- I am not a doctor. I have never played one on television. I haven't stayed in a Holiday Inn Express in over a year. The information I provide is what is working for me. I am regularly in some kind of consultation with three medical professionals: Primary Care Physician, Cardiologist, Orthopedic Surgeon. They are also in touch with each other. It is critical that one not begin a course of exercise or radically change one's lifestyle without consulting a medical professional.
- If you are over 40 yrs old, it is strongly advised that you speak with a medical professional regarding a Stress EKG study. This is a painless procedure that takes about 45 minutes. You are hooked up to an EKG (Electrocardiogram) machine while on a treadmill. This study observes your heart at various levels of stress as both the incline and speed of the treadmill increase over a given period of time -- usually no more than 15 minutes. This is important especially if you have a family history of heart issues.
- This is not essential, but I have found it helpful to check in with an exercise physiologist as I begin a new exercise routine. This is especially true if you have a cardiac condition or orthopedic issues. Some exercises and equipment are more suitable than others, if there are such issues. Many gyms and health clubs do not have "floor specialists." They are usually college or adult persons who do not have a specialization in techniques that prevent injury. This is one reason I have spent just a tad more and enrolled in facilities that have personnel with degrees in exercise physiology or physical therapy.
- Pain is not your friend! Take this one to the bank. If what you are doing causes pain, don't do it. Something isn't right. It is common to feel a little sore or stiff in the early stages of a new exercise routine, but it should last no longer than a day following the exercise. Once you are in a routine and conditioning begins, a slight soreness will be felt as you increase weights or resistance. Do not "work through the pain." It's a crock...and back away from anyone suggesting it. It will save you from future injury.
- Heart Rate: How fast your heart is beating during an aerobic series. Best advice is to consult the charts available that give age ranges and suggested target heart rates for extended periods. Example: Because I have a cardiac anomaly, my cardiologist do not want me to exceed 120 beats per minute (bpm) over an extended time. Above that, the coronary arteries tend to no longer deliver oxygen to my heart efficiently. Heart Rate is the key for any aerobic workout.
- Time: What is the most effective amount of time for aerobic training. Really, less than sustained 20 minutes is only marginally effective for cardiac health. Most professionals suggest 30 minutes. Some suggest longer. In my particular situation, the docs want an average of 40 to 50 minutes whenever possible and 30 minutes minimum.
- Forget the other number values. How fast one is pedaling or moving, or how many calories one is burning is of no real concern. Sustaining target heart rate for a set period of time that is good for you will yield the best health benefits. That is advice I have heard from every credible exercise physiologist and cardiologist. If you do those to values, metabolic efficiency is enhanced over time.
Weight Training. This is a huge area
- Go Slow. If your goal is to be strong and lean, there is an entirely different method of working out than if your goal is to "bulk up." From my military requirements to the present, it has never been either necessary or interesting for me to be bulked. My body works best when the muscles are strong, tight and doing their work efficiently. Being "in shape" really means having one's entire system working in harmony and being in balance. Historically, I have been more efficient and capable than someone hugely bulked up. Their range of motion and rate of response slows with over-development. Still, it's an individual choice: Brute strength, or Effective efficiency.
- Free Weights. Always have a person who will "spot" you as you lift -- especially lifting bars overhead or doing controlled squats with a bar on your shoulders. I suffer permanent damage by getting in a hurry and sacrificing good judgement when doing a series of military press routines in 1974 (lifting a bar with weights from shoulder level to the full extension of arms overhead). I went to a level of weight only ten pounds heavier than my usual. I started losing control in mid lift. There was no one behind me to grab the bar and stabilize my control. I failed to simply throw the bar away in front of me. I tried to control a "loose descent" and twisted my right should backward...dropping the bar behind me. This was a very bad move. I paid for that (in many ways) 36 years later. Start light and work up slowly...only when you can do three sets of 12 reps each comfortably on three different workouts should you go to the next level by adding weight. You don't need a spotter for "dumbells" (also called "hand weights"). The only place a spotter could be helpful is if you are on your back on a bench with a barbell positioned above your head to do a modified tricep exercise or upper pectoral extension. Twice, I have seen someone lose the hand weight and have it smash into his face. Broken noses and lost teeth don't need to happen. Ask for an assist. Good weight trainers are always happy to help.
- Machine Weights. By far the easiest and safest -- under most circumstances. The trick with machines is cadence and having the moving parts set to the right adjustment for your height and build (i.e longer or shorter arms and legs). A badly set machine can cause pain. I always get a professional to walk me through the exercises I will be doing and adjusting each machine. The absolute best is working out in a place that uses FitLinxx or similar computer enhancement. The master server saves all your settings. When you go to a particular machine, for which you have been set-up, and plug in your code, the screen will tell you the settings and the weight you have been using. No need to try to remember all that. I currently use seven machines on a FitLinxx system. I just show up, log in, do some stretching and begin.
Of course there are lots of ways to get good exercise. This is my particular routine. I also hike and swim. I have been an avid canoeist, bicyclist and like kayaking. I have played tennis, raquetball and golf. However, in all of those, I have found that my gym training has improved my ability and skills in all those areas of interest. Most of all, it has given me balance between internal metabolic function and external interaction with my environment. If gym exercise/training is not for you, there are several good books that guide you through floor routines in your home. For several years, I used a U.S. Army fitness book with various floor exercises and combined it with Hatha Yoga for stretching and strengthening joints. It worked well. But, heck, I'm just a gym rat. Couldn't stay away.
Find a time that is good for you and do something. Yoga and Tai Chi are also good...as is aerobic dancing. The secret is doing something long enough to build cardiac efficiency and work out the largest number of muscles.
This covers the questions I have been asked, I think. PLEASE, don't take my thoughts on personal wellness and simply go start something. Even if you don't like allopathic medicine, getting a metabolic panel done and a stress ekg will give you a personal baseline that will meet your needs. There is no "one way" to do this.