Thursday, February 25, 2010

Advice for those already at the gym:

Exercise information is easy to find but all too often, confusing. If you're a beginner, every men's or women's magazine offers routines of simple exercises to get you started. If you're a serious exercise enthusiast and looking to maximize your training there's plenty of info out there for you too. Indeed, I'm surprised by how many websites and magazine articles give advice that is only appropriate for well conditioned individuals. But what about the people in the middle?

Look around your local gym. Those are the people in the middle. They've made the move from time on the couch to time exercising. They've made improvements to how they look and feel, and understand the benefits of exercise. But chances are they've also hit a plateau, using the same exercises they were taught when they joined. What does a no-longer-a-beginner do before they're an athlete?

Two of my friends are in this position. Middle-aged, they're thinner and healthier than most. They exercise, but not routinely. Not couch potatoes, but not as fit as they desire either. With my friends in mind, I wondered what three exercise tips would I give to help them most?

As it turns out, the list of three was right at the front of my mind. And contrary to most exercise articles out there, only one of my exercise tips is actually about an exercise.

Squats and Deadlifts

Firstly, do squats. They don't show you this on your first gym visit. If you've never exercised, squats will hurt you. Don't do them. But once you've spent a few months on the machines, it's time to leave them behind for the real exercises.

Squats and deadlifts work the whole body. This is key. Working one part, then another, does NOT have the same effect as working the whole body.

Squats can be done with the bar on your back, or held infront. Deadlifts start with the bar on the floor and involve generally the same set of muscles. Either exercise can be built up to include a press, such as you might see in the olympics. Ultimately, that's the way to go. But work towards it slowly.

FYI, Smith machines, leg press machines and all the rest don't count. They don't put the same loads on your secondary muscles and supporting muscles. If you fear free weights, start with dumbbells instead of a barbell.

Drink Milk

Here's where my exercise advice stops being about exercise. This is because exercise (the actual activity at the gym) doesn't make you stronger. It is your body's reaction to the stress of exercise that makes your stronger (and leaner and healthier). So even more important than what exercises you do, is how you feed yourself. Start with milk.

I have lots to say on diet and health. But where to start? I would start with whole milk. Drinking a litre a day of whole (unskimmed) milk melts fat off my body. I've exerperienced it many times and in various ways. I've heard a ton of anecdotal stories. I can't explain it and won't try. The more milk you drink the slimmer you probably are; all other factors being equal.

(Conversely, the more diet colas you drink the fatter you likely are. Sorry, it's just my own experience and eyesight, but I believe it's true.)

And lastly...

Get Your Sleep!

I know when someone has moved from beginner to serious exerciser when they talk about sleep. Sleep is critical, even more so than food or exercise. Consider 9 hours to be the target.

The point of exercise is to stress your body, such that it then rebuilds itself, better than it was. This happens when you sleep. If you're going to the gym but not eating or sleeping properly then you're only doing your body harm.

Most anyone needs 8 hours of sleep a night. (I undertand few of us actually get that.) A little exercise and your sleep need quickly rises to 9 hours or more. If you spent an hour in the gym and an hour on your bike, consider going to bed early and getting 10 hours, guilt free.

And those are my exercise tips. Do full body exercises, eat well - starting with milk, and get your sleep. Try the three together and I bet you can get through any plateau. And I bet you feel better right away. Good luck.


Anonymous said...

No one has commented on your last three blogs. Are you a crusader without an army or people just not interested in health the way you are?


I Dive At Night said...

Hey Dad,

I'm a writer without an intended audience. Although I always hope you'll read the exercise and nutrition bits!

To get lots of comments you have to trade; reading lots of other blogs to get the traffic to yours.

For me, it's about the writing. In the last post, for example, I tried to mimic a particular author's style (Malcolm Gladwell) and I found it fun practice.

Plus job-hunting and such are inappropriate here, thus I have a limited set of topics to write about. *shrug*

C'est la vie.


Nancy said...

LOL I'm with Ralph, I was also thinking, obsessed much ;-) but hey the main thing is you feel better.

Me, I didn't have to do much, a bit more walking, instead of taking the car, and yeah 3kg left the building. My body is still a temple with a chimney however.

Goodluck with the jobhunt, had 2 interviews 2day myself, so am in tune with the, pick a topic to write about.

Charline said...

I'm behind in reading blogs! I do deadlifts and squats! Drink milk too!!!