Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Scale

I'm not talking about your weight.  Actually, just forget your weight.  Shelve that worry for a few weeks, because right now, it doesn't really matter.

When you start or modify your workout program, begin by asking yourself a few questions.  Do you like the way you feel now?  Why?  Do you have past injuries that should be dealt with?  What are the exercises that you love and loathe?  In this initial conversation, the number you see on the scale is relatively unimportant.  However, you should ask yourself two important questions whose answers are on scales.

Question 1:  "On a scale of one to ten, how would I rate my current fitness level?"

The answer to this question establishes a baseline of your current fitness.  When answering this question, evaluate how efficiently you can walk up a flight of stairs, how easily you can get up from a chair, or whether getting out of the car proves challenging.  Consider whether you walk at a slow or brisk pace.  Is a brisk walk challenging?  Can you do a push-up?  Can you do a sit-up?  Yes?  How many?  Is a trip up the ladder an injury-in-waiting?  Can you run for 10 minutes without stopping?  Based on these reflections, confidently or gingerly place yourself on the scale.  That's it.

Question 2:  "On a scale of 'couch potato' to 'professional athlete', how committed are you to achieving your fitness goals?

This question has nothing to do with your current health and everything to do with how badly you want your current health to change into something better.  If you want it as bad as a pro wants it, you'll go after it with fury.  You'll be unstoppable in your quest.  If you want your life to change and are as motivated as a couch potato, you'll accept the first excuse you can find to quit.

If your fitness level is at a 3 and you've got the drive of a pro to make big changes, you're going to be successful.  The caliber of change should be measured by an increase in your fitness level.  A bi-product of this change will be weight loss, increased muscle mass, strength, power, and speed.  You'll look and feel healthier.

So today, your first challenge is to ditch the scale for about a month.  I'm not kidding.  Put it away.  Then, on one piece of paper, write out the following two scales:

My Current Fitness Level

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

My Committment to Improving My Fitness

Couch Potato   Weekend Warrior   Fitness Buff   Semi-Pro   Professional

Give yourself one reasonable goal with a deadline.
  • I will do 5 boy pushups by Christmas.
  • I will do the plank for 15 seconds by the end of November.
  • I will run for 5 minutes straight in 4 weeks.
  • I will learn a proper squat.
  • I will attend a class at my gym three times a week for one month.
Stick to your deadline.  Sit down and give an honest assessment of what you've achieved.  Do you feel good about what you've challenged your body to do?  How many times did you make excuses?  Then, make two new scales.  Where is your NEW fitness level?  How committed are you to changing it?  Then, give yourself an entirely new challenge, something completely different from the last one. 

But most importantly, HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE! 

Keep it fun.  Keep it interesting.  Keep going!  This is your life and your health!  DO IT!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Getting Specific

Creating a well-formed fitness program is like writing a thesis.  It begins with a general question: What do you want to do with your body?

Your answer is your conclusion.  The body of your work is what it will take to get you there.  Your starting point is your fitness level right now.

Your fitness program needs to offer realistic goals based on your current fitness level.  For example, if your end goal is to play a complete tennis match comfortably, you must first evaluate the state of your current body.  Be honest with yourself, yet give yourself grace.   Do you have a difficult time balancing on one foot?  Do you get winded easily?  Do you have a lot of weight to lose?

If you've answered "yes" to any of these questions, then simply picking up your racket is, surprisingly, not your starting point.  Tennis is a sport that requires specific conditioning.  If you're getting back into shape, jumping headlong into a specific sport increases your risk of injury and will likely decrease your enjoyment of the sport.  If you're injured or you lose motivation, you're less likely to reach your goal.  You deserve to reach your goal!

So let's rethink the concept of your starting point.  If a full game of tennis is your goal, your starting point is off the court.  Begin with mastering the basics of balance and coordination.  Stand on one foot.  Then use the wobble board.  Then use the BOSU ball.  Build up your cardio strength on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike.  Or go for a brisk walk until you can run.  Then run until you can trail run.  Begin lifting weights to increase the strength in your tendons and muscles.  Then increase the weight.  Run some more.  As your body weight decreases, your cardiovascular capacity increases, and your speed quickens, throw a medicine ball up in the air or against a wall.  Jump on and off of plyo boxes.  Run sprints.

Only then, after your ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings, hip flexors, abdominals, back, and arms have all made thousands of new connections with your brain on how to run fast, jump, slide, and hit without falling, pulling a muscle, twisting an ankle, blowing out your elbow or passing out, you will have reached your final goal of becoming fit enough to play a full tennis match.  Only then should you pick up your racket and step onto the court.

Playing sports are a great way to stay in shape.  They are not an effective weight-loss plan, however, because of the risk of injury.  People who wish to play sports should be relatively conditioned before they begin.  If you've decided that you want to play soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball, slow-pitch softball, water polo, or run wind sprints, take some time to get your body ready.  Begin with a general plan to get your heart and muscles strong.  Then get specific.  You should incorporate exercises into your fitness program that will help you reach your goal safely and enjoyably only after you've conditioned your body to meet the increased demands.

So the question is: What do you want to do with your body?