Don’t Believe the Hype

This week, we finally get to the end of my list of 10 “Back to Basics” fitness tips and strategies.  Here are the first nine;

  • Do your strength training exercise first and your aerobic exercise second if your goal is to get burn fat.
  • Design exercise plans to evolve, progress and change over 6- 12 weeks to help with motivation and focus and to minimize training plateaus.
  • Choose free weights over machines whenever possible.
  • Lift weights more slowly to build more muscle.
  • Training efficiency is more important than training volume. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone for brief, intense workouts and allow for adequate recovery.
  • Learn how to read food labels to ensure that you get the most out of your workouts.
  • Always allow at least one full day of rest and recovery per week. This is even more important as we age.
  • Engage in Cross-Training activities to balance out muscle strength and stability throughout your body.
  • Have a back up plan to use when life “gets in the way”. For example; “IF I can’t go to my regular fitness class because the gym is closed, THEN I will do a home workout using resistance bands and bodyweight exercises.”

The 10th back to basics tip is the most “basic” of them all; Don’t Believe the Hype.

There’s more hype in the fitness industry than in any other.  Marketers sell “solutions” to an unsophisticated public every day by preying on insecurities, lack of education and desperation.  My advice is something that you might hear from your mom or dad; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.  The fact is that while it can be relatively simple to get into great shape and eat healthfully, it isn’t always easy.  No matter what, there will always be some effort involved and it won’t always be fun, despite what advertisers want you to believe. Getting into great shape will definitely not be “quick and easy” … or “like magic”.

 

Here are the 3 biggest sources of “hype” that I encounter in my job week to week;

 

  • The idea that a supplement will fix bad eating habits and make you leaner, stronger, lighter and more energetic. Supplements are meant to be “supplemental” to a healthy eating plan.  If you are being sold on the super power of a cure-all in the form of a shake, a pill or even a dermal patch it’s probably best to walk away and head to the fresh produce section of your grocery store.  In my decades of experience, the products associated with this particular hype are cyclical and based on whichever network marketing company is doing a promotional push at any given time.
  • A piece of exercise equipment that “does it all”. It’s important to remember that no matter how great a piece of equipment is; it is just a tool and only valuable if you use it as one part of an overall plan.  I can’t even begin to count the number of treadmills that I’ve seen used for hanging laundry in my clients’ basements!  A plan with just a few basic tools will beat always beat a regimen based on a single “miracle” device.
  • Celebrity endorsements. Since social media has become such a large part of our daily life, we see celebrity makeover stories every day.  Some are for promoting workout and diet plans that promise unrealistic results while others promote questionable, unproven health products that have not been tested by science and may actually prove to be harmful, or at the very least useless.

 

Getting into great shape takes planning, it takes sweat and it takes patience.  Quick fixes just don’t last, no matter how hard they are promoted and only serve to remind us that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”.

Always Have a Back-Up Plan!

In this week’s column, I’d like to touch on the idea of creating a back up plan for your regular exercise routine.  The clients and athletes that I’ve trained with over the years that have had the most consistent success are the ones that have had at least one (preferably more) backup plans for the times that life gets in the way.  Long-term fitness is all about maintaining momentum and without a back up plan, momentum is easily lost and progress, or even maintenance, quickly grinds to a halt.

To begin with; it’s important to concede that life will, absolutely, get in the way of your weekly exercise in a variety of ways.  Here are the most common interruptions that I’ve seen with my clients;

  • Work or family demands and lack of time
  • Inclement weather
  • Injury
  • Travel

While all of us live with these interruptions, only some of us are able to maintain our health and fitness regimens while we manage them.  The ones that do aren’t surprised when things come up; they simply go with Plan B until life gets back to “normal”.  This does two things.  It keeps them active (even if Plan B isn’t exactly what they wanted to do) and it provides a subtle reminder that they matter and that looking after their health is important.

To put a back up plan into action when you need it requires that you put some thought into designing it.  I would suggest having back ups for both strength training and cardio depending on your need.  Make your plans as specific and clear as possible.  There should not be any thought involved when you need use them, just simple action.  For example; I like to lift weights at a gym after work using a split body routine.  This means that I work out like a bodybuilder using a large variety of equipment, working one muscle group at a time.  A full workout done in this manner can take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes.  If I’m booked heavily with clients and also have a family commitment in the evening, I might not be able to get to the gym at all and only have 20 minutes of free time when I get home.  In this case, my back up plan is to do a full body workout at home using resistance bands and bodyweight movements with little to no rest between exercises.

