So it’s January, the internet and shops are doing their, “quick, buy all the fitness equipment, this dvd is exactly what you need, buy our kale, you neeeed to be rubbing our product into your skin, buy 20 sessions of a new class you’ve never heard of , eat 20 of these supplements a day and body fat will melt before your very eyes, do this workout, do that workout……” Woah!! I’m dizzy just reading that back! So much info out there, so many conflicting opinions of what you should(nt) be doing, how do you know what is right for you? I get it, everything feels so brand new in January, you want to try everything and you want to try them all now, I’m exactly the same, just STOP AND LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE for a minute.
We all know by now that there is no quick fix. There are no “secret products” anything that claims to have a “secret” ingredient should be avoided like the plague! Eat better quality food, and limit your treats. Obviously there is much more to nutrition, but that’s for another day. When it comes to the exercise, that’s when it starts to get more complicated. How do you know what is right for you? How much should you be doing? How do you squeeze it into your busy schedule.
I’m going to discuss 4 of the basics, looking at pros and cons and I hope this will help take away some of the confusion.
Walking and/ or running.
- If you are only getting in to it, it’s pretty easy and cheap to get to do. You don’t need a massive amount of instruction in the early days. Just keeping going is generally the key focus. Trainers, trackie bottoms and a tee shirt will suffice.
- You can do it anywhere when you have the time.
- Fresh air, peace and quiet, mental boost, you appreciate the weather instead of hiding from it.
- While you are moving, you’re burning calories.
- Can be used a type of meditation.
- Helps your fitness and endurance
- All round happy, feel good exercise.
- As you get better at them, it starts to cost more. The shoes, the clothes, the tech, running groups, etc
- There is no “after-burn” effect, unless you have been doing something like hill repeats or sprints, so once you stop, no more calories will get burnt.
- Hard to get started when you feel very self conscious about being out in public.
- You can hit plateaus (like most training) in your training which can be hard on the motivation
- If you have issues surrounding joints, tightness, hip problems etc, running can exaggerate these until they are properly addressed. Contrary to popular belief, running doesn’t generally cause these issues, but it can alert you to the fact that there are problems areas you need to work on, so I suppose this is also a pro
- It can be time consuming when you start to ramp up the miles or want to clock up more calories burnt.
When can you do it? Whenever you have the time.
Body weight Training
- No equipment required
- You control the resistance
- Brilliant for building strength
- Strengthens your bone and joints
- Can be done anywhere and is free
- Positive mental state
- Doesn’t have to be time consuming
- Muscle burns more calories
- Imitates movements used in every day life.
- Boosts your metabolism and can have the after burn effect if combined with cardio.
- Good form needs to be learnt before pushing yourself in massive sets.
- Potential for injury if not properly instructed
- Hard to best plan your own sets at home if going it alone.
- Body weight training is hard and the more advanced your moves become, you will need to know more about how to warm up your muscles effectively as they require multiple muscle group activation.
- There is a limit to how much resistance you can put through your muscles so larger muscles like your quads may reach a plateau
- It’s very hard to quantify your success
- You will need to work on your flexibility
When you can do it? Any time and anywhere.
Weight Training- Free weights or resistance machines. (Not to be confused with power lifting)
- Building muscle torches body fat.
- You’re a walking power house after a workout with that big boost to your metabolism
- Easy to quantify improvements
- You feel like a bad ass and if you’re weighting up those squats, you’ll have a good ass!
- You can choose a definitive weight that matches up with your training goals eg muscular endurance may involve longer sets with a lower weight, whereas if the goal is building muscle mass the sets could be shorter with much heavier weights
- Strengthens bones and joints, particularly important for woman
- Massive release of endorphins
- Helps with co-ordination and balance which is why a lot more elderly gym goers are starting to use strength training.
- Correct form and instruction is essential, especially in the early days.
- If you are lifting heavy, you need someone there to spot you and keep an eye on your form
- Imbalances in muscles can lead to injury if you rack up the extra weight too quickly.
- If you haven’t been taught how to breathe correctly, you can actually damage your heart. If you hold your breath while lifting, you put additional pressure on your heart which will increase your blood pressure among other things.
- Bad form can leave you with damage to the muscles and discs in your back
When can I do this? At a class, 1-2-1 session, bootcamp, at a gym after being properly instructed.
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training
- Massive after burn effect. All those calories you burnt during your workout? Yeah, go ahead and double those.
- Helps boost your metabolism
- No equipment required
- Torches body fat without losing muscle
- You control the intensity so 10 people of varying abilities can all get the same benefit out of the same workout
- Helps to increase your lungs’s ability to function under stress. You can increase your lung capacity if you are really working hard each time.
- Can be done anywhere, any time and it’s free.
- Doesn’t take too much time. 10-25mins max
- Workouts can be very simple and yet still so effective.
- Can be very hard to push out of your comfort zone and get the maximum benefit out of your workout if you’re working out yourself at home.
- It’s intense, so longer recovery required than if you went for a comfortable half hour run for example.
- It’s very hard to keep good form when you start to get tired so you need to keep it simple and use exercises you are good at in the early days.
- Not suitable for everyone. If you have any kind of heart problems, HIIT could be fatal so always speak to a gp first. Age can be a huge factor, under 18 and over 40s not ideal.
- Because you have to give your all for HIIT to reach its full potential, it needs to either be done in isolation or at the end of a workout as it can leave you feeling “burnt out.”
When can I do it? At a class, or at home whenever you have time.
Or what about having a go right now? This set is only 4 minutes long, rest 30/45 secs and repeat 2 or 3 times.
If you don’t fancy all the jumpin or are a beginner, try this one to start. Rest 45secs-1min and repeat.
Make sure you have done a good warm up before you start!
So now we’ve seen some of the pros and cons (I know the lists could go on and on!) what would help YOU achieve YOUR goals? A strict weight class and ditch the cardio, calisthenics (body weight), running, power walking? I wanted to try a bit of everything which is why I started coming to bootcamp lol! (Jack of all trades, master of none!) You will get elements of all them of them in there.
At the end of the day though, when all the fuss of January dies down and motivation takes a dip, you need to be ready with something you really enjoy doing. Some people get a massive buzz from running an extra mile, some from completing more press up sets, some from getting that extra dead lift rep but either way you need to enjoy it and you need to see the long term benefits. I don’t think it’s enough just to say, I want to get big muscles so I’ll go and lift weights, why? What is your purpose? I want to run a marathon? Again, why? What’s your motivation, what will pull you through when it’s hard? Your motivation needs to come from the heart, not from a sparkly ad on the TV. Don’t waste money buying faddy equipment that will be in the back of a dusty shed or on gum tree by February, you don’t need it. Get some proper instruction and find out what works for you, if you’re struggling to make it through January, us chiefs have workouts on the website you can do for free until you are ready to join us.
Have fun deciding, trying them out and seeing what fits best. I find a combination of elements works well in most cases. So take runners as an example; some form of weight training is advisable to stave off injury, HIIT training can help your breathing and speed, and core and upper body work will help you become a more efficient runner.
Just remember that bad form learnt at the start is much harder to unlearn than taking time to do it properly in the first place, and you could end up injured. Think of the long term and don’t binge workout or you run the risk of either sickening yourself or burning out. We don’t just want to make it to the end of January, we only get one body so we need to look after it every single day!
And always remember, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint!”