4 Simple Commandments That Will Guide You to Greater Fitness in 2019
Improving your fitness can sometimes feel like rocket science.
Fall down the wrong rabbit hole, and suddenly you’re surrounded by complex terminology and insane diet and training programs. For the average person simply looking to get more fit, this can lead to information overload and the inevitable return to watching television, snacking and a lifestyle that is not going to do you any favours.
Having worked in the fitness industry since the turn of the millennium I’ve come up with four simple commandments I believe can make a big impact for the vast majority of people. They’re easy to follow, they require little hassle, and they don’t require a degree in astrophysics to incorporate into your everyday life.
If your serious about changing your body for the better in 2019, you’d be wise to follow these four commandments.
Thou Shalt Sprint
Walk into a commercial gym in early January and you’ll be greeted by rows and rows of people pumping away on elliptical machines and treadmills. These folks, usually following up on a New Year’s resolution (often done under the influence of a few pints and copious amounts of biscuits) to get more fit, typically plod away at a steady intensity for 45 to 60 minutes, then call it a day.
They do this for a few weeks, get discouraged at their lack of results, and fall off. If you want to see serious changes in your body, you should sprint!
- Sprints are short bursts of maximum effort exercise. You can do them with a treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical, rower or just about any implement you use to exercise (you can also just actually sprint on foot in an open area, if you so choose). Integrating sprints into your routine is perhaps the best bang-for-your-buck fitness decision you can make.
- During very intense exercise like sprinting, your body actually uses more oxygen than it takes in. When your workout concludes, your body has to re-oxygenate and recover from that stress. This process burns calories, largely in the form of fat. It’s how four 30-second sprints can ultimately produce the same number of calories burned as 30 minutes of non-stop moderate aerobic exercise.
- Moreover, sprint intervals also seem to burn visceral fat—a type of fat stored in your abdomen which is particularly dangerous to accumulate—much better than moderate aerobic exercise.
- Sprint intervals may also have a more significant impact on your mental health than traditional cardio which is also a good thing in the often dark and bleak month of January.
- While athletes who are required to sprint multiple times per competition need training to mimic such rigors, the average Joe simply looking to get in better shape can see results from performing a small number of short sprints during their routine.
And notice we did not mention you have to reach a certain speed to reap these benefits. You don’t need to be Usain Bolt to sprint your way to better health—you just need to run or pedal hard. If you’re brand new to the idea of sprints, you can start by trying a REHIT protocol. This calls for two, 20-second bursts of maximum intensity exercise among otherwise low-intensity, steady-state cardio. The entire workout should last about 10 minutes. This is generally easiest to perform on an exercise bike (an air bike works best but if you are in doubt feel free to ask a member of our fitness team).
If you’re concerned you may not be healthy enough for intense exercise, check with your doctor first.
Thou Shalt Strength Train
Lifting weights is often seen as a young persons game.
Think about the free weights area inside your average commercial gym. It’s generally crowded with people in their 20s and 30s sipping protein shakes & pumping iron whilst on Instagram …. don’t get me started on this!!! ☹ .
Due to that environment, and the fact that lifting weights is often viewed as more complicated than simply jumping on a treadmill, many females and older adults steer clear of weight training. That’s a shame. We’re not saying you’ve got to go full powerlifter, but spending some time with implements like barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells is excellent for the human body.
- Women of all ages are often tentative to lift weights due to fear of becoming “bulky.” When these same women do lift weights, they’re usually of the teeny, 1-to-5-pound variety. Newsflash: A female won’t suddenly turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger simply by picking up a weight. It just doesn’t work that way.
- Women naturally have much less testosterone in their bodies than men, so it takes an extreme amount of time and energy for them to become anything approaching “bulky.” If you’re not training and living like a female professional bodybuilder (and you would certainly know if you were), you don’t need to worry about getting too big and bulky from strength training. Rather, resistance training is the best option for toning the body, dropping unwanted fat, fixing your posture and simply looking and feeling better.
- By avoiding it, the only thing you’re doing is making your quest for better overall fitness much more difficult. There are few people on the planet who wouldn’t experience body composition benefits by getting stronger.
- This leads me to my next point. If you think you’re “too old” to lift weights, think again! Resistance training has actually been found to be one of the most robust ways humans can combat the physical and mental decline naturally associated with aging. Due to a process called sarcopenia, men and women can lose anywhere between 30-50% of their muscle strength between the ages of 30 and 80. A loss of muscle strength makes almost any activity more difficult—whether it’s riding a bike or simply climbing a set of stairs.
The more we can get people doing resistance training like weight lifting, the more likely we are to have a healthier aging population and the key is to make sure you are doing it frequently, at least twice a week, and at a high intensity so that you are maximizing your strength gains. This will give you the maximum benefit for your body and your brain.
A 2016 analysis from the Penn State College of Medicine in the US found adults over 65 who strength trained at least twice a week had “46 percent lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They had 41 percent lower odds of cardiac death and 19 percent lower odds of dying from cancer.” Even after adjusting for demographic variables, health conditions and health behaviours, the effect of strength training on lifespan remained significant. After the researchers controlled for physical activity level, “people who reported strength exercises appeared to see a greater mortality benefit than those who reported physical activity alone.”
Long story short—almost every human can benefit from getting stronger. The best way to get stronger is via some form of strength training. If you’re looking to give it a shot, hook up with a member of our fitness team who can put you on an appropriate program.
Thou Shalt Stop Counting Calories and Do This Instead
For decades, we’ve believed that counting calories was the key to weight loss.
However, calorie-restricted diets often only produce short-term results. Many people have also obsessed over the idea that low-carb diets are the key to weight loss, while others have emphasised diets low in fat.
But a massive study from the Stanford University School of Medicine found that a simple shift in eating philosophy resulted in similar weight loss among participants despite significant differences in age, genetics, carb intake, dietary fat intake, and insulin levels.
- The study entailed half of the 609 participants being placed on a low-carb, high-fat diet and the other half being placed on a high-carb, low fat diet. The participants were told to eat as much as they want and not to worry about counting calories or controlling portion sizes. But most importantly, both groups were instructed to eat “as little or no added sugar, if possible, as little or no refined grain, if possible, and as many vegetables as you can.”
- Both groups experienced similar weight loss over the year, and differences in genetics and insulin levels didn’t seem to impact the amount of weight lost. Christopher Garner, Phd, professor of medicine and lead author of the study discusses the study and the results:
- “We’re battling about points on the fringe of this whole debate without getting to the core. I think if we really focused on added sugar and refined grain (and their) decrease or elimination, and we worked with some of our favourite chefs to make vegetables even more unapologetically delicious, a lot of the debates would go away,” Garner says.
So in the new year, don’t get caught obsessing over calories or amounts of any one specific nutrient. Cut down on the added sugar, cut down on the refined grains and eat more vegetables. If you can manage that, the rest will take care of itself.
Thou Shalt Be in the Moment when Training
And so I come to my final commandment for everyone who is currently on a fitness journey and its simply “Be in the Moment”.
- Instead of concentrating on what to expect from the future try to become aware of the present moment and all that it has to offer. At the gym, train on a rep-by-rep basis, focusing on each individual repetition, the movement patterns, and the progressions which must be made in order to see adequate growth and positive change.
- Focus on making small and achievable progressions at each and every training session.
- Live, experience, and enjoy the entire process as it unfolds, because life is entirely too short to be worried about the past or concerned for the future and please please please stay off your phone, your emails, your social media accounts. Just listen to some good tunes and BE!!!!