In other words; IF I can’t get to the gym for a full workout, THEN I will do a high intensity full body workout at home for 20 minutes.  I have the intense home workout planned, written out and ready to go whenever I need it.  I don’t have to think; just act.

Here is an example of the If/Then idea from a client of mine.  “If it is raining and I can’t go out walking, I will ride my stationary bike at home for 30 to 45 minutes while watching the news.”

As simple as it might seem, having an emergency plan, ready to go, could very well be the difference between successful long-term exercisers and those that continually fall short of their goals.  Take a few minutes to write out a contingency plan based on your own needs and the equipment, if any, that you have available to you.

 

 

The Joys of Cross Training

If you know me and my philosophy around health and fitness, you’ll know that I believe in the long game.  The things that can be maintained and managed for weeks, months, years and even a life time are the things that interest me.  With this in mind, one of my favourite ideas for long-term adherence to overall fitness planning is the idea of cross training.

Cross training is an exercise strategy that is comprised of several different types of training modalities that help to build and maintain strength, endurance, flexibility and performance.  Challenging your body (and your mind) in more ways can have a tremendous impact on overall results and can even help you to stay injury free for longer.  In the simplest terms, cross training means “doing more than one type of exercise”.  This week, I’d like to explore a few reasons why it makes sense and why you might want to add something new to your weekly health and fitness regimen.

Here are four well documented benefits cross training provides:

 

1- Injury prevention.  Many exercises (and sports) are comprised of repetitive movements.  To get really good at them requires that you pay your dues over the long haul and repeat them hundreds, if not, thousands of times.   Whether you are doing yoga, running, cycling or lifting weights, it’s easy to overwork the same muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons if you aren’t careful about it.  This “overwork” can translate into a repetitive strain injury over time.

Herein lies the true value of learning how to cross-train.  When you break up your regular routine with a new activity, you give the overworked parts of your body a chance to heal and build up strength (or skills) in other areas of your body.

2- Plateau breakthroughs.  Anyone that has exercised over a long period of time has, surely, experienced a plateau where they just can’t seem to make any more progress no matter how hard they try.  While many people feel like this is just an unavoidable reality that goes along with fitness; with proper planning it doesn’t have to happen.

The way that your body gets stronger, fitter and leaner is by having to adapt to new challenges.  On the other hand, if someone keeps doing the same routine over and over, their body no longer needs to adapt and progress towards their goals will stop.  They also place themselves at higher risk for a repetitive strain injury.  On the other hand, by varying your fitness routine, your body has to adapt to new stimuli and will respond by getting stronger and fitter.

3- Prevent boredom and avoid burnout.  While exercising is mostly physical, the mental part that goes along with it can be just as important.  Engaging in a never-changing fitness routine is a sure fire way to hit a slump and to make it harder to get excited about your next session.

Periodically switching up your program is one of the best ways to off-set boredom and to continue making physical gains and to keep things fresh and interesting.

4- Muscle balancing.  One of the underappreciated benefits of engaging in new activities is that you’ll build strength and stability in underused muscles that you might be routinely neglecting by sticking to the same way of exercising all the time.  The new strength that you’ll gain will help to offload the stress that you place your “primary” muscles when you return to your regular activity.

When deciding on just what to add to your routine consider what you do the most of and then choose an activity to challenge yourself in a way that offsets the stresses and demands of your primary activity.  For example; if you walk for fitness, add cycling into your routine and if you usually do yoga, lift weights twice per week as a change up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of Recovery

This week, I’ll be writing about another one of my 10 back to basics fitness tips and strategies.  So far, I’ve written about exercise and nutrition; today, my focus shifts to recovery.  Out of all of the different aspects of fitness, recovery might be the most underappreciated in regards to helping one make progress over the long term.  It also becomes more significant as training increases in intensity and/or frequency and also as we age.

