Help! I Need A Fitness Program!
An effective health and fitness program can go a long way in keeping us productive in our daily lives.
Exercise improves circulation and relieves stress which allows us to think and function better.
This is the reason why successful people such as Sir Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and US President Barack Obama always find time for physical activity every day.
But a one-size-fits-all exercise program does not exist. We all have individual needs and capacities.
Therefore, your health and fitness program must be customised to meet your specific goals and objectives.
Here are 7 keys to designing an effective health and fitness program:
Identify Your Purpose
If you want to succeed in everything that you do, you must have purpose.
Purpose gives you direction and the vision to attain your goals and objectives. Identifying your purpose starts with the question “Why?”
Why do you want to get into a health and fitness program?
Was there a recent incident that made you consider a change in lifestyle? Do you have plans of joining a competition?
Are you starting to feel the ravages of a sedentary lifestyle?
Identifying your purpose will chart the course for your health and fitness journey.
Your purpose will be the reference point for all the components that will go into designing an effective health and fitness program.
Commit To A Schedule
The number one reason people cannot stick to an exercise program is lack of time.
There are only 24 hours in a day, 16 to 18 of which account for our waking hours. We have to allocate time for school, work, family and errands.
Ideally, a health and fitness program should cover 150 minutes of activity every week.
Check your schedule and assess how many days in a week you can dedicate for exercise. You should be able to set aside one day during the weekend which means at least 2 days during the week.
Next, identify the best time of the day for you to exercise. For most working people it would be first thing in the morning.
Students usually have more time to exercise after school, TAFE or University.
Follow A Balanced Program
These are the 5 pillars of an effective health and fitness program:
Regardless of your purpose, your exercise program must have features that improve performance on each and every one of these pillars.
A sample program would be:
Workout Schedule: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
Conditioning: Interval Training on Elliptical Machine
Warm Up: 5 minutes at 100-120 rpm
10 Intervals: 30 seconds at 185 to 200 rpm plus one minute at 80 to 100 rpm
Warm Down: 5 minutes at 50 to 80 rpm
Endurance: 30 minute walk on treadmill at 5kph
Flexibility: Stretching every end of workout
As a reminder, always get medically cleared by your doctor before starting any exercise program.
Exercise at Your Own Pace
Improving one’s health and fitness takes time and consistency.
You have to be patient with your progress. It is always better to start a program on the safe side by doing less.
For example, when starting a weight training program use a weight that you can lift comfortably for 10 repetitions while maintaining good form.
If you can do three sets of 10 repetitions, try to do 12 repetitions with the same weight for the next session. If you can do three sets of 12, it would be time to increase the weight.
The same slow and steady approach should be applied to the other exercises as well.
If you want to improve your endurance, you may wish to start out with a comfortable 2 km run first then work to improve your time every week.
When the 2 km run becomes easy, then do a 3 km run and repeat the process.
Power Up With Healthy Food
The energy you get for workouts comes from calories. But not all calories are created equal.
Carbohydrates and protein carry 4 calories per gram while fat has 8 calories per gram.
Those that come from junk food like pizza are harder to burn because these are mostly derived from fat.
Always go for healthy food choices to power your workouts.
Here is an effective meal eating plan to support your health and fitness program:
Breakfast: 100 grams sweet potatoes, omelet made with 2 whites plus 1 yolk and tomatoes
Lunch: ¼ roasted chicken, mixed vegetables and 1 cup wild rice.
Pre-Workout: ½ cup cottage cheese and 1 small apple
Post-Workout: 2 ripe bananas, 1 can tuna
Dinner: 170 grams fish (wild caught), mixed vegetables, 1 cup quinoa, 1 orange
Before Bedtime: 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
On non-training days, just remove the pre and post workout meals.
Get Enough Rest
Too much exercise can be as bad as not getting enough exercise.
It’s normal to want to do more especially if you are seeing good results from your program.
But your body needs time to rest and recover from the rigors of physical activity. This is especially true for beginners.
When you exercise you are tearing down muscle fibers. Rest allows your body to rebuild muscle fibers into stronger ones.
Rest also allows your Central Nervous System (CNS) to recover. If your workouts are too frequent or intense, it places a great deal of pressure on your CNS.
This can affect how your different physiological systems function.
Eventually your immune system can be compromised and you may get sick more often.
Rest each body part at least 72 hours or 3 days before training them again.
If you like to run, space your sessions every 2 to 3 days and do road work only once a week.
Record Your Workouts
There are many advantages to writing down your workouts:
• Takes away the guess work when you’re in the gym.
• Helps you focus on your targets.
• Keeps you honest to your schedule.
• Tracks down performance.
• Good source of inspiration
It’s better to write it down on a small notebook than in your smart phone.
Pen and paper creates a more powerful connection between mind and body than anything that is technology- based.
Undertaking a health and fitness program is not just about becoming healthy and fit.
It has far reaching benefits that extend beyond achieving physical goals.
When we take care of ourselves we improve not just our health but all the important aspects of life: work, studies and relationships with family and friends.