A Better Body in Minutes per Day!

A Better Body in Minutes per Day!

This is no gimmick, and I’m not here to sell you the next great exercise machine for 4 easy payments!  The key to a better body and great fitness is applying a few life principles such as the “Pareto principle” and “How to Eat an Elephant” to your workouts.

Most people start working out with workouts that are too hard, too fast, too soon.  They will get so sore the first workout that they don’t even come back for the 2nd time, or at best do it for a few weeks. Working out less, but regularly, throughout the months and years will take you significantly further than those intense “P90X”  extreme workouts that you will quit in a month if not a week. Sustainability is the key!

How to Eat an Elephant:  Lets talk about sustainability and how to eat an elephant first.  You want to do something you can continue to do for the rest of your life without it becoming a drudgery.  Let’s face it, lifting weights isn’t a whole lot of fun.  But, if you break it up throughout the day, you can do it without even breaking a sweat. As important as building muscle, is building the habit!  “Eating an elephant” means breaking up any over sized task into manageable bites.  Over sized tasks can be overwhelming in size or in difficulty.  A big 1 hour workout can be too much to take on many days.  It takes time to rest between sets, time you could be doing something else besides wishing the workout was over.  So, why not do your “3 sets” throughout the day instead of all at once?  In the morning, do a set before you shower, a second set after you shower, and a final set when you get home from work.  You’ve done your same 3 sets, and probably did each set a little better than if they were done all at once, and you didn’t even notice you’d worked out.  I do abs and chest one day, and biceps and back the next.  I workout every day, but alternating back and forth allows the muscles to rest and repair. For legs and glutes, I do lunges and plyometrics to build muscle every other day, and racquetball or Zumba every other day for cardio/aerobic fitness.  Granted, there is not a way to break up the cardio/aerobic fitness throughout your day, but everything else can be.  If you have no equipment at home, it will be difficult to apply this principle, but you could still do calisthenic or plyometric sorts of exercises.

If you must go to the gym I suggest you work on sustainability there too.  I’m always tempted to lift heavier and heavier weights, or push a cardio machine further and further.  This is unsustainable.  If you don’t end up with an injury, you’ll burn out or start skipping workouts.  Do a moderate amount of weight or cardio and do it regularly.  This will result in a sustainability that keeps you strong, lean, and feeling good.

Pareto Principle: Muscle burns calories, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn even when at rest (your metabolism will rise).  So, to lose weight, you need to build muscle. I have found that no matter how much cardio exercise I get, I don’t lose weight unless I include some weight training to build muscle.  To apply the Pareto principle to your muscles and your workout, think about your biggest muscles as well as what will enhance your looks the most if that is your goal for working out.  One little muscle in your forearm might be important for a body builder, but probably not worth the time to isolate and work by itself for the rest of us.  It can get worked as a side effect of working something more important such as your biceps, triceps, or chest muscles. 80% of your improvements in metabolism and looks can be done by working 20% of your muscles.

Glutes and Legs – these are your largest muscles and can increase your metabolism the fastest.  If you do nothing else, work these muscle groups as a minimum and you can get results.  I used to walk to work every day which was about 45 minutes to an hour both ways.  Doing just that, I was able to eat anything I liked without gaining weight, and I probably lost some weight.  Not to mention what a long walk twice a day did for my mental health. If I had added in a few sets of lunges along the way, I’m certain I would have lost weight.

Make It Fun: I mentioned earlier in this article that lifting weights is just no fun and therefore unsustainable for most people.  The same goes for exercise machines.  I feel like I have a fair amount of discipline, but it is just too mind numbing for me to get on a treadmill or just about any exercise machine 3 times a week for any amount of time.  What I do love to do for any length of time is play a sport like racquetball, tennis, badminton, etc.  I will do this for hours on end without ever noticing I’m “working out”.  Another thing that is almost as good as a sport is taking a class such as Zumba, Dance Blast, etc at my local fitness club.  Once you get over “dancing in public” without a beverage to relax your inhibitions, it’s a lot of laughs and a lot of unnoticed exercise.

Don’t Over Do It:  I was reminded of this life/exercise theory just last week while travelling for work.  The place I was going to had the best food imaginable for lunches, and dining out every evening was beginning to take a toll on my waist line.  I had been doing pretty well at eating manageable portion sizes, but the food was just too rich.  So, on Wednesday, out of guilt, I did a lot more exercise than I normally would, trying to make up for it.  Thursday and Friday, I could hardly move without excruciating pain and didn’t do any workout at all.  Saturday I was still extremely sore, but finally was able to do 1/2 of what I would usually do.   You will end up working out less if you do too much.  So, start out pretty easy, and gradually work yourself up to bigger workouts, larger reps, more sets, etc. Remember to find a moderate level to stay at permanently too.  You will only set yourself back if you do too much too soon.

Injury prevention:  I see people taking huge risks all the time with their workouts.  I see people pushing their bodies beyond what they were made to do all the time.  Things like straight arm weight lifting (imagine a slow motion jumping jack with heavy weights). Yeah, it really works the shoulder muscle hard, but one day that shoulder is going to give out on you.  Then, you are not going to work out for 6 months while you recover.  There are hundreds of safe ways to workout every muscle on your body, so why risk an injury?  Think twice about the leverage, stress, and strain you are putting on your joints before doing an exercise.  Shoulders and knees are what I see people risking the most often.  Take plyometric jumping for example.  I see people jumping on and off platforms, usually very unsteady platforms, or even worse, bleachers!  You are really asking for it.  And by “it”, I don’t mean a staring role on Funniest Home Video’s.  You don’t need to take this risk.  Just jump as high as you can from solid ground, reaching for the stars.  Do 3 sets of 20 of these and see if you aren’t completely wiped out.  You get the same exercise, and almost zero risk of injury.

In summary, work your biggest muscles, one set at a time throughout the day, in safe ways, and increase reps/sets gradually to a moderate level. Also find some fun activities that you can do regularly and trick yourself into a workout.


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