I think that one of the reasons that not every exerciser takes recovery as seriously as they should is due to the culture that we live in. Hard work is valued and thought of in high regard while “resting” is often times thought of as something that only lazy, unmotivated people do.  You need look no further than the fact that our culture is one of the few in the world that doesn’t universally accept that afternoon naps are not only acceptable, but, essential to maintaining optimal health.

Perhaps the most common misconception about exercise and fitness in general is that we get stronger while working out.  In reality, intense exercise actually breaks the body down.  For example; weight lifting creates tiny “micro-tears” in muscle tissue.  You’ll feel this in the hours after a workout and especially the second day after training.  This phenomenon is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and precedes muscle recovery and growth.  Your body repairs the damage done to it when it gets adequate rest and recovery along with proper nutrition.

A similar phenomenon can occur from doing too much cardiovascular or endurance exercise.  While a moderate amount is great for the heart and lungs, too much can lead to achy joints, chronic fatigue, sleep disturbance and even emotional problems.

For people who are exercising to get stronger, fitter and leaner, I like to explain that the body can only withstand so much stress.  In this case, I am referring to the good stress that comes from exercise.  Regardless of the type of stress, however, when levels get too high, you end up going beyond your body’s ability to recover.  Not being able to recover means that systems start to break down.

One of the most difficult things for exercisers to accept is the fact that sometimes more work results in less progress as the body fights back to restore balance.  One of the ways that it does this is by storing excessive amounts of body fat and by slowing metabolism; an extremely frustrating situation.  When this happens, the very worst thing someone can do is to continue “pushing through” in an effort to start making gains again.  Here are 6 other ways to know if you are moving past your body’s ability to recover:

 

  • You dread your exercise sessions regardless of how much you value them. When your body is craving time off because of being overworked, training starts to feel more like “work” and less like play.
  • Instead of getting stronger from week to week, you get weaker doing the same routines. You’ll notice that it takes more effort to do the same amount of work.
  • Although it is normal to be sore after exercising, the soreness should be equal on both sides of the body and should not involve the joints. If you find that you just never feel pain-free and you’ve been pushing harder than usual, it might mean that you are not recovering fully between sessions.
  • You feel blue a lot of the time… or crabby. If you are using up energy reserves and not replenishing them by the time you exercise again, there’s a good chance that your mood will be affected negatively.
  • Along with mood problems, being over-trained often leads to poor sleep. Lack of sleep, in turn, can cause moodiness, low performance and lack of focus.
  • Increased stress and decreased recovery can lead to an elevated resting heart rate. People experiencing this will feel edgy and “on” all the time.  Over the long term, however, this situation can result in a lower than normal heart rate in individuals leading to feelings of lethargy and feeling worn out.

The most basic thing that I demand of all my clients is that they take at least one full day of rest and recovery every week.  With older clients, exercise intensity tends to be lower (in general) and so there is the feeling that they can, and should, exercise every day.  Physiologically this might be the case, but, I really believe that, psychologically, it is invaluable to take a break every week.  At the very least, it can keep things fresh and exciting for the day that the training week starts again.  On the other hand, taking a full break can help offset overuse injuries and keep energy reserves high.

Maximizing Training Efficiency

Last week, I shared a tip about building more muscle, more quickly by slowing down the speed of the movements you use when doing strength training.  I referred to this idea as “TUT”; time under tension.  In other words, the longer you hold the contraction of a muscle, the more work it does and the stronger and more toned it becomes.  While you are actually slowing down your movements, you’ll be speeding up your gains.  This week, I’d like to focus on the idea of exercising more efficiently.

The “Efficiency Rut” – Intrepidium Consulting Inc.

Efficiency is defined as the ability to produce something of value with a minimum amount of energy, effort, time or resource.  The way that I look at it is that if what you are doing is anything other than a hobby that you love lingering over, take steps to ensure that you get the most “bang for your buck”.

When it comes to exercise, one of the most frequent excuses that you’ll hear people make about not doing it is that they just don’t have the time for it.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that EVERYONE has the time to at least make themselves a little bit fitter and stronger.  We might not all have the time to become world-class athletes, but, we definitely have some time to devote to our physical, mental and spiritual health.

