Fitness tips

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Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 13 Apr 2012, 09:51

With the advancing years, and with the distinct possibility of civil unrest (again) in the UK, it is only rational to start having a look at one's personal fitness. If we're going to be alive at all, it's going to help to be fit and strong.

Accordingly, for the past couple of years this has been one of my interests. Most of the rules for this are quite simple. Most are common sense, but some are not. I thought I would distill what have learnt for the benefit of others here. This information is with a view to shedding any fat you might have and building muscle mass.

  • Lift with intensity: lift the heaviest weights you can. If you can't manage about 8 repetitions, you're lifting too much weight. If you can do 20 at a time it's too light.
  • Keep good form. Lift (and especially lower) slowly, with balance. Don't swing.
  • Lift to exhaustion. When you're lifting weights what you are doing is putting microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. This is simply micro-evolution. Your muscles are strained and the body considers that if this is going to start happening on a regular basis it had better repair muscle, and add more.
  • Rest. If you work out the same muscles every day they will not grow and you might even end up with muscular atrophy. Obviously, they need time to repair and to synthesise new muscle. Indeed, if you have worked to exhaustion you should not really be able to work out the following day. You'll experience "burn" on the day of the workout, and the muscles should feel tired the following day. Leave them, two or three days, to do their work.
  • Eat good food, and no bad food. Generally, if it doesn't occur naturally don't eat it. Nuts, berries, chicken breast, fruit, oats, broccoli (one of the best foods), fish - these occur naturally. They're really good for you and often no more expensive than all the fake things. They'll give you the right nutrients you need to be healthy and motivate growth.
  • Eat a lot. If you're working out routinely, you need to be eating way more than the standard 2500 calories. More like 5,000. Do this by eating small amounts all day long. I could go into a lot more detail about what to eat and when, but this is the basic rule.
  • Make sure you take in plenty of protein but don't pay much attention to all the other "supplements".
  • Make this a habit. It's easy to fall into bad habits. But it's quite easy to fall into good ones instead. Sometimes it seems almost arbitrary which ones you're in. But one thing's for sure - this kind of thing doesn't make any difference unless it is a habit. After all, why would your body bother evolving if this was apparently just a one-off or occasional incident? To see change (which very slowly comes over months), a 30 minute (or one hour) workout just needs to be part of your way of life.
  • Don't pay lots of money unnecessarily. Buying some nice things can make you feel up for this work - and it is work, you feel it as you're lifting weights. But actually it doesn't matter what you're wearing and if you have enough space in your house you don't even need to join a gym. All you are doing is lifting weights and in many cases you can use your own body weight (dips, press-ups and so on). Just make sure you're working those muscles to exhaustion!
  • There is no such thing as "spot fat reduction" (losing fat from specific areas only). The body tends to shed fat on a "last in, first out" basis. Hence the most stubborn fat is that which people usually most want to lose - from the abdomen and the chin. The only way of losing this is to decrease body fat generally until it finally starts to shift. (It is only at this point, incidentally, that any abdominal muscle can possibly show).
  • Weight lifting itself increases metabolic rate which helps to burn fat. It also burns up calories in the synthesis of new muscle. Combine this with cardio to shift fat.
  • Do the right kind of cardio for you, taking into account any weaknesses, but push it. You need to go at least 20 minutes with a high heart rate to make this worthwhile. You'll sweat and you'll be burning off fat. You may not feel great at the time, but you'll feel great later. Endorphins are released during exercise, and once you can do this easily, you'll find every lesser physical task in your life even easier too.

That's pretty much it for the essential rules as far as I am concerned. I started all this very late, being not only naturally very slim but also greatly put off any sports like activities by the over-importance placed upon them and by the types of people who usually engaged in them, right from school age. It's one thing to think sport is very important (I certainly do not) but another to stay fit, and I'm slowly seeing results from understanding and applying the above rules.

If you would like to have a go at this I say go for it. Being in good physical shape should not be the preserve only of the less intellectual and more arrogant members of our society. It doesn't have to dominate your life either - we are only talking about an hour a day at most. But there is also a lot to be had from not neglecting this aspect of life.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Paul » 13 Apr 2012, 11:03

Good stuff Gavin.

I try to do a workout every alternate day (rather evening), though I sometimes miss one and then feel guilty. I don't use any weights or equipment at all. The body itself can be pushed enough to cause weight loss, muscle-building or retention of a good shape. All you need is some space to do it.

I think repetitions are a good thing and eventually (as fitness increases) the more the merrier. This will promote stamina and the ability to keep going. Extra weight will build muscle but there's a limit to how much more muscle you wish to grow, or is wise to grow. Beyond a certain level, a stamina to keep going at that level is the best bet (in my opinion).

Try press-ups, sit ups, half sit-ups (crunches) star jumps(exhausting), bunny hops, step ups (you need a short chair or bench) and simple squats. Start with 10 reps of each manouevre and don't rest in between. Rather jog up and down a short corridor or space for 30 seconds to keep the heart going strongly, then get straight back to 10 more reps. Jog again, then 10 more, