As the years pass us by and age begins to rear its ugly head, we tend to look back and reflect on our lives. Sadly, as time goes by, and in our struggle to get ahead in life, we tend to neglect the most important issue that faces us everyday —our own health and wellbeing. I’m often asked if the body has the ability to bounce back after all the years of inactivity. Thankfully, it has! Of course, there are a number of factors that will directly affect your comeback; genetics, past gym experiences, athletic background, age, weight, and injuries, but your body does have the ability to bounce back!
There are many areas we’d love to bounce back from and the first has to be fat—we so want to get rid of the fat deposits. Every one has a different genetic code or make up which determines fat deposition in the body. Further, where you’ll gather fat also depends on your gender. Men usually find their fat in the belly and lower back. Women’s fat tends to deposit around the hips, buttocks and thighs. The bad news regarding fat is, you can’t ‘spot reduce’ [Spot reduction means targetting your fat deposits and directly train for them to disappear]. For example, if you have belly fat, you can’t do 100 sit-ups a day and expect it to disappear. Your body doesn’t function in that manner. The good news is that you can lose the unwanted fat with proper nutrition and sound training—dedicated cardio vascular training.
So you should be eating three sensible meals a day with regular snack breaks consisting of fruits and nuts. You should also be training your entire body efficiently 3 – 5 days a week and performing cardiovascular training at least 3 – 5 days a week. This approach will definitely help you beat the stubborn fat and bounce back in shape.
The second area of concern is loss of flexibility. Again, years of neglect make the body tight and prone to injury. But your body can be forgiving, if you just pump some life back into it. Stretching is a fantastic way to regain your flexibility. Simple basic stretches performed every morning when you wake up and about 30 minutes before sleeping will work wonders on your flexibility. Just stay consistent and you’ll be amazed at how fast your flexibility comes back, at any age.
Another area we need our bodies to bounce back from is the general loss of stamina. Every day we perform tasks that require stamina like walking your pet, or carrying groceries. And it’s definitely disappointing when you get exhausted doing such simple things.
Again, the body can rebound. You can increase your lung capacity and improve your heart rate with simple cardio vascular training. If you’re just beginning, then plan smart. Start with an easy walk first thing in the morning to spike your metabolism. It’ll get your blood flowing and open up your lungs. I’d recommend an easy walk of at least 30 minutes a day. This will dramatically improve your overall stamina and condition. When you are ready for a little more challenge, crank it up and go for a 30-minute jog. As you progress with your conditioning, you may want to invest in a heart rate monitor, which can be purchased in any sporting goods store. A heart rate monitor will tell you exactly how much you should be running or jogging. It allows you to perform cardio training in your target heart rate so you’ll be more efficient at burning fat and improving your endurance level.
Ok, so now we’re getting our stamina back. But what about those flabby muscles? I love it when people tell me their muscle turned to fat. Actually muscle is muscle and it always will be muscle. Your unused muscle hasn’t turned to fat, hiding under the fat! What should you do? Start a resistance-training programme, immediately.
Resistance training can be any form of training that involves your ability to resist opposing force—from free weights, weight machines, to kettle bells, and more. Resistance training involves a series of movements in which you train every muscle in your body to get stronger, fuller, leaner and tighter! Remember, it takes a lot of calories to feed a muscle so you’ll be getting in better shape with resistance training. Also—and this goes for you women— it is very hard to put on muscle so don’t think that once you begin a resistance training programme, you’ll get a build like a body builder. It just won’t happen.
So plan your workout programme accordingly and remember to check your ego at the door. In other words, don’t show up at the gym the first day and try to lift the world. Train at least 3 – 5 days a week and make sure you train every body part [chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs].
The last and the biggest thing that affects your fitness levels is lack of motivation… it is the single most powerful of all the above. What has stopped you from keeping in shape till now? Is it lack of willpower, laziness, family? Are you too busy? Well these may sound like good reasons, but honestly, they are just excuses. As a coach and trainer, I expect and demand a 100 per cent effort all the time and that should be your new approach. In order to start and then maintain your training, you need to be constantly motivated. Unfortunately, I cannot be at your door at 4:00 am every day to motivate you [but be careful, it might just happen], so you need to motivate yourself. How?
Set a goal. You should set a short time frame to obtain an achievable goal. Don’t expect to build the Taj in a day. Instead, aim for something small such as being able to fit into those pants in the back of your closet. Short, obtainable goals will keep you motivated.
Challenge yourself daily. When performing resistance training, always try to improve on your weight capacity. When walking or jogging, try to improve on your time. Also, challenge yourself at home to be a better family member and at work, to be a better boss or employee. Constantly challenging yourself will definitely keep your motivation strong.
Look for inspiration in others. Motivation can come from anywhere. Not just at trainers and coaches, but look for inspiring stories throughout the world or just in your community. Every year in Boston, there is a man who pushes his handicapped son in the Boston Marathon in his wheelchair. He has been doing it for 67 years.
Motivate yourself to be a role model for others. Most of us now have a family of our own. The best motivation is to lead by example. My dad still has a great motivating influence on me. Even at 43, I’m challenging myself every day to be better in all aspects of my life and this is because my Dad is the same way. He is my role model and my motivating force. Be that motivating force for your family and friends.
This was first published in the June 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.