In my Top 10 list of back to basics fitness tips, I stated that training efficiency is more important than training volume.  When I first learned of this concept and then put it into practice, it literally changed my life and the lives of my clients.  Perhaps the most prevalent myth about exercise is that it takes lots of time to see results.  For the overwhelming majority of us, this just simply isn’t the case.  Granted, if you are preparing for a triathlon this might be a reality, but, for most fitness goals, exercise does not have to take over your life.

Here are 5 things to consider when trying to become more efficient;

 

  • Train with a plan. I have found that when I have very little time to exercise, it is even more important to take a couple of minutes to plan what I’ll be doing.  Even if this means taking two minutes to write an exercise sequence when you only have 15- 20 minutes to train!  Nothing makes a workout less efficient than wandering around thinking about what to do next without any direction.
  • Keep your work space clean. If you are exercising at home these days and you have to move dirty laundry or shift boxes of files or even search for your resistance bands under the couch, there’s a good chance you’ll skip more days than you actually do working out.  Efficiency means that every minute has meaning; searching, moving and cleaning before getting to work is simply not efficient.  Quality professionals leave clean, organized desks at the end of their work days; do the same with your designated exercise space.
  • Warm up with purpose. While there is nothing inherently wrong with walking for 10+ minutes on a treadmill (or peddling on an exercise bike) as your warmup, you can consider this time spent as “junk volume”.  Aside from bringing your heart rate up (maybe), it’s not really doing anything to get you ready to work your body with intention.  A more meaningful, efficient, way to warmup would be to go through a series of dynamic movements that mimic some of the exercises that you’ll be performing in your workout.  Medicine ball chopping movements and leg and arm swings are great ways to warmup as you’ll be building muscle endurance and core stability at the same time that you raise your heart rate and break a sweat in anticipation of the challenge to come.
  • Use active recovery. Rather than simply standing around and resting until the next set in your routine, do a low intensity exercise that complements what you’re main focus is for the day.  For example; you can do body weight squats for 45 seconds in between sets of pushups or chest presses to create workout “flow”.

Push to “fatigue” or relative failure.  If you are trying to get stronger or fitter, at some point you have to do more than what you previously did.  When you are lifting weights, you should reach a point where you can’t do any more repetitions between 10 and 20.  For safety, get to a point where you feel like you might be able to do 2 more reps (no more) and then put your weights down.  If you stop at a point where you could go on for another 5, 10 or more the weight you are lifting is not heavy enough to build strength or muscle tone.  Simply going through the motions is not efficient

Time Under Tension (TUT)

Last week, Fitness Solutions dealt with the importance of using free weights for strength training vs. machines.  While both are effective tools for building and preserving muscle, free weights also develop stability, balance and coordination in your body.  In other words, you can work more muscles and achieve more in less time when you use dumbbells and/ or barbells for your strength workouts.

King Tut Felled By Injury And Malaria, Not Murder : NPR

This week, I’d like to expand on some principles related to training efficiency.  If you are going to take the time to exercise on a regular basis, it makes sense to understand how to get the most out of your workouts.

When designing a workout routine for a client, the starting point is something called the FITT formula.  FITT is an acronym that stands for; frequency, intensity, type and time.  Essentially, the formula gives us the ability to “tweak” workouts and training regimens over time as needs, goals and limitations change.  Using it is a gentle reminder that things are never stationary; everything is changing all the time.  It’s pretty easy to understand when looking at our current reality in “lockdown” with limited access to traditional workout facilities!  We have the same needs and desires to be healthy, lean, strong and energetic, regardless of what’s happening in the world around us.  This is where the FITT formula can help.

As our reality shifts, we can make changes to our fitness regimen in a thoughtful way by manipulating the amount of times that we exercise in a week (frequency), how hard we exercise (intensity), the kind of exercise that we do (type) and the duration of each session (time).  In my top 10 list of back to basics fitness tips, I suggested lifting weights more slowly as a way to build more muscle.  This is an example of changing the variable of “intensity” as a way to continue getting positive results from a program.

One of the variables that influences how much muscle and strength you will gain through lifting weights (or doing other resistance training activities) is the duration of the muscle contraction that occurs while performing the exercise.  This is a concept known as TUT.  TUT means “time under tension”.  In general terms, when a muscle is contracted for longer, more work is required and the muscle responds by getting stronger and more toned.  Here is an easy way to understand this; imagine doing a shoulder press overhead, using 10lb pound dumbbells.  If you lift the weights quickly (1/2 second pushing up, no rest and ½ second coming down), the total time under tension for the target muscles is 15 seconds.  If you lifted the same weights more slowly (1 second up, 1 second pause, 1 second down), you will have increased the total time under tension to 45 seconds; a 300% increase!

