I talk about food & nutrition quite a bit…
For years we’ve heard that our physical composition is 80-90% due to what we eat more than what type of exercise we do. Nonetheless, we do still have to move!
I continue to teach that a successful approach to innate exercise & movement touches on each of these 5 ingredients:
(i) Intensity – sometimes, we’ve just got to challenge our bodies in order to see a positive change.
(ii) Variety – there are so many ways to intentionally move our bodies… I’d argue that pretty much any movement is beneficial in some way.
(iii) Consistency – this is a lifetime thing… not a resolution or a boot camp thing… not a weight loss thing. Motion is Life.
(iv) Evolution – what we do for movement can & should evolve depending on our motivation, our interests, whether we’re injured or ‘sick’, the seasons, our exercise buddies, the environment, our resources, our schedules, etc. It’s all good. Just keep moving.
(v) Enjoyment – you’ve got to enjoy at least part of this process, otherwise, what’s the point? If you don’t *love* the process of exercise and movement, you might just need to shift your thinking a bit and start embracing the joy of your *results* – better health, your appearance, your energy levels, your ability to participate in more adventures, etc.
I’m frequently asked my opinion on the scheduling of exercise: how many times per week they should run or lift or take a class; should they do cardio before or after weights; should they work out in the morning or later in the day. For much of it, there really is no black & white answer. Or, more accurately, there doesn’t need to be a black & white answer, unless you’re training for a very specific sport or event. For the rest of us, we can certainly break this exercise thing down to a simplified approach!
1) Move – Frequently at an easy, steady, slower pace (Daily)
This is the foundation. This is what we should do daily or very regularly. It’s what we’re meant to do most often. Ideally, we should all be able to walk around in our environment for an extended period of time without feeling like we’re going to die!! It shouldn’t be painful or exhausting. This easy, steady-state movement is what KEEPS us able to move, too. It allows us to stay mobile for our entire lives, and it enhances our overall health, brain function, and outlook on life!
Although this type of movement does burn some calories, that’s not the point! It’s about staying mobile, happy, and healthy overall. There are more efficient ways to burn calories and fat… don’t fret!
Some examples of the type of EASY movement I’m talking about here:
Going for a little stroll… 5 minutes, 15 minutes… whatever you’ve got! Before work, during your lunch break, after dinner, whenever you can fit it in. Taking those little breaks from your work station/desk will also help prevent the chronic pain from sitting and will keep you more alert & productive!
You’ve heard it before – take the stairs vs. the elevator! Granted, I’ve seen some pretty sketchy stairwells… so go with your gut on that one! The same is true of parking far away in the lot. Good idea movement-wise, but not always ideal safety-wise. Know your surroundings. Be safe.
Walk the dog. Heck, walk the kids! Don’t have a dog? Get one. Borrow one. They’re pretty awesome! Kids, too… but you might want to think that through a bit more if you don’t already have them! And you definitely don’t want to borrow one without getting permission from its owner first!
It’s a good idea to squeeze this walking in before you find your couch or recliner at night! Even if it means walking around the exterior of your house or around the block before you come inside.
Then, I like to throw in a bigger “outing” every week or so. Maybe it’s a longer stroll or easy hike, or an easy “sight-seeing” bike ride… a couple hours… easy, enjoyable movement.
2) Move More – Pick up the pace a bit… less often (Couple times per week)
The purpose of this type of movement is to elevate your heart rate. Not for too long, though… otherwise we enter in to that “chronic cardio” state where our body is breaking down as a result of all the cardio activity.
Just keep your heart rate in a range of 55-75% of your maximum heart rate so it burns fat for energy, but doesn’t excessively break down. You can spend money on many expensive gadgets to figure this all out, or you can just go old school like this:
Maximum heart rate formula: Your age multiplied by 0.7. Subtract that number from 208.
If you’re 40 years old: 40 x 0.7 = 28.
208-28 = 180 beats per minute is your maximum heart rate.
Your upper limit for aerobic activity is 75%, or 135 beats per minute.
