Let's face it: working out is hard. Not all of us love it. Some of us plain hate it. Some are vain enough we'll do it. Some are smart enough to know we'd better do it. Some, as in the Nike commercial, just do it. BUT, most of us would rather do something else if we had a choice. I have always loved the way exercise makes me feel afterwards. I have loved the fact that I can eat a little more or have a treat occasionally. I have loved the results. I have loved the compliments. The process itself though, not so much. At least, not all the time.
So what can you do to make sure that for all the effort you are putting into looking and feeling your best you will actually see results? And how can you make sure that looking better is not just about pure esthetics, but also comes with feeling better and being healthier?
Here are a few things I consider the most important. Some may actually surprise you.
1. Stop aimless fitness. Have a plan. Be consistent and disciplined. Be clear about your motivation. Know why you are engaging in a particular exercise. Learn about proper form, technique and intensity. Ask a qualified trainer or instructor what the appropriate exercise options for your age and physical condition are and then follow the plan. Don't just do "whatever" because you've heard that a little exercise is good for you. Yes, you CAN get a little healthier just by adding extra physical activity into your life, but don't expect major results from "cruising" on the treadmill for 20 minutes 3 times/week. Getting fitter and leaner is work.... hard work. And you'd better not have any illusions about that.
2. Strength train. It has been said again and again but a lot of people still don't get it: cardio is NOT enough. You have to include proper strength training exercises, and challenge your muscles on a regular basis, to prevent muscle atrophy (after age 25 we lose between 0.5 and 1% of our muscle mass per year - that's 10% in a decade - and double that after age 60!) and a resultant slowing of the metabolic rate. Only the combination of strength training AND aerobic exercise can give you lastingweight loss and a tonedbody.
3. Stop overdoing cardio. Many people think that more is better. Hours and hours of cardiovascular exercise are NOT helpful when you're trying to lose weight. Not only do you increase your chances of overtraining, but you are actually burning precious muscle. Long hours of aerobic training put your body in a catabolic state eating away your muscle tissue instead of building it, which occurs only in an anabolic state. (Endurance athletes are NOT the healthiest examples - they are all catabolic.) The result: less muscle and slower metabolism. The solution: short high intensity interval training (HHIT). One of the biggest benefits of this mode of training is the fact that your body will release Human Growth Hormoneas a response to this kind of training, which stimulates muscle growth and increases fat loss. In addition, you won't have to spend as much time in the gym. HHIT should not be done for much longer than 30 minutes, and usually 20-25 is more than enough. Make sure that you work up to this kind of training if you are sedentary and always get your doctor's clearance prior to engaging in any high intensity exercise if you are older, on medications, or have any medical conditions. Even older people can do it, but it has to be done gradually. (Interval training is now being used even for cardiac patients in cardiac rehabilitation programs under physician supervision and has been found to be very effective in training the heart muscle). The so called post-exercise oxygen consumption (PEOC) is also higher afterwards than after moderate intensity exercise. This basically means your metabolism is elevated for a few hours after the workout, and you're burning more calories. There are different ways to do interval training but in a 25 minute session a good plan would be: a 5 minute warm-up, a 30 sec. high intensity interval followed by a 90 sec. rest period (lower intensity), repeated 8 times, and then a 4 minute cool-down. For those who are afraid of not challenging their cardiovascular system enough (because of a shorter length of the workout), I assure you that your heart and muscles will get a much better workout and bigger challenge than if you pedaled on a bike aimlessly for 60 minutes watching TV and trying to read at the same time, as many people do.
4. Take time to plan your post workout meal and try to eat it within 30 (and maximum 60) minutes afterwards. What you eat after your exercise session will affect what results you get. Your muscles are the most receptive to nutrients within that time window, and they need both carbohydratesand proteinto replenish glycogen and stimulate muscle tissue synthesis and recovery respectively. I advocate natural foods whenever possible, but if the time elapsed between the end of your workout and your next meal is more than an hour, have a well balanced protein shake with some high-glycemic carbohydrate in it and a little healthy fat. This is one time during the day when you want the food to reach the muscles as fast as possible so having a liquid option is not a bad idea. (The subject of post-workout protein shakes versus regular meals is beyond the scope of this article. It is a somewhat controversial issue and many aspects need to be considered to weigh the pluses and minuses of both approaches.)
5. Eat small but regular meals and snacks consisting of REAL foods: whole, unprocessed, and without additives in it. Eat GOOD food. Enjoy it. Relish it. It should nourish you and make you happy. The quality of food you put in your body is an often neglected aspect of diet. Food is not just calories; it contains specific nutrients that are destroyed to a big degree when foods are processed and their form changed. Synthetic vitamins, additives, preservatives and other chemicals are often not only treated by the body as foreign substances, but also put a tremendous burden on our organs and cells. The more natural and nutritious the food, the more your body will be able to extract from it much needed nutrients, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other beneficial substances.