When I messaged Dr. Stuart Phillips (Director of the Centre of Nutrition,

Exercise and Health Research at McMaster University) for his opinion on TUT, he replied… “It works!”  The thing that I really like about getting his input is that it is always based on evidence from clinical research.  He went on to explain that his favourite work to rest ratio is to have exercisers lift for 2 seconds, pause for 1 second and then return to start for 2 seconds.  While there is evidence that a 3:1:3 ratio works even better, it is too grueling for the average exerciser to handle and best left to very experienced strength trainers.

As with all of the other tips that I am providing, the idea of greater time under tension is simply one more “tool in the tool box” that you can use at this time when we have to become creative to continue to see results in our fitness programming.

Free Weights

This week, I’d like to expand on another of the 10 “back to basics” fitness tips that I listed in this column a couple of weeks ago.  One of them was to perform your strength training workouts using free weights as opposed to machines whenever possible.  While both can provide you with great results, there are some benefits that come from using free weights that just aren’t realized when relying on strength training machines for your workout.

Top 15 Biceps Exercises For Women - A Step-By-Step Guide

If you are new to exercise and to strength training in particular, free weights are dumbbells and barbells.  “Free” meaning that they aren’t affixed to anything and can move freely in any direction that you move them.  Strength training machines, on the other hand, are apparatuses with weights attached to them that can be selected by moving a pin to different locations along the stack for more or less weight.

The main difference between free weights and machines is in the amount of movement and range of motion that an exerciser can achieve with either type of equipment.  Since machines are fixed in place, they can only move in specific, linear, motions.  While this can be a benefit when trying to strengthen and tone specific muscles, it is a limiting factor since there can be no variation in the direction that you push or pull the load provided.  Additionally, if one has an arthritic or injured joint and the specific line of movement on the machine causes pain, there are no options to adjust or modify the exercise to make it more comfortable.

Strength training workouts can be traced back in time all the way back to civilizations like the one that existed in Ancient Greece.  At that time, weight was provided by lifting rocks, logs, animals and even other exercisers.  The movements used were all multi-joint and required balance and stability as well as pushing and pulling strength.  This meant that not only were participants strong, they were able to perform complex movements like those required for sports and/ or for military service.

In more recent times, the popularity of bodybuilding has resulted in an approach to strength training that focuses on specific muscles that are worked in isolation.  If you’ve been to a commercial gym, you’ve likely heard someone say “I’m training back and biceps today”; meaning that they’ll be isolating those muscle groups in an effort to overload them and make them stronger and more toned.  One of the more popular ways to do this is to use machines designed to work the chosen muscles in isolation, requiring little if any assistance from muscle groups that provide balance and stability.

A clear advantage to using free weights is that the training effect carries over to everyday activities to a much greater degree.  Pursuits like gardening, shopping and playing golf, move the body through an infinite number of stabilizing and balancing adjustments.  When doing strength training movements with free weights, secondary muscle groups and stabilizers are called into action to make the exercise more efficient.  An illustration of this would be the standing dumbbell biceps curl.  While the “prime movers” in this movement are the biceps, muscles in the back, abdomen, hips and even feet must be actively firing for the exerciser to be able to curl the weight.  The equivalent curling exercise on a machine isolates the biceps while doing all of the balancing and supporting that the exerciser’s body would normally do.  In other words, you can work more muscles in less time using free weights.

In my opinion, the best time to use weight machines is towards the end of a workout when fatigue may be a factor.  At that point, having the stabilizing done by the machine is a good thing to minimize the risk of injury.

 

 

Plan to Succeed

There is great value in creating a fitness plan before starting to exercise if you are trying to achieve specific outcomes.

Last week, I started expanding on my list of ten “Back to Basics Tips” to help you get into great shape.  Today’s tip emphasizes the need to follow a plan, before getting started with exercise if you want to achieve specific results beyond simple “maintenance”.  While I recognize the value of simply becoming more active, I’m referring to a structured outline that leads to more strength, less fat, greater endurance and improved functional capacity.

