Being active is simpler than we tend to make it. Having been a professional athlete and a fitness instructor, I can tell you that with great certainty. Many people have an all-or-nothing approach to exercising and being active, thinking that the only place you can get real work done is at a gym. Lack of cross training and variation leads to boredom, injury or burnout, yet so many people stick with a set routine because they are comfortable with it and feel in control when doing something they know. The same workout week after week, month after month looses its effectiveness, as your body adjusts to the movement and intensity. In reality there are so many ways you can be active every day and enjoy the health benefits.
Before we address these minor changes that can improve your health, fitness level and overall well being, lets look at some common work out myths that might hinder your progress:
Your cardio machine is counting the calories you’re burning.
The cardio machine is not your friend when it comes to accurate calories burned count. Some machines don’t even ask for your weight, height or sex, hence your body composition is not taking into the equation.
Women shouldn’t lift weights because it will make them buff.
I have worked with many women competing in fitness and body building, and I can assure you that muscles are not built easily. Lifting weights 3-4 times per week will not make a woman bulky or buff. Women have too much estrogen to build large amounts of bulk, while guys build muscles faster because they have testosterone. Strength training is in fact a great fat burner, and it increases lean muscle mass and helps you burn calories more efficiently.
A heart rate monitor is a great measure of intensity.
Heart rate monitors might motivate you to work harder, and for that reason I think that they are a great device. However, they are not an accurate measurement of intensity and fitness level. The best way to measure how hard you are working is by using your own body, as your own sense of how hard you’re working is a much more reliable measurement of exercise intensity. The talk test can measure how intensely you’re working out depending on whether you can talk in full sentences, short phrases or if you’re barely able to muster a few words.
My weight is the ultimate barometer for fitness.
Someone who wants a healthier lifestyle, yet gets on the scale every morning, has to reconsider what is important to them. People start saying, “I haven’t lost any weight. This is pointless, I’m not accomplishing anything”, and all the other great health benefits they have achieved through their training does not get recognized because they are only focusing on the number showing on the scale. When people don’t recognize the progress they’ve made, they give up.
Protein shakes are really good for you after a workout.
Protein shakes are not a great replacement for an after workout meal, and will most likely leave you hungry and dissatisfied. Protein shakes, powders and bars are good for emergencies, but keep in mind that they are the lowest quality food. You are always better off eating real food. The best way to get protein is through clean food such as a turkey, eggs, chicken, cottage cheese, greek yogurt with nuts and fruit etc.
Now that we got some of the worst work out myths out of the way, here are some very basic pointers on how you can be more healthy and active every day:
- Bike or walk to work if possible, if not use public transportation, as it requires walking and stairs
- Go for a family walk after dinner
- Don’t go to the gym if you despise it, find ways to be active that you genuinely enjoy – join a sports team, a runners club, play tennis with your buddies, go swimming before work in the morning etc
- Look at choirs and yard work as exercise
- Nobody likes running. Anyone who says they love the treadmill is lying… Find an area nearby your house or office that has beautiful surroundings, like a reservoir or a park. Not only will it make your jog more enjoyable and therapeutic, it will also serve as an incentive to get outside and do it. I want to share the view from my morning runs, it happens to be 80% of the reason that I am able to drag myself out of bed 2,5 hours before work to get a run in:
- Avoid taking elevators, stairs are a great way to tone your legs and glutes
- Find someone who inspires you, and use them as a source of inspiration when you need a push. It could be a friend, a colleague, an athlete – anyone that motivates you to work harder
- Go for a walk during lunch
- On the weekends, find activities that you enjoy doing, and make them a tradition
- When you are frustrated or stressed, go for a jog. It will clear your mind and loosen you up
- Get a 3 day/1 week trial at your local gym, and try 1 new class every day. See if you find something you really enjoy, like xycling, zumba or kick boxing. If you do, then sign up for a membership and go 3 times a week
- When you are feeling good about your efforts, and want to reward yourself – don’t turn to food. Treat yourself to a massage, a spa treatment, go buy new training clothes or a Nike+ GPS watch
If you devote 30 minutes everyday to your health, you will feel better, look better and be better. 30 minutes per day is all you need to stay fit and healthy. How easy is that?? There are no excuses. If it is important to you, you can do it. Your body is your temple, and it deserves to be treated with respect. You will not regret getting off the couch, or waking up 45 minutes early. Always remember, being active is a lifestyle – there is no finish line.