We have evolved over the last 40,000 years by being physical. To survive we needed to source our food, we needed to find and provide shelter, we needed to move with the seasons, and at times we had to flee our enemies.
So history tells us our bodies have developed the physiological need for moving at a low level of exertion for several hours a day, with the occasional burst of energy.
I wish I could tell you that the greatest fitness benefits comes from a machine that plugs into the wall and performs the exercise for you while you lay on the couch. Unfortunately I can’t.
Society now understands that exercise is not only beneficial to our health it is a requirement for health. In other words exercise is not optional. It’s a necessity.
Of the people who do exercise, most of them exercise with a narrow approach to fitness.
Its great people are exercising, however some do the same thing repeatedly for years. It may be cycling, running, using an ergo to row, yoga, or brisk walking. That’s their exercise and that’s what they do. Don’t get me wrong there are fantastic benefits to be gained from all of these pursuits individually, however on their own they do not produce a truly fit person. It’s really easy to expose the weight lifters running ability or get the cyclist to perform a strength or flexibility test. If your goal is to have optimal fitness then you really must vary your training constantly. Do little bits of everything……. Fast.
So how much exercise should we do? At least 30-60 minutes everyday.
Vary your exercise, plan it out. Create your own cross fit gym in your backyard, your bedroom or your garage. If you want to save time and get the best results, make intensity a priority. Research shows that the most effective fitness regimens are short interval, high intensity programs. Although fitness programs should be constantly varied, the bulk of your training should include workouts that focus on short period, intense bursts of work.
Level 1: Haven’t been exercising lately, or consistently out of shape, overweight, fearful of injury (or maybe recovering from an illness or injury) and/or social stigmatism, unsure of how to begin, where to begin, etc.?
- Walk around the block once a day for a week, then twice around the block, then twice around the block for time (meaning quicker than the previous session).
- Do standing wall push-ups and free-standing squatting motions.
- Find hills and/or stairs – walk them, then increase the repetitions; skip stairs; then do them faster, then do them for time, do them more often.
- Move to Level 2
Level 2: Reasonably fit, not overweight, but only works out 2-4 days each week.
- Figure out/create within your schedule time so that you will exercise every day. This could mean joining some type of health club facility or gym. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start cycling – go buy that bike; After you’ve established a daily exercise routine, turn up the intensity by doing one or more of the following:
- Start timing yourself in your exercise routines.
- Increase the weights, speeds, inclines (i.e. hills, treadmill), etc. – up the intensity.
- Or, you could sign up for a series of personal training sessions to expand your exercise routine, increase your knowledge, or improve your technique to allow for increased intensity without risk of injury.
- Start working out with a friend or a group of people (for example, in a class at your local gym, health club, community center, or at a CrossFit gym – you’ll do more, faster, and you’ll have more fun, and you’ll be held accountable).
Level 3: Congratulations, you’re in an elite group on the planet – you’re fit! So now what? Get fitter!
- It may be time to find a CrossFit type of facility. Watch YouTube videos of kettle bell workouts, CrossFit workouts, etc. to get inspired, to learn new, inspiring ways to get in even better shape. Buy equipment for home use for the days you don’t or can’t make it to the gym.
- Get more efficient at getting fit. Simply changing your workout routine can often produce new levels of intensity – i.e. the days you do certain things, the sequence in which you do things. Do the same workout in 5%, 10% or 20% less time.
To make sure you keep your workouts intense use a stopwatch or timer for your workouts. The simplest way to increase intensity is to lessen the time that it takes to complete an activity. A good measure to check if you are working hard enough is to see if you can still hold a conversation with someone while you are working out – if you can, you need to ramp it up.
You should progress toward a target heart rate of 80-90% for your intensity intervals. Training with a partner or a group encourages competition and always turns up the heat. Use a greater load, go a longer distance, or do it all faster and harder and you’ll be on your way to ideal intensity and the greatest results.
Remember, if you are going to take the time to work out – get the most out of it. Moving, sweating and panting are sure signs that you are heading toward optimal health. Increasing your intensity will not only get you there faster, but it ensures that it will be over sooner, as well.