One of the biggest misconceptions about fitness in general is that all exercise is good for everybody. Even though exercise in general ranks on a par with the Star Spangled Banner and mother’s milk in terms of what makes common sense, not all exercise is good for everybody all the time, and not all exercise can help you reach your desired results. I see this misconception constantly – many clients think that to get more fit they should work out more often, or even harder, only to find themselves getting less fit and/or more frustrated. Two of the best ways to insure that you target your results are to examine your heart and your mind.
The Heart of the Matter
Aerobic exercise is the cornerstone for every fitness program. That means that each and every one of us ought to strive to get 20 minutes of large-muscle, continuous exercise like walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or skating every day. However, even those of us who meet this daily goal often don’t reach our optimal fat-burning zone.
Although it’s possible to take your pulse or pay attention to your perceived rate of exertion, many of us tend to loll about, pretending we are actually accomplishing something besides reducing stress, catching up with our pals on the latest gossip, improving our hormone levels, or breathing fresh air with negative ions that boost our mood.
On the other hand, there are those of us with heart or metabolic difficulties who become anaerobic if we try to push ourselves to what may seem like a “normal” level of exercise compared to everybody else.
If you become anaerobic, which would occur if your heart rate went over your recommended training zone, you start breaking down your muscle tissue, which is not good for obvious reasons, and you produce stress hormones like cortisol, which will leave you feeling tired and depressed, rather than rejuvenated, as most of us would prefer when we work out.
Acumen Heart Rate Monitors
The absolute best way to make sure that you exercise at your optimal level for the optimal amount of time is to use a heart rate monitor. Total Fitness is now carrying Acumen Heart Rate Monitors, and if you don’t have one, I will be happy to order one for you.
The Basix model costs just $89 and includes the time of day, an alarm to let you know when you’re lagging or exceeding your heart rate zone, adjustments to set your personal zone, plus a calorie measuring device. I wear the Basix ES, which for $149 also includes a stop watch, a light, a fitness index, and most importantly, a device that measures exactly how long was spent in the target zone. For example, you may walk for an hour but only spend 10 minutes in your ideal training zone. With that kind of information, you can choose to go up a few more hills, step up your pace, or look for a more challenging route. To get the best, personalized estimate on your training zone, take your heart rate first thing in the morning and plug it into the Karvonen formula. Ideal = (220-Age-Resting Heart Rate) X 65%-85% + RHR.
Exercise and the Mind
Just as different diets work better for different people, many experts are now recommending different exercise regimes based on your mental state. My previous newsletters have described how you can literally alter your body chemistry based on the kind of routine you choose for yourself.
If you are tired and depressed, for example, you may find yourself overtraining very quickly and unable to build muscle if you engage in heavy weight training and intense aerobic exercise. That’s why I have recommended meditation for many of you who want to lower your body fat – to get your results, you’ll have to deal with the biochemical effects of your lifestyle. On the other hand, when you’re feeling anxious, a hard run and/or heavy, intense weight training session will make you calmer.
David Dorian-Ross, star of Tai Chi in Paradise, recommends that you look at your psycho-physiological profile when choosing your regime:
Spring Type: This type of person is the one who will do well with a traditional exercise program – they make great competitive athletes, and are most at one with the universe when they’re out jogging in the sunshine. However, the 75 percent of the population who refuses to exercise regularly does not fall into this category. Not to despair.
Summer Type: These free spirits like exercise where they can get emotionally involved, like yoga, low impact aerobics, and circuit training. Because they tend to give too much in all areas of their lives, they tend to suffer from burnout, so variety is important. Indian Summer: These nurturing but lethargic spirits tend to have slower metabolisms and are motivated by exercise that offers extensive social support, like Jazzercise. They need constant stimulation to keep their fires up, so they also do well with tennis, swimming, and cycling.
Autumn Type: These are the intellectuals, the ones who have to analyze their workouts. They make smart competitors and are motivated by the idea of “doing the right thing.” Because they tend to overwork, they also are prone to burnout, and do well with precise forms of mind-body exercise like Pilates and Iyengar yoga, as well as weight training and Tai Chi.
Winter Types: Alas, the winter types are frequently the ones who have worked hard to made a living and suddenly discovered at some unanticipated age that they are woefully unfit. Because they are usually tremendously successful in other areas of life, they tend to be discouraged by the mere thought of being a beginner again. They think they have to work out like they did when they were 19 to get results. Winter types need to let go of their self criticism, stop denying their state of health, and make friends with their bodies again by lifting weights, riding bikes, and doing yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates.
Back Where I Belong
Although I had a great time in Toronto, New York, and Orlando, I missed everybody and am glad to be back helping you get healthier, thinner, and happier. In brief, I gave a talk about my book at the International Brain Gym conference, got interviewed for 1 1/2 hours by a film crew in New York for a PBS documentary, and met with the PR people for Johnson and Johnson. As many of you are aware, I am a national fitness spokesman for Johnson and Johnson. I will be talking about nutrition, mind-body fitness, and diabetes on Creative Living, a nationally-broadcast PBS show, which is being taped in October. Now that I am back, I appreciate your referrals!