When I meet with a client for the first time, I tell them that the body changes and becomes fitter and stronger when given a “stimulus” that it isn’t used to.  The new stimulus is something that the body must adapt to.  It does this is by increasing muscle, improving cardiovascular fitness and decreasing body fat.  In simple terms, if you never change the way that you exercise and/or eat, you will hit sticking points where you just seem unable to make any new fitness gains.

In my Top 10 list, I recommend designing training protocols that cover 6 to 12 weeks at a time with specific goals for each week.  In my experience, the best way to do this is to challenge yourself to go through “phases” of training; focusing on different fitness measures and even different body systems with each phase.  While it might not always seem like it, the body is very good at adapting to new stimuli and because of this, I like to plan for phases that last only between 2 to 4 weeks before moving on.

There are 4 of these phases that I use with clients to help them achieve positive results in a relatively short period of time.  The power of this style of training is that once complete, the process begins again since there have been several weeks since the first phase ended; meaning that the stimulus will be new and different again.  Having completed several weeks of training, the client starts anew with a stronger, leaner, fitter body, more able to go further than they did previously.  The 4 phases are as follows;

Conditioning The goal of the “conditioning” phase is twofold; it allows “over exercisers” who may be experiencing burnout to recover and to start moving in a positive direction while it helps new exercisers increase their level of exercise tolerance before adding intensity.  This phase uses mostly bodyweight exercise, resistance bands and exercise balls for multi-joint movements.

Strength/ Muscle In this phase, resistance training will be the primary modality.  The emphasis will be on increasing loads handled using weights or other methods like machines, bodyweight exercise or thicker resistance bands.  The goal in this phase is too safely lift heavier weights in an effort to build muscle that will improve fat burning capacity, body shape and athletic and/or daily activity performance.

Endurance The shift to training for endurance means that cardiovascular fitness will be emphasized along with higher repetitions using lighter loads for building muscles more adapted for longer activity (as opposed to pure strength in the previous phase)

Metabolic/ Fat Burning The final phase uses appropriate high intensity training protocols, like circuit training, for maximizing caloric and fat burning.  My favourite way to do this is to used timed “work to rest ratio” sets with full body workouts that always include a cardiovascular training component (as opposed to counting repetitions).  I have found that 30 seconds of work to 15 seconds of rest works best for 5- 10 rounds of exercises, according to individual fitness levels.

Based on an individual’s personal goals, the duration and emphasis of each phase is subject to change.  For example; to build muscle, the Strength/ Muscle phase will be highlighted and to burn fat, the Metabolic/ Fat Burning phase would last longer than the others.

Exercise Order and Getting Lean

 

Get to the next level of your physical and mental development.

Last week, I introduced readers to a list of 10 “back to basics” fitness and nutrition tips and strategies in an effort to de-mystify just what it takes to get into great shape.  We live in a world of so much information overload that I have found people become overwhelmed with too many options when it comes to exercise, nutrition, performance, recovery etc…  When this happens, they become like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” and freeze.  In other words, when they have too much to consider and no idea where to start, they do nothing.  After enough time has passed and they realize that they’re in a worse place from the time that they “froze”, they’ll usually seek out more information in an effort to get going; adding to the overwhelm, more freezing and a continuation of the cycle.

 

So, starting this week, my job is to reduce your overwhelm and help you get started or help you get to the next level of your physical and mental development.

 

The first item on my list last week concerned the importance of the sequence, or order, of your exercise routine.  If you are attempting to burn fat and get leaner with exercise, than it is important to do your strength training first and your aerobic exercise second.

 

The reason that the order of exercise is important is because your body uses different types of fuel to power through different physical demands.  In an effort to keep things as simple as possible; imagine that you have two main fuel tanks in your body.  These hypothetical tanks are filled with either sugar or fat.  As long as both tanks are full, the body’s preferred energy source comes from sugar, therefore, to start emptying the fat tank you first need to empty the sugar tank.

