How to make the most of your work outs. Effective exercise tips
I have been to many classes and gyms and worked with elite athletes and seen many people exercise either in these settings or under my supervision.
What I am very aware of is the following…. If you train effectively you will see results. Now this statement may seem on the surface obvious but how do you know that what you are doing is effective?
Let’s clarify what I mean by effective. When we exercise, we are doing it to get some health benefit; either cardiovascular, weight loss, bone health, getting stronger, leaner or more flexible so how do we know we are achieving these results? Or are we just going to our Zumba Class and not sure what benefits we get? Do we just enjoy doing it? Has our GP said its good for us?
What areas can you gain from exercise?
We all know the benefits of exercise on our bodies especially as we get older. Do we know how to best exercise and make good use of the time we are spending?
First step is to work out your goals. What are you trying to achieve with exercise?
Sarah has 2 kids, one is 3 and the other is 15months old. She used to suffer with her back before she had kids and would do Pilates x2 per week to help strengthen. She currently does a lot of walking but feels weak after her second pregnancy. She is in good shape so isn’t concerned about weight loss.
Sarah’s goals would be to gain more flexibility and get stronger in her core. She is happy with the walking for cardio so what Sarah would benefit from is Pilates. Now Pilates is great as an all round exercise to get you moving and gradually get you stronger. But if Sarah was just doing Beginners Pilates for example and only doing it once per week then it may take her a little while to see any results. This is because of the work effort she puts in to exercise.
Rule 1: Effort of Exercise
If you are doing a low-level exercise that does not take too much effort, then you will need to do them more often. The higher the resistance and work load then you can reduce the number of times you do that exercise in a week.
With Sarah’s goals being get stronger and keep moving she does one Pilates Class a week and performs a mini programme that I designed for her 2x per week.
This is the same for cardio which is why HII Training is so compelling as you work like a beast and you will get results quicker but in my mind, I believe a large number of people are at risk of over working.
If your leg muscles have not been worked in a while and then you start some jumping/ running, then the load on your body and cardio system is suddenly increased if this increase is too much you may not cope, and something will breakdown. Tendons, joints, muscles are what will take the strain or if your body is getting too tired your immune system will become weakened and you will be prone to colds and viruses.
RULE 2 The magic mix
Make sure you have a good mixture of exercise
Pilates is great for flexibility and core strength but not necessarily good for your cardio-vascular system or specific strengthening (you may need to do it more than once or add another session in at home).
Running is great for cardio-vascular but not necessarily for strength or core.
This is the balance you need for an effective week of exercise:
Keeping flexible as we are getting stronger is vital, it is often an area that is left out until we need to as we start feeling stiff. In my opinion as you start doing more you will get stiffer as the muscles tone up and you need to add at least one flexibility/mobility session in to keep you moving. Another benefit of Pilates. Using the roller and getting monthly or 6weekly sports massages may also do the trick.
Have a look at my blog
on Cardio-vascular training to work out what’s best for you. Working out your maximum Heart Rate and training zone. Don’t forget that you will get cardio-vascular benefits from resistance training or strength work.
Mobility of the joints
There are some classes that may offer all these components.
RULE 3 Plan your week
This is a crucial rule, plan when you are going to do your exercise and don’t let it be a secondary. This is when you do your Zumba, so you can not commit to anything else. If it takes second place then it will be easy to give up if something else comes up.
RULE 4 Keep progressing
If you can only do 4 press ups in week one and then that feels easy by week 3 then start to progress, add an extra one every session, gradually progress your exercise. This can be done either by adding more resistance, adding more repetitions, adding more sessions or by gradually doing it faster. Keeping your form and technique is the main error I see when people progress so make sure you keep your form and technique through the progressions.
RULE 5 Keep going
4-6 weeks is approximately the amount of time to start to notice any changes in your body from exercise. So you need to keep going until then. If you make a note of what you are aiming to improve then you will start to notice changes. How far you run, how heavy a weight, muscle tone or body shape. If you haven’t noticed any changes then take a look at your programme and rate what effort you are working at. If you are starting from scratch it maybe longer to see real improvements but KEEP GOING!
I’m not sure whether people think they need to get stronger, but I believe it’s the key to many problems. People I see will know that they have to get stronger in their core but probably don’t think about general strength. I think strength work needs to be part of your exercise programme but how often can depend on your goals.
EXAMPLES OF GOALS FOR STRENGTH
Running- calf, hamstring and gluteal strength to help you run more effectively.
Post pregnancy- strengthen core, legs and tone up upper body.
Knee pain- strengthen quadriceps muscle group.
Tennis- strengthen shoulders and wrist muscles and calfs.
Posture- strength shoulder complex, abdominals and back muscles.
Working on strength can take many forms and there is a science behind training programmes. Some basic principles that I use are:
Work out what your effort of training is. This can be measured in a 1 Repetition Max RM. 1RM is the maximum weight you can push in one go. Imagine you were trying to do a biceps curl your 1RM would be what weight could you lift only once (obviously without injuring yourself!). Say that weight was 10kg then to work out weight I should be using to get some muscle strength then I need to be working between 70-80% of that. I should be able to do 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 7kg.
If that seems a bit complicated when doing an exercise say 10 repetitions you will need to feel that the last 3 are hard to complete. If you are doing some squats and doing 10 is very easy then you probably won’t be building strength but maybe maintaining. So perhaps if you are not using any weights then try doing it for longer, going deeper, adding a hold or going a little faster. All these things will make the exercises harder.
Balance out your muscles
A good way to think about it is working the front of the body and balance it out by working the back of the body as well.
If you work your biceps then you need to work your triceps. If you work your abdominals you need to work your gluteals and back.
Finally, I will always try and have each muscle group in a programme. If we are thinking lower body then you need to have 2-3 quadriceps exercises, 2 Hamstring exercises, calf work and gluteal work.
I think its really hard to design your own programme unless you spend a bit of time reading up what you need to do or have a good knowledge. It maybe worth getting someone to design you a programme and run through it with you a couple of times so that you really get the hang of it. We will be having a personal trainer joining our team shortly so why not book in to have a session and see how to train effectively!