To monitor your heart rate, you can opt for some of the cool gadgets on the market, or just find your carotid artery on the side of your neck where it’s easiest to find your pulse, or on the inside of your forearm below the base of your thumb. Use a timer and count the number of beats you feel in a 10 second span. Multiply that number by 6 to figure out your beats per minute.
That was a whole lotta’ math right there, people.
You will impress your techy friends who have forgotten how to count on their own without checking their phones!
Once or twice a week, do some type of activity that gets you into the upper range of your aerobic limit. The key is to stay there as long as you can without exceeding your target rate… but without getting overly anal about it, either! Ah, now that’s mastery!
Ideas: jogging, brisk walking, hiking (with some uphill segments, preferably), cycling, swimming, SUP (stand-up paddling), snow-shoeing, cross country skiing, rucking (wearing a heavy pack while hiking or walking)… get the idea? It’s more challenging.
You should feel GREAT when you finish these activities, NOT wiped out!
(If you have intense sugar cravings after this type of exercise, you’ve probably gone beyond the fat burning state and into the sugar burning state. Watch your timing and your heart rate.)
3) Lift heavy things (Couple times per week)
We should be able to lift a challenging weight. We might need to move a couch, or help move another person to safety some day. Being at least relatively strong is part of being fit overall. Strength is also about building strong bones & resilient joints, building lean muscle mass to burn fat more effectively, improving insulin sensitivity, maintaining good posture & balance, staying healthy and energetic into old age… it’s health insurance!
You don’t need to join a gym if that’s not your thing. You don’t even need a bunch of equipment. Body weight is fine, and you can add more weight/resistance down the road if you’d like.
I like to think of our basic movements to work on as: pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, and balancing. For the upper body, pushing and pulling can incorporate pretty much every ‘primal’ or innate movement we need to practice: push-ups, pull-ups, overhead press. For the lower body, squatting, bending, and balancing can include any squat variation, dead lifts, and lunge variations.
Really, these are the basic innate movements to incorporate into your routine:
- overhead press
- (I like to add deadlifts &/or ‘good mornings’ to this list too… but not necessarily at the beginning of this process for you)
A couple times per week, cycle through variations of these basic exercises in a full body workout. Make sure you’ve done some light ‘cardio’ to get warmed up first. Bonus points for stretching between your cardio and lifting.
When incorporating variations, remember to think about moving in different directions, different angles, using different surfaces, etc. E.g. side lunges, squats with one leg on a raised surface, push-ups with your feet on a raised surface or your hands on an ‘unstable’ surface… your possibilities are truly limitless.
You don’t need to workout any longer than 30 minutes… and 10-20 minutes of focused activity & intensity is fantastic!! (30 minutes probably involves some lolly-gagging.)
Need some ideas? Google HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training). This will overlap “lifting heavy things” and #4 “sprint/burst”… which is fantastically time-efficient!
Add Foundation Training if you have pain or would like to prevent pain!!!
Sometimes I do this right before a workout; sometimes right after; sometimes this IS the workout!
4) Sprint / Bursts (Once per week… maybe twice some weeks)
Don’t be frightened!
Sprints are a forgotten innate movement pattern from our youth… and from our ancestors! Let your inner child come out and play!
Sprints (and burst-like activities) have many benefits:
- they stimulate the production of testosterone (which is important for libido and building lean muscle);
- they increase the secretion of growth hormone (plays a key role in burning fat, as well as many other ‘feel good’ factors);
- and they improve insulin sensitivity and increase endurance and develop fast-twitch muscle fibers (these are the good-lookin’, sleek muscle fibers and they allow us to be quick & powerful… not just in our minds!).
Before you lace up your golden running shoes…
Have you ever sprinted, since childhood I mean? If not, ease into this. Consider “picking up the pace” for a few seconds at a time, or for a short distance at a time, in your current routine. e.g When jogging, try running fastER to the next tree or telephone pole, or the next 15 seconds. Rinse & repeat.
Sprinting/bursting tips & ideas:
- uphill sprints are a fantastic workout… and they’re actually easier on the joints since your feet don’t travel as far so the impact is less.
- try sprinting on grass or on the beach. I’ll go to the beach with you just to make sure your technique is solid.
- running on a ‘rubberized’ track is easier on the joints than pavement, as is a dirt road or trail.
