Monday, March 18, 2013

Exercise - Just DO It!

When we first decided to change our diet and I noticed some weight-loss, I was secretly hoping that I had found the golden ticket of losing weight while avoiding exercise (all the claims you hear about the latest diet pill). Secretly, and sometimes not-so-secretly (picture a super pouty face when Michael asked me if I wanted to work out), all I wanted to do was lay on the couch all day and look fabulous at the same time.

I mean, who actually wants to work out?!

Although it is true that following a whole foods, plant-based diet will result in weight-loss, it will, by itself, not lead a person to optimal health. In other words, an optimal diet must be coupled with exercise to make a person optimally healthy.

Why is exercise necessary? Or more accurately, why isn't diet alone or exercise alone all it takes to be healthy?

There are many reasons, but the main one is that as you age, without exercise, you will slowly lose basic but necessary functions like balance, strength, coordination, and flexibility. You can eat a perfectly optimal diet all your life, but if you don't exercise, you will still become weak, frail, immobile, and dependent on others when you're old.

Diet helps you reach old age, but exercise helps you enjoy it once you reach it. What fun would it be to live to 105 years old, but be bed-ridden?

How else does exercise benefit you? Here's Dr. Pam Popper's list from the Wellness Forum:
  • Increases your metabolism
  • Improves digestion
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Increases flexibility
  • Improves balance
  • Increases energy levels
  • Helps you sleep better
  • Promotes a positive attitude
  • Improves muscle strength
  • Builds stronger bones
  • Improves coordination
  • Reduces depression
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves mental alertness
  • Increases your endurance and stamina
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves your immune system

How often, how long, and what type of exercise should you do? Pam recommends:
  • Aerobic exercise 3-4 times per week for 45-60 minutes
  • Strength training 2-3 times per week for 45-60 minutes
  • Stretching 1-2 times per week for 45-60 minutes
Your goal should be to workout (aerobic and strength training sessions) in your target heart rate zone, which you can easily determine by the "talk test" method -- you're in your target heart rate if you can carry on a conversation, but you'd prefer the person talking to you would zip it (while loop holes here you introverts!). You also want to strive for progress over time. In other words, if you've been exercising on the same speed and incline on a treadmill for several weeks, perhaps it's time to kick it up a notch!

Our typical week looks like this:
  • Monday: either P90-X Chest and Back or Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
  • Tuesday: cardio day...usually P90-X Plyometrics
  • Wednesday: either P90-X Shoulders and Arms or Back and Biceps
  • Thursday: cardio day...either run or do P90-X Core Synergistics
  • Friday: P90-X Legs and Back
  • Saturday: shorter cardio, bike ride, or P90-X Kenpo or Cardio
  • Sunday: P90-X Stretch

But I don't have time to workout!

We've all said this at one time or another, but let's be honest: with a few legitimate exceptions, we all have time to workout, because we all make time for the things that are important to us. It's all about priorities, so until you make the decision to make working out a priority, you're right, you don't have time to workout because you don't allow time to workout.

It may require some changes in your habits and some planning ahead, but everyone can make time to work out if they make it a high enough priority. There are so many ways to exercise (outdoors, indoors, in your house, at a gym, etc.) that you should have plenty of opportunities to get some exercise into your typical week.

Start slow, and start small, but work your way up and, most importantly, stick with it. I assure you that once you begin to routinely workout (coupled with an optimal diet), it won't take long for you to notice some results. And then those results help keep you motivated to continue your new exercise habits. And eventually, you may actually find that you enjoy working out. Yes, it's true. You may find that if you skip a day, you'll actually wish you hadn't.

It happened to me, and let's not forget what I started out secretly hoping. I used to hate exercise. I used to have such a negative attitude about it (I can't do that...I'm not good at push-ups...that exercise doesn't work for me).

But I stuck with it. And now I'm fitter than I've ever been in my life, and I truly enjoy exercising. Sure, there are some days that I'd rather skip a workout, and sometimes we do skip it, but overall, I look forward to our workouts, and more importantly, I look forward to how good I know I'll feel once I've finished working out. It's a wonderful feeling.

I used to hate running. And when I would run, I was never capable of running more than half a mile without stopping to walk for a bit. But now I'm able to run for 2-3 miles straight before taking a rest. You will see progress and results if you make it a habit to workout.

Buddy up with a friend or your spouse to help keep you accountable. Hire a personal trainer if you can afford it. Join a gym (and actually go). Schedule your workouts on your calendar and treat it like an appointment or commitment. Download a workout plan from online or make one up for yourself. Keep a written record of your exercises, reps, and weight amounts so you can track progress over time. Download an exercise-related app on your phone. With today's technology, you have an abundance of tools to help you exercise.

Just DO it!

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