In case you are just starting your health and fitness journey- I hope this blog can help direct you on the right path.
3 things I wish I knew about health and fitness 10 years ago:
- Cardio is not the be all end all for being fit, healthy, and a good weight.
Throughout high school and University I used to ensure I did cardio on a regular basis (usually 5 days a week) in order to maintain my weight, be fit, and keep good health. Little did I know there were A LOT of other variables to factor in to make being fit, healthy, and maintaining my weight easier. If I could go back 10 years and add something to my routine I would add 2-3 days of strength training. Lifting weights is an incredible way to look and feel fit and strong, improve your health, boost your metabolism, make it easier to maintain your weight, build a solid foundation to work out on and prevent injuries.
Here’s an example:
In 2nd year University I went on an overnight hiking/camping trip through Tobermory park in Ontario. I had been exercising on the treadmill and elliptical steadily for months, and thought I would do fine to keep up. I was also in the Kinesiology program at school where I would take sport courses regularly, so I thought I was pretty fit. Little did I know I was going to be the LAST person to arrive at camp that night. I arrived so late that the sun was down, and everyone had eaten dinner! I was so exhausted I just jumped in my tent, changed to warm clothes and passed out. It didn’t make sense to me! I was so good at my one hour on the elliptical daily- why did none of it carry over to the hike? Well let’s see, I WAS WEAK! I had no lower body strength, or core strength, or back strength. Sure, I could have kept up on flat ground with no huge bag on my back, but that’s not hiking. If I could go back now I would start strength training regularly, as well as I would start training in different more effective and transferable forms of ‘cardio’.
Here’s another example:
I used to eat 1200-1500 calories a day and kill myself doing cardio daily to maintain my weight. I was always hungry, had no energy for anything, and constantly told myself I can’t have treats.
Now I have no clue how much I eat in a day (maybe 3000 calories?), but I eat 3-5 meals/snacks. I eat until I am full. I choose to indulge when I feel like indulging. I exercise regularly in all types of activities including strength training/yoga/pilates etc. I appear smaller and fit into a smaller size then I did before.
Let’s see…which one seems like the better option??
I once read a fact that said that a person who is of the same weight, yet significantly more muscular, will burn up to 1000 more calories a day than the less muscular person- this is equivalent to running a 10 km race that they didn’t run that day!!
- The hardest things to do, are not necessarily the best things for your body.
I’ve spent years (and still find myself doing this) chasing challenging forms of exercise- CrossFit, power lifting, Olympic lifting, running marathons etc. I always thought the more of these activities I did that I was doing the best and most right thing for my body to be healthy, fit and strong. I have come to realize that the body needs some less intense, more focused, and corrective exercise. For example, lighter strength training focusing on my posture, weaknesses, and dysfunctional movement patterns, and pilates to focus on my core strength and hip stabilizers. Since I’ve stopped chasing so many intense forms of exercise, and balancing them with corrective forms of exercise I am overall stronger, more overall athletic, have less aches and pains, am more flexible, and am fitter/faster in all the activities I do. Listen to your body- and correct it’s weaknesses.
Here’s an example: I remember during the time of my life I did a lot of running and Crossfit and elliptical. I would wake up in the morning, start getting ready, and couldn’t bend forward to put my ankle into my pant leg easily because my muscles were too tight! Does this sound like a healthy body to you? No-this was a back injury waiting to happen!
- NEVER EVER LOOK AROUND IN THE GYM AND COPY WHAT OTHERS ARE DOING.
I spend 30-40 hours a weak in the gym and am constantly watching the CRAZIEST THINGS HAPPENING. People choose the wildest exercises, use awful form, choose useless exercises, lift weights way to heavy for them, and blindly follow programs they’ve downloaded form the internet. Is it all inherently bad? No. Are people sending themselves to doctors, physios, and chiros unnecessarily, I think so. Could they be spending less time in the gym, getting better individualized results, YES. So instead of blindly following what you see someone else doing in the gym, take note of their exercise, look it up online, figure out why they are doing it, how to do it properly, and if it is a good exercise for you given your posture/current abilities/body mechanics etc.
Here’s an example: I see people with severely rounded posture doing overhead presses everyday. The anatomy of the shoulder is set up so that with good posture you could perform this exercise safely, but with poor posture doing an overhead press is almost guaranteeing an issue in the shoulder. Pick the right exercises for youJ
So in the end, if you are looking to maintain your weight easier, build a stronger, more athletic, fitter looking body, and prevent potential injuries then get yourself designed an individualized workout program including strength training. And I you can’t do it yourself- you know where to find me 🙂
PS- The photo is from Elk Mountain in Chilliwack- great hike if you are looking for a shorter hike that’s a workout!