can be achieved to the breakdown and repair of the muscle fibers, known as ‘muscle hypertrophy’.
Breakdown occurs through the repeated stress the muscles come under throughout the course of a workout. Doing an exercise over and over again, for example bicep curls with a dumbbell for 5 sets of 12 reps, will cause micro tears in the muscle fiber. So naturally our bodies need to repair these. Being the amazing adaptive machine that is the human body, it not only repairs the muscles, but grows stronger in order to be prepared for the next time it encounters this stress.
So it goes without saying that in order to achieve our fitness goals, a certain level of repeated physical stress as well as proper recovery is needed. Fitness at its core can be fun, simple and rewarding.
“Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” You have your goal, now what are the steps to get there? Personally I find this part quite exciting. This is where you can choose what kind of exercise program you can do, which days, times, rest days, and when you plan to achieve your goal. A good plan is integral to achieving your goal. You simply can’t embark on a fitness journey without a good plan. We are very fortunate that great exercise programs are just a Google search away and exercise science is a rapidly evolving area of study so we know what works and what doesn’t. So grab that diary and schedule in your workout and meal times. Your body will thank you for it!
For many of us, our fitness goals take a back seat in the priority list when juggling work, family and social life. Whenever the topic of fitness comes up in conversation, I often hear people say “Exercise is boring,” “I hate going to the gym,” “I wish I had a fast metabolism,” and my personal favorite “I don’t have time.” I myself have thought this at one point or another.
Aren’t we all guilty of saying that we lack the time to exercise? How many of us have sacrificed time with our loved ones to attend to urgent work projects? How many of us also sacrifice our health in order to work, socialize and eat fast food that gives instant gratification but leaves us lacking proper nutrition? I’m certainly guilty of almost all of the above but this article is not meant to judge, but rather to acknowledge that we’re all different and have different set of priorities and for us to truly live a healthy life, health and wellness needs to become a priority.
Along with setting realistic fitness goals, a good support group or friend can be the difference between a three day fitness journey or three months. Sometimes we need people who have their own goals to inspire us, to run alongside (both literally and figuratively) and to motivate us.
For many people, especially beginners, fitness can be confusing, daunting and intimidating. The best thing you can do is seek advice or knowledge from professionals or friends who have been there. For my very first endeavor into the world of weight training, I sought out the advice of a school-friend who has a great deal of knowledge when it comes to fitness.
He taught me the basic exercises for each of the muscle groups as well as the proper form so that when I was by myself in the gym, I wasn’t intimidated by the machinery or wasting time figuring out how they worked…or worse, using it dangerously or incorrectly. This small investment in a personal trainer is something I highly recommend for beginners.
1. HIIT (high intensity interval training)
The perfect combination of effective cardio, body weight and resistance training. Suited for: People who want to get to the peak of physical health or lose fat fast.
“The essential framework of high-intensity interval training is always the same: Brief, all-out work periods, separated by rest periods that you wish were just a little longer. The work-to-rest ratio can vary from 1:1 (for example, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) to 1:4 or more, and the rounds can be just a few or 15 or more. But no matter how long you rest, the key is that you bring everything you’ve got to your intervals.”
Now some people might look at the words “high intensity” and think it sounds, well… intense! But the best part about it is that, if done correctly, it’ll be done in 20-30 minutes including a warm-up. And if fat-loss is your goal, good news! 20-30 minutes of HIIT can be just as effective as 1-hour on the treadmill. Talk about a timesaver!
Probably the most fun you’ll have working out. Suited for: Those who want to lose fat, tone up and have fun…or just hate gyms. Also for those who like a party environment!
“A spin class is a high intensity cycling workout that generally takes place on a stationary machine with a heavy, weighted flywheel that is linked to the pedals.”
Most spin classes last for around 45-60 minutes and are led by an instructor who you simply copy for an intense but thrilling workout! To be honest, I wasn’t keen at all to jump on this trend. Having seen advertisements and hearing people talk about how they loved spin class wasn’t going to convince me to put down the dumbbells. However, after trying a spin class with a group of friends at a popular spinning class in Makati, I actually enjoyed it.
The group energy, the medium to high intensity of workout, the music, and the great spin instructors made for a pleasant first experience, and sometimes that first experience can ensure you’ll keep coming back for great workouts… or leave a bad taste in your mouth!
3. Resistance/Weight Training
Do you even lift?
Suited for: Those who want to muscle and tone up, or look like Superman or Wonder Woman! For extra motivation, personal trainers are ideal.
Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared on the big screen, and more recently the rapid influx of Superhero movies, there has been an obsession with training to have bigger, leaner muscles. “Resistance training is simply a form of training in which you’re working against some type of force that “resists” your movement. Most people are familiar with weightlifting, but there are other kinds of activities that fall under the heading of resistance training, including bodyweight exercises, dragging sleds, running with parachutes, and even movement in water.”
This form of exercise puts our muscles under intense stress that it would not normally have with day-to-day activities. This stress forces it to grow and gives us those well-deserved lines and bulges we want to see in the mirror.
4. Group Training
Why not suffer together!
Suited for: Groups of friends or community. People who like short training times and need extra motivation. Weight loss and toning.
You don’t always have to go at it alone. Group fitness is hugely popular because it caters for all levels of fitness. We’re all familiar with classes like Zumba and hip-hop exercise. Recently, group fitness bootcamps, TRX and interval trainings classes have become popular and are designed to get results in a short time, and you can bring along your friends and colleagues and get in some good recovery food after the class whilst bathing in endorphins. Try out a group class with your friends.
We have two legs for a reason…
Suited for: Any level of fitness. Those looking to lose fat.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good run or jog. However, repeating the same 30 minutes at a jogging pace every day will only do so much. Our bodies are incredibly smart and adaptive and in order to achieve great results we need to keep it guessing. You can do this several ways: changing the time you’re on the treadmill, the speed, the incline, and incorporating HIIT principles. Try warming up then sprinting for 30-40 seconds, followed by 15-20 seconds of jogging, and repeating this 7-10 times. You’re sure to work up a sweat! Changing it up can also mean incorporating different machines (some people with bad joints prefer cycling or elliptical machines) and if weather permits, nothing beats a nice run outdoors. Just like the great Bruce Springsteen says: “Baby we were born to run.”
So there you have it, there are so many options out there to find your perfect fit. Try new things and always be safe and follow correct form in all exercises. Ask a professional or do your own research. Remember to set your goals, write your plan, and whether you’re alone or with friends, don’t forget to give your all. In those moments when you feel like giving up or cutting a workout short, visualize your goals and push yourself one step closer to the healthy body and lifestyle you want.
“In those moments when you feel like giving up or cutting a workout short, visualize your goals and push yourself one step closer to the healthy body and lifestyle you want”
January 2019 Health and Lifestyle