Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category

Principles of Weight Lifting

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Fitness, Training

There are two very basic principles of weight lifting — building strength or building endurance.  Of course, there’s more to it than that, but if you’re just starting out, we’ll keep the information in short, bite-sized pieces.

Building endurance is also in the same field as building and maintaining lean muscle, rather than mass or volume.  Building strength, on the other hand, is the opposite and is typically the route for “buffing up” or “bulking up.”

In either case, the first principle being weight lifting is to lift as many times as it takes per set to become fatiguing with the last three reps.  A rep is a single lift, or push, or pull; one motion of moving the weight.  A set is a number of reps.  Sets can consist of anything from 6 reps on up to 15 or even 20, which we’ll discuss now.

Building endurance is often termed in lifting as “lifting light.”  This means picking a weight that will enable you to do around 15 reps per set (remembering that the last three should be difficult to complete).  This increases your muscle groups’ stamina but won’t necessarily bulk up in size or mass.

Building strength, or “lifting heavy,” involves lower reps but higher weight.  A set should tire you out around 10 reps at the most.

A typical weight lifting routine will look something like this, then:

  1. Perform your reps (8-10 or 12-15, depending on your goals).
  2. Rest for 1-2 minutes, or work out a different muscle group.
  3. Repeat the set.
  4. Rest again.
  5. Optionally do a third set, depending your routine.

Typically, it is also best to allow muscle groups to recuperate and recover for about 48 hours before working them out again, so include a day of rest in between working out the same muscle groups.


The First Step

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Fitness

The first step to weight loss and physical fitness is not any of the following:

  • Joining a gym
  • Buying an exercise DVD
  • Getting some dumbbells
  • Eating salads
  • Quitting soft drinks

No, the first step isn’t any of those.  The first step is this:

  • Be honest with yourself

All too often, we avoid the ugly truth for whatever reason, whether it’s to keep peace with ourselves, our friends, or our families; or just to avoid uncomfortable conversations or situations.  Unfortunately, little lies like that build up and become obvious veneers.  We steer toward the superficial “HEY!! You look GREAT!!” complete with the plastic smiles because we don’t want to risk hurting feelings….even if it’s our own.

While we ourselves may know deep within our own minds if we’re out of shape, overweight, or even morbidly obese, we have a tough time admitting it.  And even if we do admit it, we may also find ourselves in a self-defeating pit of shame and depression for letting ourselves get away from ourselves.  Deep down, we know we’re the only ones to blame, and that is a hard pill to swallow.

So we avoid it.  And that only perpetuates the self-loathing and guilt.

We also have a tendency to want to avoid work.  We’re a society of instant gratification, and if we don’t see results right away, we chuck it assuming that it was a failure when in reality, we were just impatient.  We come up with excuses to justify the abandonment, like “I’m too busy with work,” “the house isn’t going to clean itself,” or “my car is broken down and I can’t get to the store to buy gear or a gym membership.”

All of those are, at the end of the day, hollow excuses that just perpetuates avoiding the uncomfortable truth. Like smokers, we all know we have to get fit, get in shape, and eat right, especially the older we all get.  But like smokers who know they should quit smoking, actually doing it is easier said than done.  But there’s that little first step again.

You don’t have to convince me or your spouse or your best friend that you need to lose weight.  The only person you need to convince is yourself.  And that requires dropping the BS, the excuses, the avoidance, the clichés, and the high susceptibility to quick-fix marketing nonsense.

Ask yourself why you’re interested in losing weight and getting fit.  Whatever that reason is, ask yourself again whether that’s an honest reason (no matter how much it might hurt) or whether it’s still a little superficial or whether there’s still a slight shade of self-delusion involved.

I say all of this because it’s a trap I still have to be wary of.  In 2009, I lost about 18 lbs. and went from 166 to 148 by following the P90X program.  It worked, and it worked well.  I got stronger, I got leaner, and dropped my body fat percentage pretty significantly.  Then, over time, I let my ego take over.  I figured that since I had hit that new paradigm of health, I was immortal.

