Getting Healthy – Part Two
In my last post I wrote about how understanding calories can help you with getting healthy – as well as why it’s important to eat a good, healthy dose of them- and what I believe is the healthiest way of making up those calories. However, in order to be healthy (not just skinny!), you need to understand how to exercise well, and the many benefits this can give you. As in my previous post, do make sure to take care of yourself when following this advice- push yourself for a greater reward but don’t hurt yourself!
I know that a lot of people who are reading this might not feel comfortable doing the hardcore workouts you tend to see on any weight loss show and that’s absolutely fine. This is all about getting healthy in a way that suits your lifestyle. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the three main types of workout and the benefits of each, as this is really for beginners.
Getting Healthy with Strength
I’ll start with my favourite form of exercise. Strength training is excellent for those who say they want to be ‘toned’, it also burns more calories over time than cardio (as your body uses up more energy to rebuild muscle, even hours after AFTER you’ve finished at the gym), it’s excellent for strengthening bones, stops any wobbly bits, gives you a smoother silhouette and a figure – or a Captain America-esque physique if you are of the male gender (ahhh Cap…). I also find, as someone who suffers from anxiety, that my mood levels are much more even and I’m far happier with myself- and as a person- since I started strength training. What’s not to like? The myths surrounding strength training!
If you have any fear of looking like a stereotypical female bodybuilder, then I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed. Women don’t produce enough testosterone to bulk up to that level (meaning that those very muscular, less typically feminine ladies in the bodybuilding world are using – cough cough – extra support in order to get that big). Trust me, if it was that easy to bulk up, bodybuilding men wouldn’t spend nearly as much time in the gym as they do!
Most workouts for strength training use sets and repetitions as instructions. ‘Repetitions’ is how many times you do the particular movement, which will usually work out one particular set of muscles. The best way to discover a good weight is to try and achieve between 8 and 12 repetitions of that movement per set-sets are how many times you will do a group of repetitions. So, let’s say you’re going to do squats (excellent choice) – if you’re just starting, you can simply use your own body weight- so you do 10 reps (10 squats), then rest for about a minute in order to let your muscles soak up the oxygen needed, ready for another set of 10. Most people will do 3 or 4 sets- so you will have completed up to 40 squats.
Do be careful when you first start out with weights- free weights mimic real movement much more than resistance machines but your body will try and compensate for muscle fatigue as you grow tired- meaning that you’ll find yourself bending your back, instead of keeping it straight, for example- so keep an eye on your form!
Probably the most common form of exercise for women- though it is equally important for men. This is because we know that raising our heart rate will raise our metabolism and therefore burn more calories. However, the heart is like any other muscle in the body- it needs to be trained before you can realise its full potential. It IS worth the sweat and tears, though, as cardio cleans your veins of cholesterol (the raised blood pressure pushes the build-up of fat through your body, rather than letting it settle and clogging up your poor arteries), which allows the smoother transition of oxygen throughout your body, giving you clear skin, healthy muscles (making strength training easier, too!), a more alert mind and, again, combats many mental health issues.
One of my favourites for beginners has to be the NHS Couch to 5K podcasts- they’re completely free and available anywhere, you can download them off the apple store, Google Play or their website. These are brilliant because they allow you to build up your running- perfect for people like me, who used to barely be able to get up the stairs without becoming breathless. In the first week, you’ll do 1-minute walking, 1 minute running and repeat this until you have run for a total of 8 minutes- until you work right up to half-hour straight running in week 9. They also encourage you, as you go which is surprisingly nice at the end of the podcast, when you’re congratulated on your efforts!
If running isn’t your thing, try the rowing machine (see how long it takes you to do 1000m and try and beat that time, every time you go to the gym!), the elliptical-aka the cross trainer (similar tactic- try to get to 2km as fast as you can) OR the big one… The Stair Master (just try and survive for longer than a minute)
Poor old flexibility is usually lost on new starters because it doesn’t get quite the same attention compared to cardio and strength- but I genuinely believe it to be just as important, as it improves the strength of your tendons, improves balance, as well as the range of motion available to yourself, can be used in conjunction with both types of exercise and therefore significantly reduces the likelihood of injuries.
Most people will stretch straight away, upon entering the gym- and consider this their flexibility done. NO. Naughty! First of all, you should only stretch when the muscles are warm and body temperature slightly raised (so, after five minutes brisk walking on the treadmill, as an example). Secondly, there’s a reason Jennifer Aniston, Rebecca Romijn, Robert Downey Jr etc., etc. look so good! They take part in flexibility training such as yoga and/or pilates on a regular basis and use it as a major form of exercise (one of the most beneficial is Bikram Yoga- be warned, however, as for the next week your body will ache beyond all known experience).
There are an excellent array of Youtube videos you can watch, in order to try out each type of exercise for free, however, don’t be scared to try out some of these workouts for absolute beginners. In the meantime, if there’s anything else you’d like to know, leave a message in the comments below and I’ll try to get back to you ASAP.