It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, which is both good and bad. It’s good because it means that generally, work/life has been busy and generally rewarding! But it’s bad, because, well, I miss it. So here we are, all of a sudden in January, a new year is upon us! How crazy is that.
With January always comes the sometimes abrupt and shocking return to routine after the holidays. Even if you don’t participate much in holiday life the over indulgence, friend and family gatherings, kids out of school and general over stimulation is hard to ignore completely. This can lead to crawling our way into January wondering where the extra 5lbs and sleep deprivation came from and why we didn’t notice it creeping up on us earlier. But it also gives us the perfect opportuity to implement realistic resolutions to kick start our new year. So why not give that exercise routine a shake up and get yourself into a grove that will last all year.
Here are four critical tips when figuring out a good exercise routine for yourself. (And this applies to beginners and advanced fitness gurus alike.)
1. Mix it up!
Most of us think of cardio workouts as the “go to” exercise, and yes, it’s a good place to start, but it is not the ONLY thing you should be doing each week. There are 4 areas of exercise: (1) aerobic (cardio), (2) anaerobic (strength training), (3) flexibility (increasing range of motion), and (4) stability (balance and core), and EVERYONE should be doing at least one thing in each category…every week.
Why you ask? Many reasons. First, if you all you do is run or bike or practice yoga, then inevitably you will end up with injuries, and there will be aspects of your health that you are completely ignoring. To keep things simplified (because lets face it, most of us don’t have a ton of time to devote to this), there are many activities that will cover more than one area of exercise.
For example: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Plus it activates your core muscles as well. Here’s one of my favorite beginner guides to HIIT (http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2013/06/21/interval-training.aspx)
Yoga and Pilates can also be workouts that cover a wide range. Some yoga classes will offer a workout in all 4 areas (increased heart rate over a long duration; strength training of certain muscle groups; encouraging a wider range of motion; and a core workout). If you’re unsure what your exercise class is doing for you, just ask your teacher. And if they don’t know? Well… they should. Tell them to go find out and get back to you.
You can also call me and we can figure out the best type of routine for you!
2. Build rest to your routine
With 4 different types of exercise to cover, and endless choices within each type, it probably feels like you could spend your whole life exercising and you might just cover the basis, right? Well, the next key is to make sure you’re scheduling in rest as well. What??? Rest??? Crazy right? But, the fact of the matter is, if you workout the same muscle groups and in the same way every day, you won’t allow your muscles to repair themselves, and in turn, this will lead to injuries, or in some cases, a weaker body than what you started with. Rest doesn't mean just go and be lazy and sedentary all day... Rest, in this case, refers to giving muscle groups a chance to recover from a workout. However, the best way to rest is usually a mild activity: restorative yoga, walking, neighborhood bike ride, etc.
Now, the type of workout really dictates the amount of rest (i.e. time off for a muscle group). But the general rule of thumb is the more intense the workout, the longer the rest needs to be. Take the HIIT I referenced above. It’s a major workout, and if you tried to do that everyday you’d run into serious trouble. It’s recommended that you take at least 2 days of rest in between each HIIT. And that goes for strength training as well. And in between those intensive workouts is a great time to get in some work on your core and flexibility. Or just take a walk to let your muscles work, but not so strenuously.
3. Get enough protein
Here’s a rule that most people either don’t know, or generally forget about. To skimp on protein is to deprive your body of the building blocks it requires for building and maintaining strong and healthy muscles. The CDC currently recommends that we eat approximately 0.8g/kg/day of protein. This works out to 45-60g per day. Now, here’s why I think, for many of us, this number is too low. When the CDC is making these recommendations, they are thinking of the 'average' American who, frankly, is eating a terrible diet. Processed foods, meat from CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Opperation), fast food, huge amounts of sugar, and a sad amount of fresh veggies; all of which lead to an overconsumption of calories, period. So for these individuals… then yes, 45-60g is fine, along with a reduction in pretty much everything else (except veggies!).
However, if you’re exercising regularly, then research shows us that this may not be enough protein. One key is to find good sources of protein to consume: beans, lentils, sustainable seafood, range meat, eggs, yogurt & cheese (from range cattle), nuts & seeds. There is research that recommends your intake to be closer to 1.4 to 2.0 g/kg/day. If you’re an endurance athlete (running, biking, hiking), then focus on the lower end of this range; if you’re main focus is strength and power training, focus on the top end; and for intermittent (i.e. soccer, basketball, HIIT), you should sit somewhere in the middle. Here’s a great journal article for reference: http://www.jissn.com/content/4/1/8
What does this look like?
170 lb individual doing intermittent exercise: 170lb = 77kg x 1.7g/kg = 131g/day
130 lb individual doing endurance training: 130lb = 59kg x 1.4g/kg = 82g/day
In terms of how to get this? Here’s the protein amounts of some good sources:
4. Sleep is one of the greatest healers
Finally, we sometimes need to be reminded of the importance of getting good zzz’s at the end of the day. I know that sometimes it can feel like a waste of a perfectly good 8 hours (I mean, come on! Think of all the things we can get done during 8 hours!). But the truth of the matter is, there’s a good reason we’re supposed to spend a third of our life sleeping. It’s not just because we get tired, and we’re not just wasting time.
We do some of our most important work while we sleep… and if you don’t, then your body will suffer. Aside from being hugely detrimental to your brain, lack of sleep also prevents your body from recovering fully in between your workouts. This is the time that muscles repair themselves and build strength from those great workouts that you’ve started. And this includes your heart as well (your most important muscle!). So make sure you don’t skimp on sleep!
Here’s a great quote from the sleep foundation that I use regularly: “The one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping, far from being “unproductive,” plays a direct role in how full, energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.”
Feeling motivated yet? Coming up with a productive, healthful and easy to stick with fitness schedule can be daunting. When you tackle this, try to factor in the 4 tips mentioned above, and if you’re feeling stuck, drop me a line. I’m always happy to help!