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Are You A Beginner Serious About Fitness?



Ive been barraged with inquires asking how best to set up fitness programs. I thought it might be appropriate to go over the basics of how best to design an effective fitness program. Any sensible body renovation plan need include three elements: progressive resistance training, cardiovascular training and nutrition/diet. Hemingway once quipped, Quality writing is not interior design, its architecture.

And so it is with physical renovation, we arent rearranging the deck chairs on the cruise ship, were erecting massive column and moving mounds of earth. The three core elements need be practiced in an even, balanced way: better to do a bit of each then emphasize one element to the exclusion of the other two. The Sisyphus-like mistake fitness acolytes repeat over and over, to their eternal detriment, is to grab onto one of the three core elements and dive into it with a frenzy that lasts about three weeks. Then frustration, boredom and above all else, lack of results, causes the fitness Sisyphus to chuck the whole effort yet again. It doesnt have to be this way. By structuring your fitness effort in a balanced way, tangible, irrefutable, unarguable results, measurable not imagined, can and will occur.

Elite athletes know that when all three core fitness elements are in place and practiced with due diligence, a physical synergy occurs and results exceed all rational and realistic expectations. The key to progress is balanced application. A plan without implementation is worthless and this approach is set into motion by intense physical and psychological effort. The entire fitness procedure is set into a time frame and through a process of reverse engineering; we start with a realistic goal and work our way backward to a starting point. Effort is synonymous with intensity. When we train we train hard. Effort, intensity, requires we bump up against current physical capacity in some way or another. There are a variety of ways to achieve this. Psychological intensity manifests itself as we apply discipline to adhere to the program guidelines: discipline is used to determine and regulate what we eat, how much we eat and when we eat it. Discipline is used in training to generate a heightened mental attitude during the actual physical training (psyche). When the three elements are present and applied evenly, a wonderful ebb and flow occurs, after a few weeks effort melts away and the process develops a momentum of its own. As results pile up enthusiasm supplants willpower.

The question is, how best to construct a customized training template that synchronizes fitness with the realities of my life? How best to construct a nutritional game plan? How much time will this require each week? How long will this take? How do I structure the actual workouts? How do I deal with the food preparation? All are issues necessary to consider. Before considering details first design a skeletal structure.

Progressive Resistance Training: Optimally done with free weights (for a variety of physiological reasons) progressive resistance training, lifting weights, is not an option. There are 600-plus muscles on the human body and weight training is the best way to tone, strengthen and build muscle. Weight training is critical for muscle health and function. Free weight training is better than training with machines. The idea is to devise an exercise sequence, a series of exercises that purposefully targets as many muscles as possible within the time confines of a session. Train the target muscle intensely and thoroughly then rest that muscle until its healed and recovered before training it again.

Muscle tissue is an active, living tissue and requires fuel in the form of calories to live. Since a pound of muscle requires 30-40 calories per day to survive, by adding 10-pounds of muscle (quite doable, particularly for a beginner) the body will burn an additional 300 to 400-calories per day. This is the number of calories a person would burn in a 30 to 40-minute aerobic session. Adding muscle boosts the basal metabolic rate and a fast metabolism trumps a slow one every single time.

Cardiovascular Training: Separate and a distinct, aerobic exercise builds and strengthen our innards, the internal plumbing. The efficiency of the pumping and cleansing organs are improved by repeated cardio exercise. As a direct result of the increased heart rate arterial pathways are flushed and scoured as torrents of blood are forcibly pumped through the veins. Heart and lungs pump oxygen-saturated blood, nutrient enriched, to living tissue. On the return trip, blood removes muscle waste products, toxins and fatigue-inducing lactic acid.

Purposefully elevate the heart rate to a predetermined target and once the increased HR is achieved, maintain the elevated rate for a specified period of time. Repeated aerobic exercise bestows a multitude of benefits. Endurance and stamina increase dramatically. Digestion and food assimilation improve and when a regular cardio regimen is combined with a performance-eating program, excess body fat is mobilized and burned as fuel. As with progressive resistance, the idea is to systematically increase our performance ceiling. By continually seeking to improve, regardless the cardio mode selected, we trigger the adaptive response and reap real results.

