Monday, January 30, 2012
Level Two: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Think about bowling, softball, or any other type of entry-level team activity. Many people who aren't natural-born athletes love team sports because of the combination of exercise and social interaction. (Mall-walking groups offer the same benefit if you're looking for something less strenuous.)
If group activities aren't for you, start a walking routine, two or three times a week, for 15 to 20 minutes. If you feel like it, jog for a few minutes during each walk. Do a few jumping jacks, sit-ups, or push-ups -- along with stretches -- in the morning before work. Jump rope with your kids or buy yourself a Hula Hoop. Take an in-line skating class, or start going out dancing occasionally with friends.
Dance, tai chi, and yoga classes are enjoyable, low-stress fitness activities. Also, consider buying several exercise tapes and try out fun activities including biking, swimming, horseback riding, or even a regular game of Frisbee with your dog.
Focus, above all, on giving yourself permission to enjoy your physicality. If you can, start getting regular massages. If you belong to a gym, don't feel you must do a strenuous workout every time you're there. Try going occasionally just for the enjoyment of stretching for several minutes and then taking a Jacuzzi, steam, or sauna bath. You'll learn to reconnect with your physicality and rediscover your body as a source of pleasure.
Friday, January 27, 2012
Level One: Workout Ideas and Recommendations
Begin by expanding your definition of exercise: You don't need to run, sweat, or grunt -- any opportunity to partake in activity counts as exercise!
If you feel uncomfortable going to a gym, a 10-minute walk, twice weekly, is an excellent first step toward better fitness. If you enjoy and can afford it, get a regular massage as well. Consider buying a good beginner's exercise tape, too. (A tip: rent exercise videos from your local library and try them out to see which you enjoy.) Another great activity is gardening, an underrated form of stress reduction and exercise.
Get in touch with your physicality by using a Jacuzzi or sauna after a cool shower, or just by taking a bubble bath. Afterward, try some gentle stretching, perhaps followed by another cool-down shower and Jacuzzi. A facial is another good way to reconnect your physical and mental being.
If you feel daring, consider karate, a dance class, or bowling. Enjoy the activities you pick, but don't make yourself continue with them any longer than you want to; for instance, don't force yourself to bowl three games if you feel like bowling only one. Remember that your goal is to make yourself healthier and fitter by nurturing yourself and reducing stress.
Have a WONDERFUL weekend!
Friday, January 27, 2012
What is basal metabolic rate?
Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the rate at which your body burns calories just to sustain life. For most people, that's roughly 50 to 80 calories per hour, or 1,200 to 1,920 calories per day. Exactly what your BMR is depends on genetics, your muscle mass, and other factors.
Of course, you burn more calories when you exercise -- or just go about the activities of daily life. For example, if you work out at the gym for 60 minutes and burn 400 calories, that comes in addition to whatever your BMR burns up. (If you walk home from the gym instead of driving, you'll burn even more!) At the end of the day, if your total energy expenditure is greater than the number of calories you've eaten, you'll lose weight.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
What's the difference between the fat-burning mode and the cardio mode on the machines at the gym?
There are problems with the fat burning option on the cardio machines, and it really ought to be eliminated. The idea behind the fat burning option is this: Because fat is denser than carbohydrate, it requires more oxygen to burn. So, to maximize the percentage of fat you burn, compared to carbohydrate, the fat-burning mode would have you work out at a pace at which your body can deliver lots of oxygen to your muscles. That generally means a slow pace, to keep you from getting breathless. The problem is that when you exercise at a slower speed, you burn fewer total calories -- from both carbohydrate and fat -- because you simply don't do as much work. Further, the way to get aerobically fit is to get your heart rate into the training range (usually 60% to 85% of your maximum heart rate), which is hard to do at slower speeds. And fitness is ultimately what you're after, whether your goals are better health, burning calories, or improving heart and lung capacity.
The bottom line is that the fat burning mode probably won't be intense enough to maximize total calorie- or fat-burning, or to help you increase or maintain optimum fitness levels. Use the cardio mode to maximize your exercise benefits.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
What is interval training?
In interval training, you alternate between bursts of higher-intensity exercise and periods of less-intense exercise (or "active rest"). As you get more fit, you decrease the "rest" time and increase the high-intensity periods. You'll see big fitness gains if you train this way regularly.
For example, if you now run for 30 minutes at 6 mph, try this routine: Jog for five minutes to warm up. Then, increase your speed to 6.5 mph for one to two minutes (less if you can't go that long). Then, jog for a few minutes at your normal speed, then again at the faster speed, and so on until you reach your time limit. Your ratio of work to active rest would be 2:3 if you ran for two minutes at 6.5 mph, then jogged for three minutes at 6 mph.
You can also use your heart rate to set intervals. For example, if your heart rate hits 70% of your maximum when you jog at 6 mph, start at that speed. Then increase either your speed or elevation (if you're on a treadmill) to get your heart rate to 85% or 90% of maximum for one to three minutes. Then, go back to jogging at the 70% heart rate, and continue alternating.
As your fitness improves, your heart rate will be lower at the higher speeds, and then you can spend more time at those speeds. A good starting ratio of work to active rest is 1:3; you can always vary the ratios if they turn out to be too hard or too easy.
I recommend interval training just once a week to start, as it is more intense than you may be used to. Once you get a feel for it, you can do it more often.
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