Epidemic is a harsh word to hear under any circumstance. It is used in zombie movies when referring to a virus outbreak and in the media when crime has reached “epidemic proportions.” Epidemic has also been in the news recently about the health issues plaguing the United States. With over two-thirds of the population either overweight or obese, its use is understandable.
One of the major factors contributing to the growth of metabolic disorders and heart disease is an increasingly sedentary lifestyle among most Americans. I woke up this morning and cooked some eggs, a ton of bacon, and chased them with two large cups of coffee. Did I wake up early, go outside in the cold to slaughter a hog, gather eggs from my chickens, and harvest some coffee beans? No. Unlike our 1930s counterparts I did all this in about five minutes at the grocery store the night before. Truth be told I was cussing under my breath because I had to put that much effort into it. I seriously debated driving about fifteen minutes to hit a drive-thru so I didn’t have to cook; I’m not a morning person......
The issue here is that the human body was designed for motion. Hunters and gatherers spent their entire lives chasing sustenance. They would use every available resource in the area until the food/water disappeared or if the climate forced them out. They did not sit in chairs for eight to ten hours a day, only to come home to sit on a couch until time to go to bed. They would spend every waking hour hunting wild game, gathering water, fruits, and vegetables, building shelter, and other life dependent activities. The only time they seemed to stop and sit was to socialize and bond with the rest of the tribe. Moral of the story: They spent a lot of Time in Motion (T.i.M.).
Think about every exercise class/video fat loss fad ever created. They all have one thing in common; they get your ass off the couch. Zumba, Tae-Bo, P90X, Brazilian Butt Workout, and yes even Jazzercise followed this principle. They kept you going with horrible music and a small class sample of beautiful bodies. The funny part is that those people in the videos are there because their paid to be. Not because they really believe in the program, nor because that program got them to where they are. Another selling point for these programs are progress pics. These are the single most abused and misleading aspects of fitness ever created. These can literally be shot in the same day (google: same day before and after) and show ridiculous improvements. The other way is a trade secret so we won’t go into that.
So how does one adapt this philosophy into their training? The best ways are circuit training and variable speed training. Circuit training will usually involve more than 4 exercises performed back to back for 3 or more rounds with no rest in between exercises. Some circuits like the "300 Workout" will only be one round consisting of 300 combined reps of 7 exercises. The rest period will come after all exercises are completed for the round. Rest intervals should be modified depending on number of exercises and level of intensity needed. The exercise should be programmed to work the entire body and space out exercises for similar muscle groups.
Variable speed training is a great way to cover distance without wearing out too early. The key to this is to start out walking and jogging. Do not jog to fatigue and stop. Walking is the main focus and jogging should be added in slowly until a steady pace can be established. The next morning will be a good indicator as to whether the training was too intense. Once a comfortable balance is found, it will be easy to increase your intensity slowly. It is important to increase intensity once you feel able while still being functional the next day. This is the progressive overload principle. Your body will adapt to the current activity level and stop changing, so you have to give your body the need to continue changing until you have met you fitness goals.
This goes back to the old saying “If walking is good for our health, the mailman would live forever.” The hole in this logic is that you can be sedentary even if you work on your feet all day long. The body finds its efficiency plateau and stays there. This is a comfortable place, but it does nothing for your goals. You must continue to push yourself and stay motivated until you have reach your goals and hopefully by then you will maintain the habits that got you there.
We all know someone who put in the effort to develop the body they wanted only to drift back into old habits and lose everything they worked for. Some have even been motivation for others and expressed how they felt confident and full of energy, but they lost sight of their goals and did not maintain their routine. One great way to fast track your progress and insure that this does not happen is to start healthy habits early on. This can be choosing to go for a walk instead of watching TV or taking the family camping and hiking on the weekends instead of lounging by the pool. I recently began playing disc golf on the weekends and it too is a great way to get some extra cardio in while hanging out with friends. You can not rely on a 30 min workout 2 days a week to change your life if you do nothing else for the other 111 hours you're awake.
Nutrition is a another huge factor in every program. The main reason for failure of a proper diet plan is that people try to jump in with both feet, then quickly grow tired of it and quit. My advise to every client is to start out slow. Eat healthy snacks first, then once you start that habit eat a healthy lunch 3 days a week and continue making small changes until you crave healthier foods. Make it a smooth transition and don’t be afraid to eat something unhealthy every now and then. Everything is good in moderation. If you know that you’re going to eat something that does not fit into your meal plan, like a family get-together or company meeting, then adjust your eating before hand in preparation for the meal.