HOW TO GET IN SHAPE
By Raphael Calzadilla
Wednesday, August 3, 2011.
Over the last
year I’ve written several fitness myths and tips columns. In a quest to
simplify things for you, I’ve decided to provide my favourite ones. If someone
said to me they needed to get in shape and only wanted six tips to carry them
through thick and thin, these would be the top six.
there would be times when this person would get stuck, experience boredom, or
question why something isn’t working. In those cases, they could come back to
these top six and review them. From a workout perspective, I’d be willing to
bet they’ll find the solution to their problem.
does not require a hefty time commitment.
The number of
days you work out does not indicate your level of fitness. I see a lot of
people in the gym five to six days a week, and they’d be better off playing
ping pong. Consistency and level of effort are the keys. I'd rather see someone
work out three days a week with enthusiasm and intensity, than five
inconsistent days of lackadaisical effort.
long workouts are counterproductive. Numerous studies prove that more than one
hour of an intense workout increases cortisol levels. Cortisol is a catabolic
hormone that, among other things, will assist in destroying muscle. Obviously
an elite athlete has to work beyond this mark, but I am referring to the
average workout enthusiast.
There is no “best
and only way” to work out. In reality, anything that works for you is good, but
you don’t want to stay with any of it for too long. The body will adapt to any
exercise routine in four to six weeks. At that point, you must change the
workout to challenge your body. The muscular and cardiovascular systems need to
learn new movements when you change a workout. That’s when progress
3. “No Pain,
No Gain” is a myth.
absolutely no reason to cause pain in the gym. Natural progression is a smart
method to ensure progress. This refers to slow, systematic increases in weight
training, gradual increases in cardiovascular endurance and slow-but-steady
no gain" will only put you at risk for injury and diminish your ability to
use precise exercise form. I’m not saying you shouldn’t challenge yourself, only
that you should not view your workout as a form of punishment.
Vary the volume
of sets, time between sets, reps, exercises, etc. Manipulate your routine every
three to four weeks, and view change as the key constant. Performing the same
workout for months is ineffective. You have to not only challenge your muscles,
but also change the adaptation. This takes time to learn, but once you get used
to changing your workout every three to four weeks you’ll make great progress.
follow a structured programme which provides a full-body workout on three
alternate days per week. This will help to provide a foundation for future
taught that performing cardiovascular exercise for 20 to 30 minutes at a target
heart rate of 60 to 80 percent is a great way to lose fat. It can be. But what
do you do when you know it’s not working anymore?
One of the
methods I’ve found successful is interval training. Interval training is best
described as incorporating higher-intensity exercise with lower-intensity. This
method helps stimulate and speed the metabolism.
Intervals can be
applied to any form of cardiovascular exercise, and although it's been a widely
used technique for training competitive athletes since the ’50s, the concept
grew into mainstream fitness in the ’90s.
The beauty of
interval training is that you don’t have to work out for long periods. Unless
you’re training for a competitive event, anything longer than 25 to 35 minutes
is unnecessary, and that includes warm up and cool down.
Let me show you
how it’s done.
The following is
a protocol for interval training using the treadmill as an example:
Begin with a
warm up of 5 minutes at level-3 intensity (3.0 miles per hour), then:
A. On the 6th
minute, increase to 4 mph (light jog)
On the 7th minute, increase to 5 mph
On the 8th minute, increase to 6.5 or 7 mph
For the next 2 minutes (minutes 9 and 10), return to 3 mph
Repeat A-D two additional times, but increase the level of intensity 1 mile per
hour on each phase.
Cool down for 5 minutes at 3 mph
time (including warm up and cool down): 25 minutes. A-D above represent one cycle.
In this example, you perform three cycles of higher-intensity training. If you’re
at a more advanced fitness level, then you’ll need to adjust the speeds and
times accordingly - make sure the intensity is somewhat demanding at the higher
This workout can
be done on the stationary bike, Stairmaster, walking outdoors or using any
other form of cardio. For the experienced cardio group, don’t think you can
jump right into this type of training. Moderation and natural progression is
vital. In the morning, you wouldn’t get in your car, start it up and
immediately try to reach 80 miles an hour.
The beauty of
this type of training is you continue to burn calories the day after your
workout, because you have stimulated your metabolism to such a high degree.
Most people are obsessed with how many calories are burned during a workout,
but one of the keys to losing fat is making sure your body continues to burn
lots of calories 24 to 48 hours after the workout.
Another way to
play with your cardio programme is to perform interval training for three
weeks, followed by a longer-duration, moderate cardio for three weeks. I like
this method because it avoids the adaptation. As you can see, the key is to
change after three to six weeks.
6. Mind/Body Exercise. It may not be
an exercise tip per se, but we sometimes forget that we should select
activities we enjoy. Exercises such as Pilates, Yoga, stretching and martial
arts bridge the gap between simple movement and movement that also has a
calming effect. Even if you don’t venture into this arena, you still want to
make sure that you improve your level of flexibility by using a stretching
As always, check
with your doctor before starting any exercise program.