Elements to look for in a week of an excellent workout program for you:
- It is fun or sounds like fun to you.
- Easy to learn the moves and the routine. It’s hard to get started when the routine or the moves are so complicated you have trouble following or remembering how to do them. Once you are in the routine of working out, you can add in or advance to more complicated routines and moves, but by then, you will be in the groove and it will be hard NOT to work out because you feel so good when you do. When starting out, keep it simple. Make it hard to make mistakes or to get discouraged.
- It can be done easily. For example, you have the equipment at home, your gym is convenient to get to, it is NOT a nuisance to set up or get ready to do, no too long. What you DO NOT want: I’m talking about the treadmill that folds up & fits under that bed in the cluttered room or the exercise bike that has become an extension of your closet, or the room that will need to be cleaned of clutter on the floor so you have space to do your workout DVD? Who wants to do laundry or clean up clutter & pull out & set up the heavy treadmill prior to each workout? Or is your gym is 30 minutes away, close to where you used to live or work or go to school? You want to add an hour commute to the time in the gym to squeeze in your work out? No. Make it easy to exercise.
- It should have enough routine to make it a habit, but enough variety to keep your body progressing forward over time.
- Rest days have to be built into it. One day per week should be completely off of strength training. If you can’t stand it, do some yoga or go for a nice walk on your day off. Also, I recommend a plan to allow at least 24-48 hours between strength workouts of the same body areas. This means, do NOT do the same strength training routine 2 days in a row. For example, ideally, schedule a minimum of 1-2 days between chest workouts. Work out each muscle group at least once per week, depending on your program and your goals.
- Your program should allow slow but steady progress forward and that progress should be apparent to you. Progress is motivating. Plan ahead for progress and stages of progression. For example, scheduling the week with increasing number of reps or increasing weight in a planned manner makes it very easy to see the progress and know how to progress. I suggest writing down what you are planning to do, and then what you ACTUALLY do. Do not do more than what you planned, but if you cannot increase as planned, don’t force it, That is where you are moving towards. Just adjust your plan accordingly.
- It should include strength training, often called anaerobic exercise. Strength training is important in keeping us independent longer. It includes exercises where your muscles push or pull against resistance. This can be done in many ways such as with weights, machines, bands, medicine ball, or even your own body weight and gravity. Some people also use a stationary surface to push against. If you are new to strength training, have someone teach you the proper ways to do the moves or find some reputable DVDs or online instructional videos to see how to do exercises properly. **Just a note about the importance of strength training for men & women of ALL ages…It can help keep us more physically independent for longer. I am in no rush to lose my independence & move into a nursing home so I will continue to make sure my muscles stay strong. This will help prevent falls and other injuries that are common with poor strength. If something happens to me, it will allow me the best chances for optimal recovery and also speed up my recovery. The patients that defy what the doctors predicted for their outcome after an illness or injury, AND end up doing remarkably much better than predicted, are usually the ones who were physically stronger prior to hospitalization. They have more reserve. Also, I want to be able to continue to walk on my own. I’m going to work on NOT needing assistive devices to walk. Can you tell, being independent and maintaining my mobility are a VERY high priority for me?
- It must include core training. This is often known as the “ab workout.” As we get older, spend more time sitting and/or we gain weight, our abdominal muscles and core muscles get weaker. This can cause lower back problems which can also lead to other joint problems. Core training treats and prevents back injury. It also improves posture and makes everyone look more attractive.
- It should work the heart. This is often called cardio or aerobic exercise. I am a fan of high intensity interval training (HIIT) using perceived exertion as my measure of intensity (I plan to discuss this further in a future post). This allows me to work out for a shorter duration while improving my power, strength & endurance. Given the short duration of intervals, the time flies by. And if you wear a heart rate monitor, recovery to baseline heart rate is a great measure of your cardiovascular fitness. If you are deconditioned (out of shape), it takes longer for your heart rate to go back to the usual after a workout. When you are fit, your heart rate returns to your usual much faster. Over time, as you continue to exercise, your heart rate will come down much faster after you finish your workouts. You recover faster after your workout. This means you have improved your fitness!
- It should include some stretching. I like yoga, passive and/or active stretching. This is the portion of the workout where you classically slow down and listen to your body. This is also important to allow our lymphatics and circulation to flow and to open up the joints. Certain stretches and yoga moves are particularly good for keeping the spine healthy and improve arthritic pains. A single sequence of sun salutations (yoga) takes 90 seconds and is a great way to start your day as you get out of bed.
- Limited or ideally, NO risk of injury. Learn proper form, advance SLOWLY & don’t do exercises that have high risk of injury to you.
- At the end of your exercise, you should feel energized and look forward to your next workout. I log my workouts and jot down a few notes. In a future post, I will go more into detail about the workout log. Meanwhile, enjoy the process. Make each day be a day you move forward and feel good about yourself.