 

As mentioned above, the body’s preferred source of fuel comes from sugar (otherwise known as glucose).  This is especially true when doing strength training which is typically performed in brief, intense spurts; think of the time and effort that it takes to do a set of pushups or dumbbell squats.  If you perform 10 to 15 repetitions of either exercise, the set will take 30 seconds at the very most.  The sugar that is stored within your muscles, or in your blood from the foods that you’ve eaten, is the most easily accessible form of energy for your body to use when presented with the strength training activities described above.  Conversely, stored fat is very rarely (if ever) used as a fuel source when performing strength training.  It is used to a much greater degree in activities of longer duration and lower intensity.  Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, swimming etc…

 

Whenever you do engage in aerobic exercise at a moderate level of intensity, your body draws from it’s preferred source of fuel.  If sugar is available, it will be the primary source until it runs out.  In the absence of sugar, stored fat (body fat) will then be made more readily available to be “burnt” and the exerciser will burn fat a higher rate than before.

 

As I’ve mentioned before, I frequently view my role as being that of a “simplifier”.  People work better and more successfully with simple, clear direction.  Having said that, I realize that the energy systems in the body are much more complex than I’ve lain out and that the description I’ve given here may be overly simple; that’s the point.  If someone is looking for something small that can potentially reap great rewards, this is one of those things.

 

In conclusion; if you changed nothing in your workout other than the order that you performed strength and aerobic training, you have a much greater chance of burning fat and getting leaner.

 

 

 

10 Back to Basics Tips and Strategies

Whether you are working out in a gym or doing your best to stay in shape at home, there are some basic, fact based principles that will guarantee that you succeed in reaching optimal health and fitness.

Here are 10 that I have collected over the years;

Bodyweight exercises are a great way to add variety to your regular workouts.

  1. If the goal of your workout is to burn fat and to become leaner, you should do your strength training first and your cardiovascular training second.

-You will deplete your body’s stored sugar (glycogen) levels when doing weight training and then your body will be forced to use body fat for fuel when doing cardiovascular training. 

  1. Design training programs over 6-12 weeks with specific goals for each of the weeks.

-Having something short-term to focus on will increase your motivation greatly from one week to the next.

  1. Whenever possible, choose free weights over machines.

-When you do strength training with free weights, a much greater amount of muscle is used to provide balance and stability.  In other words, you will get more work done in less time.  The “carry over” to real life will also be significant as compared to training on a machine where all of the balancing is done for you.

  1. Lifting weights more slowly will help to build more muscle.

-If you move slowly through each repetition of each set of each exercise, you will increase the total time that your muscle is “contracted” while it is working.  This is often referred to as “time under tension” or TUT.  This time is very important and will have a large impact on whether you get stronger or not.

  1. Training “efficiency” is more important than training “volume.”

-Muscles respond best to intense, but brief, work followed by adequate rest and recovery.  The most common mistake by frequent exercisers is doing too much and pushing the body beyond its ability to recover.

  1. Learn how to read food labels to get the most out of your workouts.

-Training without eating in a “supportive” manner, will yield only minimal results.  Aside from understanding what is meant by “Grams” of fat, protein and carbohydrates, try buying (and eating) foods that are low in sugar.  4g of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon, therefore a yogourt with 16 grams of sugar contains 4 teaspoons of sugar which will make it very difficult for you to burn fat and become lean.

  1. Always allow at least 1 full day of recovery per week.

-To keep things fresh and interesting, even if you don’t feel like completely resting 1 day per week, doing so will aid immensely in both your mental and physical well-being and will help you to keep improving in the long run.

  1. Learn the joys and benefits of Cross- Training.

-To continue challenging your body in a positive way, try activities that are new to you.  This can have a tremendous impact on your overall strength and endurance and you might find that when you go back to your regular routine, you’ll find yourself stronger and fitter as a result.

  1. Always have a back up plan.

In Case Of Emergency!  Always think of at least 2 or 3 activities, or workouts, the can yield similar results so that you never have to miss a session.  For example; if you do not have the time to get to the gym, learn a “back to basics” workout using little or no equipment to do at home.

  1.   Don’t believe the hype!

 -If it appears to be too good to be true, it probably is.  Real sustainable fitness results last a lifetime.  Don’t rush things or fall prey to hype and hyperbole; use your head, plan and follow through.

 

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be expanding on these 10 tips and providing ideas on ways to implement them into your daily lives.