So, what brings you to WilPower Fitness? ” That’s the first question I ask when meeting with a new client. Most often the answer is something like, “I’d like to look better or I’d like a firmer body.” Whether it’s becoming leaner or toning up, most clients pursue an exercise program with a primary goal of esthetic change. While esthetic changes can be motivating, I believe it’s truly a mistake to make them the primary or even secondary goals of your fitness program.
In my opinion, the primary goal of any exercise program should be efficient movement. When your body moves with greater ease, it becomes more fun to move. The more fun you have moving, the more likely you are to move. The more you move, naturally the more calories you burn, and the more calories you burn, the more esthetically pleasing your shape becomes. Of course the reverse holds true as well. If movement is restricted and painful, the likelihood of movement decreases along with health, vitality and appearance. So your goal should be to be active, resulting in greater vitality, having more fun and living a longer productive life.
So how do you create a body that will help you live out your years with grace, vitality and fun? You do so by exploring and regularly participating in the varied forms of movement that you enjoy the most. Whether it’s dance, yoga, walking, swimming, stretching, balance, lifting weights, T’ai chi, or combinations of these and other forms of movement, you must engage in these activities most (four or more) days of the week at low, moderate and even high intensities when ready.
Planes of Motion
I have previously mentioned planes of motion in my newsletter before. If your ultimate goal is to move better through space, then your training program must include various types of movement to get your body moving in different ways. Movement happens in three different “planes of motion” – forward and back (sagital plane), side to side (frontal plane), and rotation (transverse plane). We move our bodies in multiple planes of motion at the same time (e.g. getting into and out of the car, lifting a carry-on bag into the overhead bin, bending over to pick up a child). To perform these basic movements and more advanced movements without pain, your training program must include the goal of being able to control your body as it moves in multiple planes of motion.
Strength training is a vital component of physical activity that your body needs for
optimal health. Its purpose is to build and maintain bone and muscle mass, both of which diminish with age as a result of changes in hormone levels and metabolism. Loss of bone mineral density leads to osteopenia, and then to osteoporosis, which predisposes to fractures and disability in later life. To avoid those problems, you need to build up sufficient bone mass early in life, especially in adolescence and young adulthood. (Maximum bone mass is reached around age 35.) You then have to lead a lifestyle that maintains, rather than lessens, bone loss. This is especially important for females, because declining levels of sex hormones after menopause put them at risk much earlier in life than men.
To build bone mass when young you should:
* Eat right (plenty of green vegetables, sources of calcium, and vitamin D)
* Get adequate physical activity, including weight-bearing activities
* Avoid behaviors that promote loss of bone density, such as smoking, drinking a lot of soda, and using alcohol heavily
Bottom Line: to preserve bone mass in midlife and old age, you must give your body strength training. Bone is constantly being reformed by the action of opposing forces, some destructive, some constructive, in response to the stresses and demands placed on it. Resistance exercise places demands on bone that cause the constructive influences to dominate, halting loss of mineral density and even adding to it.
All of us do some of resistance work as part of a daily routine – lifting, pulling, or pushing something heavy are common example. Some aerobic activities – like walking and climbing stairs – build strength, but many do not. In swimming the force of gravity is neutralized by the buoyancy of water, and in cycling, whether on a regular bike or a stationary one, the bicycle frame carries most of your weight. The best way to maintain bone density is by doing weight training, either with resistance machines or free weights. This will also build and maintain muscle mass, equally important as you age. In addition to protecting and stabilizing joints and giving you the strength you need to enjoy life, good muscle mass optimizes metabolism and protects from obesity and its complications. The reason is that muscle, unlike fat, is a metabolic furnace. The more muscle you have, the more calories you can burn and the less likely you are to develop insulin resistance.
As discussed with many of my WilPower Fitness Clients, you can start strength training and get benefit from it at any age. It can even improve the physical and mental well-being of older people in assisted living facilities. It is also most important to use resistance equipment correctly, both to minimize risks of injury and maximize benefits. At WilPower Fitness we use Free Motion Dual Cable Cross Over Machine, Gravity Training System (GTS), stretch bands, and free weights to work all the major muscle groups. In general, you will want to do strength training two to three days a week, allowing recovery days in between the sessions. Doing it more frequently can be counterproductive. You should be able to learn a routine, whether with machines, free weights, or tubing, that you can complete in half an hour.
Doctor Andrew Weil’s Fitness Training Recommendations:
Start slow. If you’ve never engaged in a regular exercise program, or have taken more than three months off from regular exercise, start your program gently to avoid injury. Begin with 2-3 days per week of moderate intensity exercise for 20-40 minutes. Every two weeks add in one more day of exercise as well as adding 10 or more minutes to each day of exercise until your routine consists of 5-6 days of 30-60 minutes.
Mix it up by exercising outdoors. The same paths present new challenges and new scenery with each change of the seasons. Depending on climate and time of year, your options vary. In warmer times of year, walking, hiking, swimming, cycling, jogging and even rowing are great ways to improve cardiovascular health.
Set some short and long-term goals. Start by vowing to exercise on a regular basis. For example, set a goal of exercising twice a week for two weeks. Then go to three times per week and build from there.
Try exercising first thing in the morning. While the idea of getting up earlier may seem impossible, the statistics on exercise adherence clearly demonstrate that those who exercise early in the day are more successful in both the short and long term than those who wait until later in the day to work out.
Find an exercise partner. Having a partner is a great way to get and stay motivated. Inevitably there will be days that you won’t want to exercise, but having a partner call you to make sure you’re on your way out the door can help keep you going.
Best of Health