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Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?

Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?

Why do some of us invest so much time and energy into our exercise program for so little in the way of results. Yep it’s true; some of us spend a lot of time achieving not too much. Heaps of sweat, commitment and even dollars, for a less than desirable return.

I’m constantly getting letters, emails and phone calls from frustrated exercisers, so I figure it is time to take a look at why time spent exercising doesn’t always equate to desirable results.

Lifestyle

    Let’s get under way with some basic exercise physiology…

    Our body recognises exercise as a form of stress (mostly good stress) and when we stress our body the right way for long enough, it adapts. Simple enough. We see those physiological adaptations as improvements in aerobic fitness, strength, muscular endurance, speed, power, flexibility, along with decreases in body-fat levels and increases in lean mass (muscle). From a purely scientific and academic perspective, changing a body is a relatively straight forward process. In reality, we know that once we throw human emotions and a few other practical issues into the mix, that simplicity can become a lot more complex!

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    Bodies don’t think, they simply adapt.

    If we put too many calories into a body it will ‘adapt’ by storing that excess energy in the form of body-fat. If we lift progressively heavier weights, we will see adaptations in the form of bigger and/or stronger muscles. If we begin a program of aerobic exercise, within the first few weeks we will see physiological changes; lower blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, lower working heart rate, less post-exercise soreness, decreased recovery time, increased metabolic rate and changes in body composition just to mention a few – all of these being adaptations to the ‘stress’ of cardiovascular exercise. If you train yourself like a distance runner, you ain’t gonna wind up looking like a bodybuilder. Neither will training like Mr (or Miss) Universe turn you into that slender, waif-like running machine.

    When a body changes, there’s a reason. When a body doesn’t change, there’s a reason. And as I’ve said before, we need to learn how to ‘drive’ our body and to discover what works for us (personally). Individual bodies respond differently to the same stimulus, so we need to learn how to maximise our own genetics. Quite often, by being less emotional and more practical and methodical about our approach to exercise, we will achieve far better results in much less time.

    Here’s a few things to consider as you work through the exercise thing…

    1. What works (in terms of creating significant physical change) and what we enjoy doing, are often two different things.

    Yes we want to make exercise fun when possible, but sometimes we need to stop looking for easy and starting doing effective. I don’t particularly enjoy stretching but I can’t improve my terrible flexibility by bench pressing small cars. Heavy sigh. So stretching it shall be for the human ceramic tile. The piece of chalk with hair on top. I might not always love the process, but I really love the results. You might not enjoy lifting weights but you won’t build your upper body strength or achieve that athletic shape you’re after by going for a gentle walk with your neighbor each morning.

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    Mountain bike
      2. Your body will only adapt when it needs to.

      If you constantly stimulate your body the same way day in, day out (same workout, same exercises, same format, same intensity, same weights, same distance, same machines, same duration) it ain’t gonna change ’cause it doesn’t need to. You are following a maintenance program. Give your body a reason to change and it will. Some people have been following the same program for years, all the while wondering why nothing changes. It’s true in life and in the gym; if nothing changes, nothing changes. Progression is good. Variety is good. Change is good.

      3. Over-training.

      Many people simply train so much that their body is in a constant state of disrepair. When you stress an already stressed (over-trained, injured, exhausted) body (via more exercise) you’re setting yourself up for long term problems and frustration.

      Don’t confuse volume with quality. Don’t make emotional decisions about your exercise program. It’s good to train hard (sometimes) and smart. I only lift weights three times per week for forty five minutes, but I’m stronger than most of the twenty three year-old meat-heads who inhabit the weight room seven days per week. Not because I have better genetics or more testosterone (I wish) but because I know what works most effectively for my body (in terms of creating the right balance between training, nutrition and recovery) and I stimulate my physiology the right way. I train optimally for me. Don’t forget… the adaptation takes place when you’re not training. The workout is for the stimulation, the recovery time is for the adaptation.

      4.Going-though-the-motions-itis.

      A little-known scientific term which is Latin for “looks like a workout but isn’t”. It’s a condition where people go to the gym and fluff around for an hour or so without actually doing much. A few chats, a little self-admiration in the mirror, a cappuccino or two and a strategically-placed towel over the shoulder – they’re hard to miss. Every gym has a least ten of them. They are known colloquially in Australia as… wankers. There is also another group of well-meaning people who work out often but simply don’t train hard enough to create the results they’re seeking.

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      Of course we need to train safely and intelligently, and yes we need to develop a training base before we get anywhere near the intense zone, but sometimes we simply need to force our body to adapt. If what you’re doing in your workouts is easy for you, then don’t expect to see much in the way of physiological change. Easy might be fun but it ain’t really productive when it comes to changing a body. If you wanna see some change, get uncomfortable. Often. Don’t kill yourself but don’t avoid the tough stuff either.

      5. All the other stuff.

      Of course there are plenty of variables in the creating-your-best-body process and exercise is just one of them. If you’ve nailed your exercise but your diet is a nightmare (over-eating, under-eating, sporadic eating, poor quality food) your results will be average at best. Other factors which might sabotage or inhibit what you’re doing with your exercise program are: alcohol, drugs, lack of sleep, stress and medications. No use training like an Olympian if you’re living a lifestyle which is at odds with your exercise goals.

      If (for example) you’re expending more calories than you’re consuming, you ain’t gonna grow muscle ’cause their ain’t no gas in the tank. Conversely, if you’re consuming more than you’re expending each day, you ain’t gonna get leaner no matter how well you train or how much cardio you do. You’ll be fitter but you’ll still be fat.

      Adult female with personal trainer at gym
        6.The Wrong Program.

        For a wide range of reasons thousands and thousands of people are currently following a program which is less than ideal, if not completely inappropriate for them.

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        Go into virtually any gym and you’ll see dozens of people (with different bodies, goals and needs) all following essentially the same ‘generic’ program. This is called laziness, ignorance, lack of professionalism and I-don’t-really-care, on the part of the instructors who set those programs. If your program wasn’t designed specifically for you (by someone who knows their stuff), then it’s not the best strategy for you.

        That’s not to say that your program is not of any value but why settle for okay, when you can have ideal. Your program should be designed specific to your age, goals, body type, current level of fitness, training history, medical conditions and injuries. If you found your current training program on page seventy two of Buffed and Ripped, then you ain’t doing yourself any favours. Same goes if you got your program from your cousin Guido the panel beater who came second in that bodybuilding show in 1992. The same one who worked in a gym for three months when he was nineteen.

        So… maybe it’s time for some change.

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        How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

        How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

        Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

        But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

        Sight – Visual Stimulation

        The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

        1. Maximize your exposure to light.

        Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

        Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

        2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

        Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

        Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

        Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

        3. Take note of your environment.

        Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

        By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.

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        Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

        What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

        4. Engage in conversation.

        Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

        Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

        Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

        Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

        5. Listen to upbeat music.

        Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

        Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

        Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

        If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

        6. Work your nose.

        Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

        If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.

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        Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

        Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

        If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

        7. Have a good breakfast.

        Start off with the most important meal of the day.

        Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

        Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

        Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

        20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

        8. Drink lots of water.

        Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

        So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

        How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)

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        Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

        3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

        9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

        Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

        Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

        Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

        25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

        Touch – Tactile Stimulation

        Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

        10. Splash cold water on your face.

        Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

        This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

        5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers

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        11. Use acupressure.

        Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

        Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

        12. Get moving.

        Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

        And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

        You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

        Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

        Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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