Fitness is a state of mind. It’s a conscious decision to take care of yourself before you take care of anything else. I’d challenge anyone who says they can’t find time for health-promoting exercise. If you spend time sitting and watching television, you could also be pedaling an exercise bike. If you have phone calls to make, you could use a headset and talk while you walk or run. If your day might get hectic, causing good intentions about exercise to remain just that, make it a point to wake up earlier and get the workout completed first. Fitness is too important to not be a priority. Everything is better when you’re fit.
Certainly, there are those unfortunate individuals who have so many physical issues that no exertion is possible, but too often this is a cop-out. If an upper extremity is hurting, that doesn’t prevent you from exercising your lower extremities and vice versa. If you want to find an excuse, you will.
I was a competitive distance runner for 30 years. After 80 miles a week of pounding the pavement and 5 orthopedic surgeries, I wised up and switched from running to walking, biking, and swimming for cardiovascular exercise. I’d already added weight training to complement the cardio. While I’m a poor swimmer technique-wise, I don’t care how it looks; I’m getting both strength and endurance benefits with minimal musculoskeletal stress.
And although I don’t understand using a personal trainer since you don’t pay someone to tell you how to eat, shower, or do the laundry, if that’s the only way you’ll exercise (and you can afford it), go for it.
Even if fitness for general health reasons is not your goal, if you play golf, tennis, pickleball, or any sport, you’ll be more proficient and able to play longer and harder if you’re fit.
Before writing this column, I asked several fitness-minded friends for candid suggestions on specific topics. They all suggested that I should provide guidance for those who are new to workout facilities and thoughts on how to get the most out of strength and/or cardiovascular training while also observing “gym etiquette.” Here’s a summary of their guidance:
- When new to strength training, it’s best to use strength training machines, not free weights. It’s not complicated; there are only about a dozen ‘lifts’ and all can be done safely and comfortably. After mastering machines, you can advance to the variety that free weights and other training methods offer.
- If the only way you’ll work out is with a personal trainer, that’s alright. However, trainers invariably teach more complicated routines than necessary, thus enhancing their own indispensability. Newcomers should really use the machines, which they can master with minimal initial direction and no ongoing (and expensive) coaching.
- If you employ a trainer and are constantly carrying on a conversation (the norm), you’re not getting the most out of the workout. And if your trainer isn’t also stressing the importance of vigorous and prolonged cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, cycling, swimming), you should find a new trainer. Strength training should supplement the cardio, not vice versa.
- Wipe down the equipment after using it and ask others to wipe it down as well.
- If you use free weights, mats, balls, etc., put them back where they belong when you’re done. And your phone, water bottle, and towel don’t belong on the benches in other patrons’ way.
- Don’t bang the weights or weight machines; control your motions.
- Be mindful of others waiting to use the equipment; be prepared to share if someone is waiting. And please don’t sit on a machine or bench and text while others are waiting to use it.
- How often must you exercise to see real results? That depends on many factors, including intensity and duration of the workout, age, diet, alcohol consumption, and present health and conditioning. You don’t have to work out every day, but only 1 or 2 days a week and less than 45 minutes of vigorous exertion each workout is not going to do it for you.
- And you can’t talk, text, tan or tattoo your way to fitness. It takes dedicated work to see results.
Phil Goldstein writes Tales from Timnath periodically for North Forty News. Phil is an 11-year Timnath resident who proudly serves the Town of Timnath as chair of the Timnath Planning Commission. Phil is finally using his journalism degree after getting sidetracked 48 years ago. The views expressed herein are Phil’s only. Contact him with comments on the column or suggestions for future columns at NFNTimnath@gmail.com.