By Tom Wilson, Fitness Coach
INTENSITY: HOW HARD DO I NEED TO WORKOUT?
You need to workout hard enough that you push your body just beyond its normal limits, yet not so hard that you end up burned out or injured. The best way to track the intensity of your workouts is to track your heart rate. Use the following equation to calculate your training heart rate zone:
220 - (your age) x .7 to.75. For example, if you're 40, you would calculate your target heart rate zone as follows:
180 x .7= 126
180 x .75= 135
Therefore, when you train, you want to keep your heart rate between 126 and 135 beats per minute for the majority of your workout. You may find that your muscles will get too tired to keep your heart rate at that level. If you can't maintain that level, work to keep it there as long as you can, then slow down to what you can handle. The next workout, try to keep it within your target training zone for a little longer, then slow down to what you can handle. Keep this format going until you're able to sustain your heart rate in the proper training zone for the entire workout. Stay with it and you'll be amazed at how quickly your body will adapt and respond.
MONITORING YOUR HEART RATE
This can be done manually or with a heart rate monitor. I strongly suggest the heart rate monitor as it will free your hands for exercises we'll add later. There are many different heart rate monitors available with hundreds of different functions, but you really only need to be able to see where your heart rate is. My recommendation is to get the least expensive model offered unless you want to track your progress by downloading each workout's info into your computer. This is a good source of motivation, but not necessary. We're not training for the Olympics so we need to keep things simple.
If you prefer to take your pulse manually, place your index and middle finger directly under your jawbone and inline with your ear. Apply light pressure as you don't want to cut off circulation. Count how many times your heart beats for six seconds, starting with zero on the first beat. Take the total number of beats and place a zero behind the number to get your heart rate. For example, if I counted nine beats, my heart rate is 90. If you count 13, your heart rate is 130. Check your pulse frequently throughout each workout to make sure you're staying within your target heart rate zone.
FREQUENCY: HOW OFTEN SHOULD I EXERCISE?
This will depend on what kind of shape you're in. If you've been inactive for a few months to a few years, begin working out two to three times per week, allowing for a least one day's rest between workouts. If you attempt too much too soon it will lead to above normal soreness, fatigue, injuries or possibly all of these conditions.
Work at your own level, starting slowly, and gradually increase the duration and level of difficulty as your body progresses. Once your body has adapted to the routine, work your way up to four to five workouts per week, depending on the intensity of the workouts. You'll know when you're ready to add more work by simply paying attention to the feedback your body gives you. Basically, once the soreness subsides or diminishes, you're ready for additional exercise time.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY'S FEEDBACK
I'm amazed at how many people ignore the feedback from the most sophisticated and complex organism on the planet - the human body. God's design of the human body is absolutely mind boggling. It's designed with built-in protection mechanisms from head to toe so listen to what it tells you before your train, as you train and after you train. If you're feeling pain, you're body is telling you something, so slow down or reduce the intensity. If you're feeling light headed, you're body is telling you something. This doesn't mean stop. Simply slow down and see if your body responds by removing the warning signal. Over time, you'll learn your limits. Then you'll know just how hard to push yourself, by combining the heart rate monitoring with the body's feedback.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DISCOMFORT AND PAIN
Coaches are always telling their athletes they need to know the difference between pain and injury. The difference to them is that you can play with pain but an injury should be rested. The reality is that pain is the body's feedback from an injury. For your training purposes, what you really need to know is the difference between discomfort and pain. Many times during a workout you may feel uncomfortable or tired, but that's something you need to learn to push through. By going beyond discomfort or fatigue, you're pushing yourself past your normal limits and forcing your body to respond. It responds by getting in better shape to handle the work you're putting it through.
DURATION: HOW LONG SHOULD MY WORKOUTS LAST?
As a general rule, if you're workouts last longer than an hour, you're not training with enough intensity. 60 minutes is enough time for your warm-up, cardio, strength training (including core work) and flexibility. If you're unable to get all this done in an hour, reduce the rest time between each exercise and cut out exercises of less importance. For example, you could spend an entire hour just stretching, but there are only a few stretches that you really need to do. Spend the majority of time in the area that best suits your goal for training.
If you want to lose weight, spend more time on cardio training. If you want to tone up, spend the majority of your time working with weights. Cross-training workouts generally give the best overall results. This means combine all the components. For example, perform a circuit where you do an exercise for strength, followed by an abdominal exercise followed by a two minute burst of cardio. If you take minimal rest between each component, your heart rate will stay elevated for the entire workout.
Be patient, then, brothers, until
the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable
crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains.
James 5:7 (NIV)
There is always a period of time between sowing and reaping that requires patience. Expecting immediate results is one of the main reasons so many people start and stop exercise routines. Remember, getting fit does not happen overnight. It's a lifestyle commitment. Don't expect immediate dramatic changes in your body shape or weight loss. Although changes are happening internally, most external benefits won't become visible for the first four to six weeks.
The easiest way to explain how the body works is to compare the process to a game of chess. Every time you make a move, such as changing your exercise habits or eating better, your body will study the change for awhile before it makes a counter move. It's trying to figure out what you're doing and how to adapt accordingly!
If you increase the intensity of your workouts, your body will figure out that it needs to supply more cardiovascular and muscular endurance to help you perform the activity. If you're not drinking enough water, your body will hold on to what it has rather than use it for all the chemical reactions that are occurring every second. If you don't eat, your body will slow down its metabolism to conserve the food it has to survive on. So not eating is one of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to lose weight. You're working against the way the body is designed. The point is, for every move you make, both positive and negative, the body will make a counter move; it just takes time. The body's reactions aren't as impulsive as our emotional reactions!
Stay focused on your new lifestyle choices and look forward to the harvest of all the positive benefits proper exercise and nutrition bring. In the meantime, celebrate the internal benefits you're experiencing such as increased energy, less stress and anxiety, higher self-esteem, and an increased feeling of well-being.
There are three main factors that contribute to the success of your quest for health:
Rest isn't just the amount of sleep you get at night, although that's important. It's also about the amount of rest you give your body between workouts. Everyone is different, so everyone's rest time will vary. The intensity of your exercise routine will also determine how much time you need to recover between workouts. The more intense the workout is, the more you overload the system and the more rest your body will require.
Walking is a moderate workout so you should be able to walk everyday. Weight training, on the other hand, breaks down the muscle tissues and generally requires 48 hours of rest between workouts. You can train with weights everyday, just not the same muscle groups. The process to training beyond your body's ability to recover is called over-training. Over-training is another example of working against the way God designed our bodies to work rather than with it. The most common signs of overtraining include chronic fatigue and soreness, insomnia, headaches and moodiness. But, with proper rest and nutrition, your body will recover from the workouts and respond by providing you with all the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.