As I mentioned in the article Eat This Way, there is not a “one size fits all” way to eat, and it is the same for exercise, there is not just one way of doing things.
When it comes to exercise you more or less want to try and stay in an optimal range that maximizes your performance and minimizes any damage to your health. Contrary to popular belief, exercising too much can be very destructive to your health. Over-exercise can decrease your performance, cause injuries, and weaken your immune system enough to cause sickness.
First you need to start with your goals. What are they? A person trying to “get in shape” or lose weight has very different goals from someone training to run a marathon or become a world class weightlifter.
Once you have your goal in mind you can start working toward it. I can’t tell you exactly what you need to do without knowing your exact situation, but here are some general guidelines to think about as you begin any type of regular exercise program.
- Leave Some Gas In The Tank – This simply means you don’t need to run yourself to zero every single workout. While some people will struggle with not working out hard enough, the more damaging problem is working out too hard. You spend all that type in the gym or pounding the pavement and you get zero results. Worse still you could see negative results by working out too hard. You could injure your shoulder weightlifting or your foot by running too much and/or too hard. ALL training should be “progressive”, meaning that you start where you are at, and SLOWLY work up to where you want to be.
- Go Slow – The main reason to go slow is for injury prevention. The fastest way to NOT reach your goals is to go fast and get injured. Any injury can set you back months and even years in reaching your goals. Injuries stop some of the best athletes from reaching the big leagues. Going slow has other advantages too though. Going slow when running helps you to build up your total mileage. Going slow in weight lifting helps you to learn how to fire all your muscles. Going slow in any sport helps you to master the technical expertise you need to perform at your best.
- Fuel Properly – What you eat definitely affects your performance. If you are trying to lose weight by working out, but eat too much, you won’t lose anything. On the flip side, if you work out really hard and eat like a mouse you will feel weak and pretty crabby most of the time. There is a balance. The most general guideline I can give you is to eat more protein to help rebuild your body after it is broken down, and eat more fiber (vegetables) so you feel full and won’t eat as many calories.
- Get a Coach/Partner – This whole exercise thing becomes so much easier when you have someone there for support. A running buddy or a friend who can spot you in your lifts is worth a lot to have. Likewise, having a coach who is knowledgeable enough to help you reach your goals is priceless.
- Know That Some Days Are Better Than Others – Sometimes we have great days where we beat all of our own personal records, and some days we wonder what is going on with our bodies. That is just the way it is, and all the greatest minds in exercise and nutritional science have yet to figure it out. The body is a complex thing so learn to go easy on yourself when you don’t perform at your best.
- Make It Easy On Yourself – No one is going to convince me that it is easy to go work a full day at work, go straight to the gym for an hour workout, and then try and come home and attend to everything you need to do at home. Sooner or later you are going to burn out. I suggest that you find a way to shorten your exercise sessions and still get the same results. Think about having a few weights at home or try using DVDs (kettlebell, P90x, Yoga, etc.) to reach your fitness goals. Not having a gym membership is a poor excuse for not reaching your fitness goals.
- Have Fun – Many people choose a workout routine and hate every minute of it. I simply don’t understand those people. I know that I like certain workouts and hate others. Guess what? I do the ones I like and avoid the rest. I may love deadlifting and hate running, but you may feel the exact opposite way. With so many ways to stay physically active no one can tell you which one to do. Do what is fun and do what you like to do best.
Remember that these are general guidelines, but they will work for just about an exercise program out there. At the end of the day remember to stay safe, work slowly toward your goals, eat great food, find an awesome workout partner or two, and have a lot of fun!
This is our 10th challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…