Performance Eating: This phrase is better than dieting as dieting implies depravation, starvation and destructive denial. If you train hard, as hard as you are supposed to, you need to eat enough calories to support the level of intense effort. The mistake most personal trainers make is to overwork their clients then underfed them. Too much effort combined with too few calories trigger the continual secretion of cortisol into the bloodstream. This catabolic hormone signals the body that a starvation situation exists and gives permission for the body to start cannibalizing muscle tissue to cover any caloric shortfall.

This is why crash dieters might lose tremendous amounts of body weight but still end up fat. They have become miniaturized versions of their old fat self just considerably lighter. Optimally we eat high quality nutrients continually throughout the day. Optimally the trainee hovers right at the caloric breakeven point (everyone is different) and optimally the caloric cost of exercise pushes the trainee ever so slightly into negative energy balance. Done this way, stored body fat is called up from caloric storage depots around the body. Muscle mass is built and body fat is systematically oxidized. Again, calorie control is the initial goal. Once caloric content is gotten to the breakeven point, exercise creates a slight deficit. Fat is burned off while muscle is built.

Balance is the Key: In order to generate initial momentum available training time should be allotted equally. The beginner should divide available training time in half. If, for example, a person had four cumulative hours per week available for the body renovation effort, a realistic training split could be structured as follows:

Day I weight train 60-minutes
Day II cardio 30-minutes
Day III cardio 30-minutes
Day IV off
Day V weight train 60-minutes
Day VI cardio 30-minutes
Day VII cardio 30-minutes

Total weights 120-minutes
Cardio 120-minutes

Structure first then content: Devise the template before beginning to tinker with the actual content. In the progressive resistance portion of our training, our hypothetical beginner would devote two cumulative hours per week. Twice a week this individual would perform a progressive resistance routine one-hour in length that would attack as many muscles as possible, hopefully using a well-thought out free-weight program consisting primarily of compound multi-joint exercises. Cardio would be performed four times per week in 30-minute sessions.

The initial goal could be to elevate the heart rate, regardless to the cardio mode selected, to perhaps 60-70% of age-related heart rate maximum. Over each subsequent week for between 6 to 12 weeks, all benchmarks are pushed upward. Poundage or reps would be conscientiously increased and simultaneously the baseline heart rate would be stair-stepped upward. The adaptive response is triggered as a result of applied intensity and effort. The number of daily feedings is increased. By spreading the days calories out over 5-6 feedings the metabolism increases and nutrient assimilation is vastly improved. Stored body fat is mobilized and oxidized.

Who ever said it would be easy? The physical transformation process is not easy but it is doable assuming you can muster the discipline and gumption. First devise the game plan then allot your time, line up your tools, visit the grocery store and pull the trigger. The devil is in the details but unless you understand the training template and grasp the requisite balance between the three irreplaceable elements, nothing of much physical significance will occur. Architecture first (synergistic balance) then deal with the interior design (component content) otherwise youll become immersed and tangled in one area to the exclusion of the other two irreplaceable elements.

Like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the steep hill, sooner or later willpower fails and it all rolls back down the hill. Think hard about the architectural structure of our fitness effort and after everyone absorbs the concept of balance into his or her marrow, then consider content specifics within each leg of the Fitness Triad.

Marty Gallagher is a former fitness chat columnist for washingtonpost.com. He is also a former world champion powerlifting coach. Marty has written for publications such as Muscle Media, Muscle & Fitness, and Powerlifting USA. His website, http://www.martygallagher.com, assimilates years of accumulated knowledge from the athletic elite and makes them accessible to the common person. The "Purposeful Primitive" way has been proven effective time after time after time for weight loss, building muscle, increasing strength, and improving health.


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