Monday, November 21, 2011

Foundations - Exercise

Perhaps it's hard for people to agree on what foods are healthy,  but surely we can all agree that exercise is good.  Just make sure you get plenty of it ... right?  Wellllll.

As with nutrition, there are a myriad of different opinions out there as to what an optimal exercise routine looks like.  And also as with nutrition, there are simply too many variables and too much differentiation among the population for a one size fits all approach.  However, I do believe there are some core principles that form the base of a solid exercise platform, and lifestyle in general.
My Niece running

  • Move around more often than not
  • Work hard physically once in awhile
and do these in a context that is:
  • Effective
  • Efficient
  • Safe

Really, I think things can be boiled down that easily.  Of course it's up to you to choose the details and decide how to implement them into your own life.  I'm going to go into more depth below, but seriously,  just look at those bullet points above and chew on their simplicity.

Move around more often than not.  This should not come as a surprise.  Being active is a no brainer.  What I'm peddling here, however, is your total time moving throughout the day.  If you have a sit down job, sit down for lunch, sit in your car or the bus on your commute, sit down for dinner and then sit on the couch to watch the tube in the evening ... Wellllll.  In this scenario, even if you manged to work in a 45 minute walk a few days a week and some heavy lifting -  you're still behind the 8 ball.  Take a look at your body.  Whether you believe we were designed or have evolved, we are clearly not meant to sit down for the majority of the day.

And no, running or chronic cardio in general will not put some non-linear dent into sit time.  That is, 2 hours of running does not negate 8 or 10 hours of sitting.  It doesn't work like that.  And besides, excessive cardio has drawbacks of it's own. 

So what do you do if you have a desk job and commute sitting down?  I don't have specific answers for you, but if it was me (and I don't fall into this category by the way) I would make sure the rest of my day was spent on my feet moving around.  Everyday, no matter what?  No.  I'm saying make it a goal to move more ... over the long haul of life.

Me at the playground
Work hard physically once in awhile.  This one is more situation dependent.  Working hard for a 70 year old woman will be different than working hard for a teenager.  The difference is not important.  What is important is that you work hard for you.  Bone crushing, puke on your shoes, see the white buffalo in the sky hard?  No.  Knock yourself out now and again if you are so inclined, but that level of intensity is not required.  And just like chronic cardio, this stuff has the potential to do more harm than good if overused.

Some obvious examples of working hard would be lifting weights, sprinting, body weight exercises, or say, building a brick wall with your bare hands.  What is the best way to work hard physically you ask?  Well ... as long as you work in a fashion that is effective, efficient, and safe, I would say pick your passion.

EffectiveEfficient.  Safe.  When going through your everyday life, and in particular when you exercise, you should ask yourself if these three things apply to whatever it is that you're doing.  They should.  Let me give you an example of a fail in this department.  A couple of years ago I gave up my gym membership and was finding new ways to work hard outside.  Playgrounds were my first find, and they are amazing.  But I wasn't satisfied.  Long story short, one day while holding a 60 pound rock above my head that I had just lifted off the ground, it dawned on me that this really wasn't that safe.  Actually, it was quite dangerous.  It also happened to be really effective and efficient, but you see, you need to have ALL three of these things at the same time.

This is why I'm in favor of slowing down rep speed and reducing the total weight when lifting.  Concentrating on muscular tension and fatigue (failure if you're more advanced) will bring about much the same physiological response as lifting very heavy weights, and in a much safer manner. 

In part II of this article I'll talk about my specific exercise journey and what I currently do for fun.

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