What are you doing?
No, seriously, what are you doing when you’re working out?
Are you counting calories? Are you putting in your minutes on the elliptical? Are you watching television or reading a book?
If you’re not happy with the results you’re getting from your workouts, maybe the answers to these questions can shine some light on why.
I think there are several reasons for working out. I for one, happen to feel better when I exercise. I actually enjoy it.
Not everyone does. Am I right? I can feel the earth shake with the millions of nodding heads.
So, if you don’t love working out, then why do you do it?
Because you have to? Not true. Then why?
I think it’s because you want to be and feel better. You want to look better. You want to live.
That’s the reason we all work out. To live. It is a life or death proposition. A quality of life proposition.
Now back to the original question. What are you doing?
You are using your mind and body to move through life in an effective manner. You walk, run, and pick things up all the time.
So, working out must cause you to be better at these things in order for it to be effective.
I like the analogy of your body being an automobile. After all, both have motors and pumps to keep them moving. Both have fuel that is drawn in and circulated to the necessary places in order to drive them forward (or backward). Both create waste and exhaust. Both can be highly tuned or poorly maintained. Each car or body is just a bit different too. One thing is for sure, if you don’t take your vehicle for a drive on a regular basis, it will not function at its best!
So, what you are doing when you exercise is taking that vehicle out for a test ride. You are pushing the motor past what is a comfortable cruise, to a higher level of activity so that when you want it to take you somewhere, it is ready.
The next question is how you know if you are getting what you need from your workout. I will tell you it is not necessarily about calorie expenditure. Although, weight-loss can be achieved by a caloric deficit, unless you are keeping track of your caloric intake, it doesn’t make much sense to count calories while you are exercising. In fact, if you’ve done this you know that can be very disappointing. A half hour in any moderate treadmill or elliptical workout might result in a 300 calorie burn. That’s going to be less than 1 pound per week if you do it every day.
That, combined with a 200 calorie daily decrease in calorie intake will result in exactly 1 pound weight loss per week, if you do it every day. Most people are never going to be that specific. Most people are not that disciplined.
If we get back to the mission of keeping your body tuned up and ready for anything, then we must talk about functional training. You will need to get your heart rate up to a certain percentage of your heart rate max. In order to do that you must know what that is.
In order to monitor it, you will need a heart rate monitor. Ahh, we finally come to the point. A very valuable tool in your fitness arsenal is a heart rate monitor. A worthwhile investment especially considering they are relatively inexpensive. There are very few items in this world as valuable as this device and as cheap! A heart rate monitor consists of a chest strap (transmitter) and a receiver that you wear on your wrist, just like a watch.
Buy a heart rate monitor today. You will be able to calculate your max heart rate and determine at what percentage you should work.
A minimal effective exercise heart rate begins at about 60% of your max. This is a safe way to start. As you get conditioned to exercise, you will be able to work at a higher rate and experiment with different types of cardiorespiratory challenges. Remember, if you don’t challenge your body to work, it will become deconditioned. A deconditioned body is much more likely to fail when you need it the most i.e. running for a bus, chasing you kids or having sex.
On the other hand, a fit, conditioned body can do just about anything you want it to.
Heart rate monitors are, as I mentioned not too expensive in the grand scheme of things. You can get one for as little as $30 or spend hundreds if you want the bells and whistles. If you get seriously addicted to exercise and monitoring your progress, you can pick up a heart rate monitor that will track your workouts on your computer and print out graphs and charts showing you progress. In the beginning it might be better to keep it simple and spend anywhere between $30 and $100.
Buy one, learn to use it and begin understanding your body and the real reason you work out. Keep your motor tuned.
If you’re confused and need help, hire a trainer to help you sort it out. Even one training session with a fitness pro can teach you what you need to know about your heart rate and how to monitor it. You are worth it.