FITNESS FUNDA The half hour stroll won’t suffice, neither will all the iron-pumping in the gym, if you have been doing the same routine for ages. Anjali Sareen urges you to upgrade your fitness regime. Just as you do with that smartphone, religiously.
Progress is what we strive for, constantly – be it in our careers, relationships or technology. It tells us how much progress we have made so far, how far we have yet to go. It gives us definite goals to aspire for, a roadmap to happiness and success.
Why then don’t we apply the same principles of progression to our fitness routines? Most of us continue to go through the same rigmarole for eternity, expecting miraculous results. Because we like to stick with what has worked in the past, we like to take the easy way out.
But without good health, fitness and energy, would you be able to enjoy all the progress that you have strived so hard for? It would all be for nought. So, it’s about time you invest some of your precious time and effort to upgrade your fitness programme. The returns are more than worth it.
On your marks The fact that you have incorporated a fitness routine into your life is a positive step. It really is, but having done so it is equally important to ensure that you keep it progressive.
That is not to say that you need to constantly keep changing your routine or jumping from one fitness trend to another to stay in tune with the current fads. In fact, following popular ‘flavour-of-the-month’ workouts can often prove to be detrimental to the body.
An upgrade need not be a drastic change. It could be about introducing modifications in your current exercises or changing the mix of your programme. Sometimes, it could also mean going ahead and shifting your routine to something completely different and new. Take a call on what would work for you.
Get set Being a firm believer in the advantages of getting a clear understanding of the basics of any movement (actually I think it applies to all aspects of life), I do not discount the merits of starting from a base level or a simpler exercise programme.
The goal at this point is to ensure that the individual begins to establish strength and endurance through routines, such as walking, slow jogging, simplified resistance-training with dumbbells or on strength machines in the gym, among other programmes.
My concern arises when I see individuals doing the same thing over a period of time, often years, without making any changes in their routine. For the average person, in the absence of a serious limitation, such a routine is not going to be advantageous at all.
Firstly, continuing indefinitely with the same exercise routine implies that your body has shown no gains from the programme, and secondly relying only on daily walking or a stretching/flexibility class or a run is not going to give you complete fitness for your body.
You need to address all areas, comprising cardio, strength, core and flexibility to ensure total fitness. In other words, you need to add on to that walk or yoga class to make it more comprehensive.
Go, beyond comfort Be honest. Are you able to go through your group fitness class or even personal training session without putting in much effort? And by that I mean, are you thinking of some important meeting, an urgent mail, that office call, impending lunch or children’s chores, instead of focusing on the effort that should be required for your workout session?
Is that daily walk that you diligently go for more about catching up with your friends and the latest gossip?
In short, does your current routine leave you feeling challenged but energised? If not (and the effort of chatting with your friends doesn’t count), then it’s time to upgrade your fitness programme.
For if you insist on staying with your current programme, even though it’s not engaging your mind and body, then all you’re doing is checking off an item on that to-do list without actually seeing the results of your efforts.
Things to remember n The grandest structure without a solid foundation will not be able to stand the test of time. The same principle applies to our bodies. We often get so caught up in the obvious, visual results of our exercise that we forget to focus on strengthening the inside – our core.
For without a strong core, our bodies, over time, will lose the ability to stabilise, to balance and to provide us with the support that we need.
We need this from the inside, to be able to do, not only the varied, challenging activities that we enjoy, but also the basic activities of everyday life.
n There is so much by way of research and studies that we are constantly discovering about our bodies - in terms of what we are capable of, what’s good, what’s not, and more efficient ways to move than what we may have been doing for years.
Gone are the days when we thought that if we wanted to go running, cycling or lift weights, we just had to get up and do it any which way our bodies allowed us to. It is now possible to move and exercise efficiently, while minimising stress on our bodies.
The adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is no longer considered a healthy, positive way to encourage an average person to get to exercise.
n Ensuring a core-strengthening workout in your programme is very important. And when I speak of the core I do not mean only the mid-section or the abs.
A complete core-strengthening programme needs to focus on the entire core, which is the muscle of the back, hips and abdominals. And that goes way beyond the much-talked-about six-packs.
Ensuring optimum and efficient movement through engaging the deep stabiliser muscles should be the basis of a progressive fitness plan.
n Focusing only on single activities (such as running, biking, swimming), or a specific sport (such as tennis, squash, golf) or resistance training with strength machines or group classes based on specific movements only, can be limiting in building overall strength and fitness.
This often leads to imbalances in strength and posture, which further lead to stress and injury. Your fitness programme needs to evolve to accommodate your increases in strength and abilities.
n Whatever the upgrade or mix you work with, remember to own it. For just as you are happy and eager to show off your progress in other aspects of life, you should, ideally, feel the same way about your fitness routine.
Show ownership and commitment to your programme; see and feel yourself transformed with energy, good health and fitness. And it’s just a matter of time before all that spills over into everything else you do!
(The author is fitness and Pilates educator & co-owner, The Zone, Mind & Body Studio, Bengaluru)