You find doughy, achy, drug-laden bodies in cubicles, on private jets, working cash registers, taking exams...pretty much everywhere. Inferior levels of fitness and overall health have seeped into every crevice of the population and stand only to get worse.
Last week we wrote about the shenanigans of big food companies and their stretch of the truth for marketing purposes. This week we are talking about the questionable concept of retail gym-going. Lets face it: going to the gym only partly has to do with exercise and long term health. If you are a proud card-carrying member of a fancy (or grungy) club, and you go twice a week or more, kudos to you. Most members don't go at all.
The cold hard truth, however, is that twice a week trips don't complete the long term health picture, and gyms know this. In many ways, they set up the facilities to discourage you from coming too frequently (lots of other activities, snake-like routes in and out of exercise rooms, etc) because their equipment is expensive and the cost to maintain it is way higher than the revenue they make on your membership.
Of course, the real problem is how you've been made to think that you need the gym for exercise. Therefore when you don't go, you don't do anything. And the single most important truth in fitness that you is that you need to do something physical everyday. Rest or recovery days are part of a separate topic we will write about later in the month - but if you are training for a sport or competition, rest days may be mandatory. Acknowledge this absolute, and you are on your way.
To keep a grip on reality, we divide exercise routines into three categories:
1. Anchor: 30-60 minutes, 2-4 times per week, depending on your ability level. Includes warm up, 20-30 min of movement with elevated heart rate, and cool down. We call them anchor workouts because for planning purposes, these routines should anchor your calendar. On occasion, you have to skip them. When this happens, you swap for one of the other two types.
2. Maintenance: 15-20 minutes, 3-5 times per week depending on above. Includes combination moves that strengthen heart and other muscles at the same time.
3. Functional Five: the Hail Mary of fitness, you should never go a 24-hour period without at least your functional five. Include any five exercises that you know well enough to perform perfectly and execute each move for 60 seconds.
In addition to the daily fitness truth, here are three other absolutes you need to understand in order to enjoy long term health:
- recreation is one of the easiest ways to spend time with people in your life and work your body at the same time. Tennis, soccer, frisbee, even ping pong will get your heart rate up and keep a smile on your face.
- your ears are your best guide when it comes to mastering your moves. Your brains ability to focus on muscles and breathe properly is reduced when you simply copy what you see.
- concentrated isometrics can help keep your smaller muscles alert and healthy, and many moves can be performed at your desk, on the bed, or even in the car. Proper posture, Kegels, glute squeezes are all good examples.
Don't skip out on your body's health, even if you have to skip out on the gym. The difference between a doughy and healthy may seem tough to define, and society's standards exacerbate the confusion. Talk to your doctor, confide in your spouse or friend, get daily habit tips from a trainer and turn the tide.