I’m thrilled to have JC, author of JCDFitness for today’s guest post. I don’t read many exercise blogs, but JC has such a refreshing approach to fitness and exercise I can’t help but love it. I asked him if he would share some of his wisdom with us here at Summer Tomato.
JC writes about fat loss, building muscle and everything else fitness related at JCDFitness. He takes a No-BS approach to the health and fitness lifestyle and prides himself on his relaxed, comfortable approach. Check out his free ebook, A No-BS Approach to Looking Great Naked and follow him on Twitter (@JCDFitness), if you’re into that sort of thing.
Increase Your Activity, Improve Your Life
If there is anything I am truly, madly in love with, it’s food. So you might guess that I was once a chubby kid; okay, a really chubby kid.
But I am not here to tell you how or what to eat. If you’ve been hanging out on Summer Tomato for more than a few minutes, you already know how.
So, while I trust you are eating all the unprocessed foods and in-season produce available, how are you doing with the other part of the healthstyle equation? What does your daily physical activity look like?
If you live in America, chances are your life is busier than ever, even more so now that the holidays are upon us.
Here is a simple plan to increase your physical activity, which will greatly improve your quality of life.
Exercising is Fun, Taking the Stairs is NEAT
First off, we have two ways to get active and expend more energy throughout the day. The first one is deliberate exercise, which I will cover in a bit.
The second way to increase activity is through something called NEAT. This little acronym stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Basically, NEAT is everything you do outside of deliberate exercise; it’s the energy you expend at your occupation, while doing household chores, picking up the kids, bathing your boa constrictor or painting your grass during the winter season.
Unfortunately, sometimes things are not so neat for a person who works at a desk and gets a slap on the wrist every time they move an inch away from their computer screen. So, if your current occupation or daily duties do not include much movement and you want to incorporate some extra activity into your daily routine, it’s time to get creative.
If you work on the 85th floor in the office building downtown, I don’t expect you to take the stairs all the way to the top. However, you can take a few flights before getting in the elevator and, when you come down for the day, you can do the same. Over time, you should aim to increase a flight or two every so often. Ideally you will be able to do all 85 flights within a month.
But taking the stairs is a great way to get extra exercise if you can’t do a formal workout.
Another option is to walk instead of drive to your next destination. I know this is not possible for everyone, but once in a while if I want to increase my NEAT I will simply walk to school. I, however, only live 1.5 miles away from the farthest part of campus, so this is very easy for me.
If you take a train or bus, walk to the station if it’s not too far from your home.
When you do your grocery shopping, park in the very back of the lot; this way you’re forced into some extra activity. If it’s the only exercise you get outside of pecking the keys 8 hours per day, it’s definitely better than nothing.
For more NEAT tips check out: 6 Ways To Get More NEAT
Benefits of Strength Training (Deliberate Exercise)
The benefits of strength training could be an entire article in itself, as there are many positives I could ramble on about. For the sake of not boring you to death, I will hit the highlights.
The person who incorporates some form of resistance training a few times per week is going to be far better off than those who do not.
Now don’t get this confused with going to the gym and working out with all of the meathead bodybuilders. You can practice resistance training in the comfort of your own casa if you wish. You really don’t need a whole lot of equipment, if any at all. Heck, if you’ve never trained before, all you need to be doing is body weight exercises anyway, at least to get you started.
So give me some benefits!
- Increased bone density
- Increase in lean body mass
- Improved appearance
- Boost in confidence
- Injury prevention due to joint stabilization through increased strength/muscle mass
Think of strength training as an insurance policy. It’s usually not much fun paying your dues and putting in the extra hard work, but you will be thankful later on in life as the rewards are great in terms of health and longevity.
As we age, our bone density diminishes; our muscles lose their tone and become weak. As a result, our chances of injury later in life increase exponentially. On another note, setting strength goals and achieving them will do wonders for our confidence and self-image.
So how might we put it all together?
Keep It Simple, Please
A strength training routine should never take up all of your time. In fact, it can (and should) be rather quick, unlike training for a marathon.
All you need is a few non-consecutive days per week to train; any more is likely unnecessary.
Keep in mind, I am writing for the general population here, so the guidelines are amendable and should be altered to suit your needs. However, here is a sample, full-body routine to get you going in the right direction.
Sample weekly exercise program
Training frequency is 2 times per week: Monday and Thursday morning before work (pick the days best for you, it’s just an example).
You will do the same routine each training day and increase weight and reps whenever possible.
The guidelines are to pick 1 exercise for chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and 1-2 exercises for legs.
If you have access to a gym, your routine would look like this:
- Chest Movement (bench or machine press) 2 x 10-12
- Back Movement (lat pulldown, chin up, rows) 2 x 10-12
- Shoulder Movement (vertical barbell press, DB press, lateral raises) 2 x 10-12
- Bicep Movement (curls with barbell, dumbbells or resistance bands) 2 x 10-12
- Tricep Movement (extension with dumbbells, machine or bands) 2 x 10-12
- Leg movement (squat or leg press) 2 x 10-12
- 2nd Leg Movement (leg curl or straight leg deadlift) 2 x 10-12
- Abdominal Movement (crunches, planks) 2 x 10-12
If you do not have access to a gym and want to work out at home doing body weight only exercises, do 4 sets of 12 of the following:
- Push ups
- Chair dips
As you progress, the exercises will become less challenging, so eventually, you may need to move onto free weight/machine exercises or make your body weight work more difficult. This can be done by adding bands for resistance or making each movement more challenging.
For instance, if you want to make body weight squats more difficult, do a 1 legged squat or use dumbbells for extra resistance. Instead of regular push ups, do handstand push ups. You must get creative if you plan on doing body weight exercises only.
On top of the strength training, some low to moderate intensity cardio is perfectly fine to do as well. I encourage those with sedentary lifestyles to incorporate 2-3 days of cardio into their weekly routine. My reasoning is, the more exercise we get, the more likely we are to maintain a healthy weight.
Examples of simple cardio workouts are walking the dogs when you get home from work, riding your bike through the trails, jogging in the morning before class, etc. Of course, you can use a treadmill, but I despise them; they are boring and usually inside a smelly, uncomfortable building. I prefer to do my cardio in the fresh air whenever possible.
So there you have it: a perfectly sensible plan to get active, improve your fitness and increase your quality of life.
What does your current exercise routine consist of? Let us know in the comments!