When we workout, we do it for a reason. There is always a purpose in mind, whether it’s fitting into a smaller clothing size, losing weight, adding inches to our biceps, or just increasing overall health and wellness. I’m willing to bet that for most of us, results are the only reason we work out; we wouldn’t do it if there weren’t some sort of benefit. The goals we set define what we want our results to look like. Goals and results may seem like the same thing; however, they are not, although they are similar. Goals are the beginning, “Point A” on a map. The results are where we are going, what we are striving for; the “Point B.” The hours spent at the gym and outdoors working out are the space in between. But how do we make sure we aren’t wasting our time, that results will come? And once we get results, how do we know what it means? How should we interpret them? And how do we know where to go from there?
We all have different goals and are striving toward different results, but to make sure that all of our hard work is not simply a waste of time that will not bring about the results we are looking for, there must be a few key elements included in our workout habits. These components are: resistance exercise, aerobic training (cardio), nutrition, and flexibility training. These are the rudiments of any good exercise routine. Each of these four pieces must be present in any routine in order to reach overall health and fitness, no matter what the initial goals may be. Most of us do not struggle with the basic idea of what these elements are; where we struggle is with the implementation – how do we properly incorporate these fundamentals of exercise into our routine?
First, the basics of how to implement resistance exercise. The frequency of resistance training should be about two to three times a week. Resistance training would be lifting weights, or performing various body weight exercises. Each workout should include a warm up and a cool down at the end; as well as around eight to 10 different exercises training the lower body muscles and the upper body muscles. Get creative with the exercises you choose. If you stay with the same ones all the time, you will lose motivation and you will not get the results you desire.
Aerobic exercise should also be performed around two to three times per week. Aerobic training would include running, biking, hiking, cross-country skiing, Spinning, etc. As with resistance training, your workout should begin with a warm up and end with a cool down. The duration of the workout depends on your ability, endurance, and goals.
Our third element it nutrition; this may be one of the areas where we falter the most. Though many times we tend to push our nutrition aside, it is vital to achieving the results we are striving toward. We know we should eat healthy. Sticking to natural, unprocessed foods is great, but besides that, we also must remember that in order to lose weight, we must burn more calories than we eat. A great exercise routine met with a high calorie diet will get you nowhere. If you eat fewer calories than you expend, you will lose weight.
Resistance exercise is a great way to burn lots of calories. There is a common misconception that aerobic training burns more calories than resistance training. Because of the nature of aerobic exercise – elevated heart rate, etc. – many calories are being burned; however, most of these calories are only being burned during the workout. With resistance training, a good number of calories are burning during the workout, but it is after the workout that resistance training surpasses aerobic training in calories burned. After an intense resistance training workout, your metabolism is elevated for hours after you stop working out. Long-term resistance training will also help to increase your metabolism from an increase in muscle mass. Increased muscle mass will increase the number of calories you burn just doing nothing. Each pound of muscle added to our bodies burns an extra 50 calories. These extra calories burned will increase your basal metabolic rate, or your “resting” metabolism.
Flexibility is the last component of any exercise routine. This, as with the nutrition aspect, many times gets forgotten when we build our routines. No matter what the workout, stretching should always end it. Stretch mostly the body parts you worked in your workout and hold each stretch for about 60 seconds.
When incorporating these four elements into the exercise routine, results will follow. Sometimes it is difficult to quantify results without an initial picture of where you came from. It may be a good idea to begin with a fitness assessment so you can track your progress. Every once in a while, re-check the assessments to get an idea of how far you’ve come, to set new goals and to increase motivation. There are some great assessments out there that provide a good picture of fitness and help to quantify results.
One of the best measurements to base goals off of is body fat percentage. Unlike going off of weight alone, body fat percentage gives a more accurate picture of how your body is changing as you implement your exercise routine. This will help you to better interpret your results and set more accurate, achievable, and motivating goals. Body fat percentage, in addition to a number of other assessments, can be measured by any fitness professional.
When you incorporate all four components, you are sure to see results for all your hard work! FBN
Rachael McDonald is a personal trainer at High Altitude Personal Training. She is certified through the American College of Sports Medicine.