Yeah, not exactly.

I gained back a bunch of weight, and while I was still muscularly strong, the covering of fat was returning.  My weight rose back up closer to my pre-X weight, but my body fat percentage wasn’t nearly as high, so I deluded myself into thinking “oh, I’m just adding muscle mass!”  That was only partially true, as my body fat percentage was still slowly climbing.  I wasn’t being honest with myself.

So the self-delusion can go both ways.  In order to find success and the mental fortitude to stick with the sacrifices that you’ll eventually have to make, we have to be honest with ourselves first before picking up that dumbbell or stepping on the elliptical.



Getting Started in Fitness

Posted: August 3, 2011 in Fitness

One of the most common questions in diet and fitness is “how do I lose weight?”  Sometimes, it’s followed up by “fast” or “quickest” because we has a society want immediate results.  Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as “fast weight loss” without taking risky short-cuts or cutting off body parts.  To address those questions, I’ve developed a sort of canned-answer that includes most of the common questions.

The Basics

Healthy and safe weight loss comes from knowing how many calories you burn in a day, and calculating the calories of what you eat in a day. It means combining a healthy and nutritious diet along with good, intense and regular exercise every week to maintain a calorie deficit of about 200-500 calories per day. This will result in an average of 1-2 pounds lost per week.

To determine what you burn, seek out any number of on-line calorie calculators, which will ask you your height, current weight, gender, age, and general activity level. Check out a few different ones and you can come up with an average since the results will probably be different.

To track what you eat, take a few minutes to look at the nutrition information of various foods. Many Web sites offer approximations of nutritional content for popular foods. Sites like:

Online tools such as these can help you track both your daily burn and daily intake as well as offering additional tips and communities for keeping up to date on what you need to do, both in diet and exercise.

Working Out

When considering exercise, look to exercises that move you. That means making you sweat and making you work hard. Get at least 20-30 minutes of a good hard workout in, 3-4 times a week or more. Leave at least one day for total rest for your body to recover, though, and get 6-8 hours of sleep per night.

Include weight-lifting. Weight-lifting increases muscle strength and density and also helps support bones and joints. The one thing to note, though, is that there’s no such thing as “I just wanna tone up.” That often means that the person wants to achieve that lean, fit look without going into the often-feared grotesque bodybuilder types. Unless you’re going specifically into bodybuilding, men and women cannot and will not achieve that by just lifting weights.

That “fitness model” look that’s so often shown on TV infomercials and on the covers of various magazines and fitness products — the “toned” look — comes from intense exercise (which includes heavy weight lifting) and strict adherence to good diet. Don’t assume “toning” means “working out less”; that’s just an easy excuse that’ll do you no good.

Fat loss occurs all over the body at the same time. There is no such thing as “targeted weight loss” or “spot reduction.” Fat can accumulate unevenly around the body, like snow drifts in winter. But like snow melts all at the same rate when the weather warms up, so does fat loss occur evenly. It only seems to decrease more slowly in the “trouble spots” like the belly and arms because there was more accumulation there to begin with.

Everyone has six-pack abs. Most of us just have a layer of flesh hiding it.

Expectations and Pitfalls

When beginning a diet and exercise program, it is common to lose a larger amount at first. The rate of loss will then slow down a few weeks in, as the body readjusts to this new program you’re putting it through. This is normal and no reason for discouragement or despair. When the body adjusts, it’s time to readjust your diet and exercise. Stay off the scale for the first month, and focus more on how your clothes fit.

Remember to keep your calorie deficit within that 200-500 daily range. Any more than that will mislead the body into thinking that there isn’t enough food coming in, so it will hold onto what it has left. The more you work, the more you need to fuel up.

Once you’ve developed the right patterns for diet and exercise and gotten into the proper mentality with realistic expectations, then you can branch out and focus on more specific goals.