You Should Not Ignore These Simple Fitness Rules
If you read a lot of fitness publications and blogs, you'll be bombarded with a bewildering array of complicated advice. It's enough to make your mind spin.
You've heard that eggs, butter, and meat are unhealthy. Then you'll hear from another group that the same items are truly beneficial. Then you'll hear that jogging is healthy for you, yet the bodybuilding and primal groups will dismiss long-distance running. Others will laugh at you if you say that lifting weights is the greatest method to get in shape. You'll hear a million different ideas on the best exercises, when to eat, how to periodize your workouts, how to evaluate fitness, what supplements to take... and so on.
It's enough to make you want to throw in the towel.
Fitness, fortunately, does not have to be that difficult.
In truth, there are only two basic principles to follow:
Regularly move your body; and eat a modest amount of real, healthy meals (with occasional indulgences).
I believe that if you followed those two guidelines for a long time, you would become fit. For many people (but not all), doing one but not the other will enhance their health, but it will be incomplete health. You'll be on your path to health and fitness if you do both most days of the week.
But what about macronutrient ratios (a fancy term for the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fats)? What about the number of meals you eat and when you eat them? What about the frequency of workouts, splits, timing, repetition, and other factors? You could add all of these principles and more, but the fact is that all of the complexity are typically a way of hiding certain fundamental truths: if you want to lose fat or weight, you must create a calorie deficit, and if you want to gain muscle, you must utilize exercise to strengthen your muscles. The rest is mainly speculation, and while these complex programs are likely to function, it's generally because they support one or more of the concepts discussed in this essay, not because of their complexity.
All you need are the two rules listed above... Most of us, however, want a bit more information, so here is a more comprehensive list of easy fitness principles. As usual, keep in mind that 1) I'm not an expert — this is just what has worked for me; and 2) this is for healthy adults - those with health issues should seek professional guidance.
- Get up and about. On most days of the week, try to engage in some form of physical activity (4 or more days if possible). Don't think of it as exercise if you have a dislike to it. Consider it a method to get your body moving in a pleasant manner. Dance, yardwork, hiking, a nature walk, a swim, basketball, rugby, cycling, and even housekeeping, if done energetically enough, are all good options. It doesn't have to be the same thing every day, though. For the purpose of simplicity, I propose that you pick a consistent time window during which you may complete your daily exercise most days of the week. Although I like the mornings, some prefer lunchtime or after work.
- Have a good time. It doesn't matter what you do, it needs to be enjoyable. Move on to something else if you don't like it. Concentrate on the enjoyable aspects rather than the challenging aspects. Or, like I have, learn to appreciate the difficult stuff! Make it enjoyable, or you won't be able to keep it going for long. Start slowly to ensure that it is not too difficult. Concentrate on just getting active and having fun with the exercise. Begin with modest steps and work your way up.
- Gradually increase the intensity. It's a good idea to increase the intensity of an exercise if you've been doing it for a time and are in reasonable shape. But do it gradually; if you increase the intensity too soon, you risk injury or burnout. So, if you've been walking for a few months, you should be ready to introduce a little jogging or fast-paced walking in modest increments. If you've been jogging, consider some faster-paced intervals or hill workouts (start slowly). If you've been strength training, increase the weights you're using, reduce the rest time you're taking, or increase the number of reps or sets you're doing. If you're playing a sport, go as fast as you can or concentrate on explosive motions. Intensity training is a wonderful method to get in shape and get a good exercise in about 20-30 minutes. Do a circuit of bodyweight exercises (such as pushups, pullups, squats, burpees, Hindu pushups, lunges, or others) and do as many circuits as you can in 10 or 15 minutes. See if you can perform more circuits in your next exercise. It's fantastic!
- Use of the bare minimum of tools. There are a plethora of workout devices available, ranging from ab machines to elliptical trainers to a variety of weight equipment at the gym. Keep things simple, is my rule. Bodyweight exercises may help you get incredible results; in fact, if you're a novice, you should start with bodyweight exercises for at least 6 months before moving on to weights. You don't need cardio machines; simply walk, run, cycle, climb stairs, or sprint outside. Even if you lift weights, a barbell or dumbbells will suffice; avoid equipment that force your body to operate at angles it wasn't designed for (although cable machines aren't awful). Get outside and perform sprints, pushups, leap over objects, pick up huge boulders and toss them, do pullups from a tree, climb over rocks, swim, do a crabwalk or monkeywalk, smash a sledgehammer or pick into the ground, flip tractor tires, and get a fantastic workout with very little equipment.
- There are just a few exercises. You'll do three to four different workouts per body component in a bodybuilding regimen. For most individuals, that's too complex. In the gym, stick to the basics: squats, deadlifts, presses, chinups or pullups, and rows. With only those lifts, you can accomplish a lot. Of course, you'll want to vary it at some point, but there's no need to do ten different ab exercises or workouts that target your rear deltoids or utilize swiss balls. Pushups, burpees, squats, lunges, pullups, dips, and planks are some of my favorite bodyweight exercises. Choose a few and do few circuits with minimal breaks in between.
- Consume whole foods. One of the most essential principles on this list, since no matter how much exercise you do, if you don't eat correctly (most of the time), you'll gain weight and become unhealthy. Real, whole foods that are as near to their natural condition as possible should be your goal. That includes avoiding foods that are processed, refined, greasy, or sweet. Veggies, fruits, lean meats, dairy, nuts, legumes, whole grains, eggs, and seeds are all good sources of antioxidants. If at all feasible, prepare them yourself; convenience meals frequently contain added ingredients, as well as more salt, fat, sugar, and preservatives. It's difficult to go wrong if you stick to this diet, which emphasizes plant foods as the main source of nutrition.
- Consume less calories. The majority of individuals consume excessive amounts of food, which manifests as fat. We need to eat less to lose weight - it's truly that easy. Of course, if you eat the genuine foods indicated above, you'll consume less calories, but it's still a good idea to cut back on your overall calorie intake, at least until you achieve a healthy amount of body fat (and even then, don't let it all go). One method to do this is to eat slowly and deliberately until you're satisfied (not stuffed). Another option is to eat smaller meals and keep track of your portion sizes. Intermittent fasting (see Brad Pilon's Eat Stop Eat ebook for a fantastic explanation of the science behind fasting) is a third option that I've been exploring with recently. Whatever method you use, make sure to eat real food in moderation and cut your calorie consumption if you want to lose weight.
- Be patient. This is where a lot of people go wrong: they expect to see results right away, within a month or two, since the publications they read make it appear so. True fitness, on the other hand, is a journey and a lifestyle change. I started off in poor shape, overweight, and all I did to get in shape was quit smoking and start running. I completed a marathon and became a vegetarian a year later, but I was still a little overweight. I was still exercising consistently a year later and had made significant improvement, but I still had a long way to go. I'm in excellent condition now, 3.5 years later - smaller, more muscular, and more healthier — but I still have some stubborn belly fat to go. I'll get there, but I'm aware that it will take some time. You didn't gain the weight overnight, and you're not going to lose it that way. You'll get healthy and fit almost as an afterthought to your new, fantastic lifestyle if you learn to appreciate the process, the activities, and the nutritious, genuine food.