6. Get AT LEAST 8 hours of good quality sleep at night. Sleep deprivation causes not only fatigue and suppresses the immune system, but has been shown to be a huge contributor to weight gain. Changes in sleep patterns affect two important hormones in your body: leptinand ghrelin.Leptin is responsible for sending signals to the brain that you're full while ghrelin is supposed to inform your brain that you're hungry. With lack of sufficient sleep the levels of leptin decrease while the levels of ghrelin increase. You brain will be telling you that you're hungry even though your body may not be and it will fail to tell you that you're full so you'll keep on eating. The final result: more calories than your body needs. Another important aspect of sufficient sleep is muscle recovery. If your muscles have no chance to recover properly, your muscle tissue will break down, putting you in a catabolic state. You will also not have the necessary energy to push yourself enough in your workouts to induce any significant training effect. Lack of sleep can also increaseinsulin and cortisol levels in your body. High levels of these hormones promote fat storage, especially in the abdominal area.
7. WATER, WATER, WATER. I can't say it enough. It is one of the simplest yet most important things you can do for your health AND your weight at the same time. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces and more if you exercise, live in a hot climate or at higher elevations. Choose the purest, highest quality water you can find with a ph of at least 7.0. Hydration(except for breathing) is your body's highest priority. It will give you energy. It will speed up your metabolism. It will help you flush metabolic waste products from your body. It will help you detoxify. It will deliver nutrients to your muscles and cells. It will keep your joints and discs hydrated and make your body function optimally. Translation: weight loss.
8. MOVE, MOVE, MOVE as much as you can: anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Human beings were designed to move. It is only the last few hundred years and the development of technology that have made movement almost obsolete. In Paleolithic times we used to move all day as a way of living, just going about our daily activities and attending to various chores. Then, for short periods, we hunted and ran from danger (short high intensity intervals). Life, as it is now, requires very little exercise and our bodies are paying the price. Being active in some manner and moving all day burns a lot more calories than doing a "long" 1 ½ hour workout in the gym and then sitting at the desk, in the car, in the movies and at the table for the rest of the day.
9. Control stress. Have some QUIET time every day. Make time for relaxation. Rest. Quiet time is almost a foreign idea nowadays. We cannot "survive" for 5 minutes without being connected to the rest of the world in some way. The truth is: the world will survive, move on and do just fine without us. And WE won't miss that much either. Most people don't know how to be by themselves and without external stimulants for more than a few minutes, if that. You need time to be quiet, time to be alone, and time to give yourself, and your mind, a chance to rest. Rest recharges your body AND your mind. Quiet time brings you peace, decreases stress and calms down your soul. Your stress hormone cortisolhas a "wonderful" ability to make you pack on access pounds if you keep it elevated from high levels of stress and a clattered mind. You will also find that when your stress is under control, your life AND your weight will be under control as well. Make quiet your weight loss friend. Face it. Don't run away from it.
10. Decide to be happy. Happiness is one of the biggest clues to being healthy and slim. It doesn't just happen by itself. It requires constant work and a certain state of mind. Emotional issues are one of the biggest contributors to weight gain. Find out what your goals and needs in life are and work to fulfill them. Without them you're walking through life aimlessly. Most importantly, know what your purpose is.If you don't have a purpose you will never be happy. Purpose makes it clear for you why you're here. Knowing this will bring you peace of mind and happiness. Only then can you achieve anything you set yourself to do, including getting AND STAYING fit, slim, lean and healthy.
WORK HARD. PLAY HARD. ENJOY LIFE. HAVE FUN. EAT WELL. REST. VALUE YOURSELF. KNOW WHO YOU REALLY ARE AND WHY YOU'RE HERE. LEARN TO BE HAPPY. HAVE A PURPOSE.
Monika Tarkowska-Carter has nineteen years of experience as a personal trainer/nutritional counselor working with clients of all ages and needs. She holds the following professional Certifications: * American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) - Personal Trainer
* National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) - Personal Trainer
* National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) - Personal Trainer
* American Council on Exercise (ACE) - Personal Trainer
* American Council on Exercise (ACE) - Lifestyle and Weight Management Coach
* UCLA Extension Certificate in Fitness Instruction
* C.H.E.K. Institute - Holistic Lifestyle Coach, Level 2
To learn more about Monika or to hire her as a personal trainer, nutrition counselor or holistic lifestyle coach, visit her website at http://www.Fitness-Science.net