Often when people decide to make a lifestyle change and start a fitness plan or eat better they manage to get one or two components right but neglect to have a complete plan.
If major changes are needed with your health, such as losing weight, restoring good health or putting the brakes on aging you do need to get ALL of the necessary components of a fitness plan right otherwise the results are likely to be disappointing.
Do you know what proper exercise really is?
Any physical activity is good activity and both proper exercise and recreation are both part of the overall big picture and do overlap to some degree. But it is important that first they must be defined and segregated in practice so the maximum benefits can be obtained from both or either.
First we need to look at the definition of exercise as it is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature. There are six factors that the exercise being done needs to contribute to, to qualify as proper exercise.
1) Muscular system strengthening
2) Bone strengthening
3) Cardiovascular (heart/lung) efficiency
4) Enhanced flexibility
5) An input to body leanness
6) Increased resistance to injury
Through proper exercise we would expect to see continuous improvement in these factors. If we do not see this improvement, then exercise is only partially existing, piece-meal or non-existent.
The definition of exercise states – Exercise is a process whereby the body performs work of a demanding nature, in accordance with muscle and joint function, meaningfully loading the muscular structures to inroad their strength levels to stimulate a growth mechanism.
The muscular system is the front line of the body as only muscles have a direct physical function and effect fitness. Any program, method or protocol devoid of high intensity work involving loading of the muscles, regardless of how well designed and implemented will fail to produce meaningful benefits.
You need to continually strengthen, improve, adapt, grow and enhance your body. Many people are not aware of how important the condition of our muscles really is. Our muscular system makes up to 50 percent of our body-weight and its health and condition are vital for overall health. If body strength is allowed to evaporate aging is accelerated, energy is siphoned away and the human body becomes more susceptible to disease.
We often mistakenly think that cardiovascular (long duration, low intensity, repetitive) activity is essential for heart/lung conditioning but this is incorrect. It is the muscles that demand blood from the heart system not the other way around. Strong muscles mean a strong heart which is vital to assist in pushing blood around the body taking some of the load off it making its job easier.
Every time you move physically strong toned muscles apply pressure to the arteries and veins that pass through them, and create a “milking” affect to shunt blood through the circulatory system. Weak, flabby muscles on the other hand do nothing to assist the heart so your poor old ticker takes the full brunt of pushing blood around the body adding strain to it.
We could define being “fit” as being strong as muscles provide the only truly productive factor in human movement. Every single movement of our body depends on muscle strength, from very simple to very complex. We need it to be able to eat, talk, walk, move and breathe.
Muscles are very unique. They have the ability to relax, contract, produce force and are metabolically active. This means that the more toned muscle you have, the higher your metabolism (amount of calories your body needs) at rest and during exercise. We can survive without endurance, speed, stamina and flexibility, but we cannot survive without strength. Very often we forget about its necessary importance.
To be effective an exercise program need only focus on strengthening the muscles in a concentrated manner. This will support the body’s systems then the heart, lungs, bones etc will join in to maintain the effort.
Strength training exercise is the only activity that properly satisfies the Definition of Exercise and thereby is the only true exercise. All other activities (i.e. walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc.), often construed as exercise by the media, general public and health/medical professionals do not satisfy the definition of exercise. These activities qualify as recreational physical activities and are not considered a necessary component of a proper exercise program.
After all, the message we are sending to the human body is an ultimatum – your protective mechanisms and margins are inadequate. If you perform your strength training program properly and with some effort put into it you will get all the heart/lung conditioning you could ever need. Just try loading a squat bar up with a decent amount of weight and doing a few sets of parallel squats (not tiny knee bends) and see what happens to your heart rate.
If only recreational activity is done which can include everything from riding a bike, running to washing the car or mowing the lawn you will not get the benefits you would get from properly working your muscles through their ranges of movement under a load of adequate resistance with proper strength training exercise.
The best scenario is to have a mix of activities, do your strength training first and foremost 2-3 times each week and then you can do some fun enjoyable recreational activities to make up an overall active lifestyle. Just don’t swap proper exercise for these types of activities as then you will miss out on the multitude of health benefits that strength training will give to that will improve the quality of your life and longevity.
Let’s look at what makes up an effective fitness plan:
1) A healthy eating plan
2) Proper strength training exercise
3) Cardio interval training
4) Attitude and mindset
A healthy eating plan comes first on the list of your fitness plan as you need to eat properly if your fitness or weight loss goals are to be realized. You need quality nutrition to support your exercise program so you can put the necessary effort and intensity into each session.
If you feed your body with mainly processed and refined non-nutrient foods you will have very poor results as your fat burning and appetite regulation hormones will be “out of whack” and working against the changes you are trying hard to make. The rest of your fitness plan will not work as well as it could.
Use quality whole foods as part of your fitness plan
The bad news is – no amount of exercise can EVER make up for a bad diet. You will never truly get into great shape if you are eating pre-prepared artificial non-foods. Get yourself back into the kitchen and get cooking natural, whole foods from scratch.
This really is the backbone of your fitness plan. There is good reason why physique and figure competitors eat this way. They get much better results and have far more energy along with better overall health so they can keep moving forward towards their goals so their fitness plan must contain all of the components.
Number two on the list of a complete fitness plan is a proper strength training exercise program – and yes it is above cardio activity as this alone will not cut it if you seriously want to lose weight or get into shape.
Strength training will on its own get you into fantastic shape even if you NEVER do any form of “cardio”, but it does not work the other way around. Strength training is the only way you can rebuild and tone up weak, flabby muscles that have lower than normal energy requirements. If you are overweight this is likely to be the root cause of this in the first place. No fitness plan could be complete without strengthening exercise.
Next comes cardio interval training and one or two sessions each week is a great way to help keep the metabolism boosted so your fitness plan can burn more off more body fat. A session could involve simply sprinting for 30 seconds and walking for a minute or more repeated 6-10 times.
And lastly one of the most important parts of your fitness plan is your attitude and mindset which is the glue that holds everything together. Like your muscles it gets better with exercise and being used.
Your mindset really matters when it comes to your fitness plan
Many people fail to even consider this part of a fitness plan when they jump into one. Then a few weeks (maybe days) into it they do not have the strategies in place to deal with setbacks and fall over at the first hint of trouble.
Having disciplined behaviors and high motivation levels such as getting your workouts done and eating a healthy (non-processed) diet is achieved by ongoing positive mental programming and always will be an important part of a doable fitness plan.. Just like a computer you can reprogram your mind so it is more closely aligned with your goals. How to do this?
By putting “good stuff” in you can push aside (or out) the unhealthy and not so good behaviors such as a no-exercise lifestyle and eating rubbish foods. Like anything it takes practice but once you get your fitness plan and the components working together you will make unstoppable progress towards your fitness and weight loss goals.
For a detailed fitness plan my “Fitness For You“ package of books delivers. For a mindset reprogram to make it effortless to both begin and stick to new healthy lifestyle changes “The Weight Loss Motivation Bible” is the place to start.
For more tools and resources from Carolyn Hansen to assist you in attaining your goals and achieving the success you desire in life, please visit: