Sunday, November 4, 2012

So, Are you Fit or Active?

So are you Fit or Active?
Do you train or exercise?
Do you know the difference?

Many people fool themselves that “being active” is exercise.  Playing baseball, going for long walks or curling in the winter are all physical activity - unfortunately this sort of exercise does not make you fit.  Most people involved in active sports have trouble doing 10 regular pushups, can’t do one pull-up or even touch their toes.

One of the tests that I do when performing a fitness assessment for a client is push-ups.  Generally (depending on age) males should be able to do at least 15 push-ups while females should be able to do 10.  And that’s not on your knees either.

To become “fit” and maintain a level of fitness you must have a consistent exercise program.   True fitness is when your body can do whatever you ask it.  This involves strength, endurance and flexibility.

One of the main focuses of my fitness bootcamp classes is to simulate all of the functional demands of life.  Participants are adequately challenged to work the body focusing on multi-muscle group exercises.

I see many parents just contempt in sitting and watching their children play at the playground or hockey rink.  There is no better time to either join in or sneak away to do a simple bodyweight routine.  There are endless possibilities to do a quick 20 minute work-out at the skateboard park.   Your body was meant to move so just don’t sit there.  “Use it or Lose It” is my motto that I regularly preach.

One of the most common errors I see regularly is someone focusing too much on one type of exercise.    With women it’s usually the endless time spent running.  For men it’s the hour after hour doing the same weight-training routine.

Ladies, if you want the hourglass figure forget the long distance running.  Unless you are properly training, expect to be either a toothpick or stuck with that overweight figure with added knee/joint problems.  Focus on High Intensity Interval Training.  Emphasize circuit training.  These are areas I touch on with my fitness bootcamps. 

A properly run fitness class is a great way to get the best out of your time spent exercising.  Not only do you work-out in less time but you get better results than other programs.  Although the majority of my clientele are woman - personally, I think most men are “scared” of being outdone by a woman…. most men and women that participate see the benefits attained from some of the athlete specific drills  (reaction time, speed,  coordination, etc).  If you are involved in sports this is a great way to complement your training.

For those whom exercise regularly you should see progression.  Be it fat loss, strength gains, etc.  the main variable to focus on is intensity.  This, along with the frequency of your workouts, time involvement and type are the most important to ensure “fit” success.

I can’t stress the importance of intensity enough.  If you can chew gum and not be out of breath then you are NOT working hard enough.  Unless you are just starting out or have an injury working out with 5 or 10 lb weights won’t cut it.  You must fatigue the body. Push it - BUT – know your limits1  Models in the magazines do not get their physique doing exercises with 5 lb dumbbells!  These models are hired for their looks.  You can’t get their figure without pushing yourself.

Here’s another problem I see regularly…Someone who jumps off the treadmill and then spends all of his/her time doing Bicep Curls and Tricep Kickbacks.  Come On!  You have to focus on major multi-muscle group exercises.  Plus, the key to effective training results include; Intensity, proper Mechanics and Movement speed.

And ladies, stop spending all your time on the abductor/adductor machine.  Save the isolated exercises when you are fit and need a change. Focus on  Squats, Lunges, Deadlifts if you are doing legs. 

As I explained earlier, to become “fit” you must have a consistent exercise program.   But are you exercising or training?  Do you know the difference?  Exercising is physical movement.  Using the body but not necessarily being focused.  A lot of people do cardio this way.  “Going through the motions.”  Not much more than being “active”.

Training on the other hand is goal-oriented.  It’s a consistent exercise program that requires a purpose - which creates results.  For cardio, try an Aerobics class or High Intensity Interval training.

Here is an ideal training plan for someone who is either just starting out, or works out regularly;

1)  Cardio/Aerobic exercise – twice a week    
      (30 minutes of HIIT)
2)  Circuit Training / Fitness Boot Camp 
      – twice a week 
      (1 hour of Cardio, Resistance Training,  
      Core & Flexibility).
3)  Weight Training/Resistance Training 
      (1 hour) (once/twice a week)
4)  Sports / Family fun activity  
      (one day a week)
5)  Day of Rest (one day of the week)

Think it’s excessive?  

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the global leader in sports medicine and exercise science.  Here is their recommendations;

The ACSM recommends that most adults engage in moderate-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise for more than 30 minutes for 5 days per week or more (over 150 minutes/week) AND vigorous intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for more than 20 minutes 3 days a week (over 75 minutes per week).  IN ADDITION adults should perform resistance exercises for each of the major muscle groups two or three times a week, along with neuromotor exercises involving balance, agility and coordination.  Finally ,including flexibility exercises is crucial for joint range of motion. *1

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that being “active” or a “weekend warrior” is enough. If you want to control your weight, improve your physical image and self esteem – along with your overall health, you must develop an intelligent exercise program (like above) and focus on smart nutritional choices.    

So are you fit?  Or just active? 


*1-ACSM wesbsite “ Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise” 2012-10-27

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