- try Tabata sprints for a short-but-intense workout (or Tabata anything, for that matter!)
- sprinting & bursting isn’t exclusive to ‘running’ – you can do sprints on a bike, elliptical machine, swimming, stair climber, or while doing ‘calisthenics’ moves, running the stairs, doing chair/bench step-ups… you name it! Sometimes, thinking of “bursts” of power can help – think of explosive jumps, for example. As long as you’re giving your maximum effort, you’re sprinting / bursting. It’s not about your speed… it’s about your effort and energy expenditure.
5) Stretch, Extend, Expand, Dig In! (Daily)
Each day, we should take the time to undo some of the damage our daily habits can cause. We need to stretch, extend, expand, lengthen… really work out those tight areas… and then “dig in” to work it out with something like a foam roller and/or lacrosse ball. I like to think of working on your soft tissues and structure from the inside AND from the outside.
Our daily activities tend to work against healthy posture, causing chronic injury and structural damage to some fairly predictable areas. The biggies to tend to each day in an effort to prevent AND recover from injuries are: hamstrings, hip flexors (into the quads), glutes, cervical (neck) range of motion and curve ‘remodeling’, hip range of motion and ‘opening’ stretches, as well as spinal lengthening stretches… just for starters!
15 minutes a day of tending to your body in this way can do wonders for your function, mobility, your pain levels, your energy, and even your brain function!
6) Play, Training, and Sports
So much of this comes back to “play” … and that can be taken two ways. Playing “sports” and being competitive, as well as physically “playing” at life and enjoying how you feel.
If you’re playing a higher level sport or competing, your exercise and training will probably look different than the health-minded person who simply wants to feel great, look great, and live great… without chronic illness or injury. Certainly, there can be overlap here.
Those of us who simply want to look & feel our best for as long as we possibly can might simply ‘train’ so that we can enjoy our ‘play’. For example, staying fit so we’re able to go for a family bike ride, jump on a trampoline with our kids, going skating or skiing, play tag with the kids, play volleyball on the beach on your vacation… whatever seems like fun to you! I like that notion!
I also like to look at choices through the lens of “Pleasure vs. Pain”. We are either seeking pleasure or avoiding pain, or a combination of the two, when we make choices. For me, I find great pleasure in maintaining a relatively healthy body composition, feeling confident, feeling strong, and feeling capable. I sense ‘pain’ that I want to avoid when I think of being out of condition, in chronic pain, lacking energy, and not using my body in a fully engaged way. That all resonates for ME. Figure out what pleasure you’re seeking and what pain you’re avoiding… and you’ll find it easier to make this lifestyle choice consistently.
What’s the point?
If you’re going to make the effort to move daily, move faster some days, lift some heavy things 2 or 3 times per week, go fast & hard once or twice a week… what’s the POINT??
You’ve got to find your joy in this. I doubt joy means a ‘6-pack’ abdomen for everyone! I’d guess that joy is found in a a long, healthy, enjoyable life, rich with loving relationships, energy, spunk, and adventure!
The Basic Moves: push-ups, pull-ups, overhead press, squats, lunges, planks.
(Think: pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, balancing)
The Basic “Schedule”:
- daily – easy movement like walking, plus stretching & working out the “junk”!
- a couple times each week – move faster to challenge your heart, lift some heavier things
- once a week, maybe twice in some weeks – sprint/burst
- whenever it floats your boat – PLAY!
Dr. Colleen Trombley-VanHoogstraat (“Dr Mom Online”) is a long-time presence in the field of Natural Health & Wellness. She is a Doctor of Chiropractic with 21 years of hands-on clinical experience in the Wellness Practice she shares with her husband, Dr. Marc VanHoogstraat, in Michigan. She is also the proud home schooling mom of two rather fabulous youngsters.
Her unique perspective of the science of Wellness provides predictable solutions and transformational results for those struggling with chronic health issues, as well as those seeking lifelong health. To discover her simple strategies for creating better health through nutrition, movement, and mindset, regularly visit http://DrMomOnline.com, http://Facebook.com/DrMomOnline and http://Twitter.com/DrMomOnline.
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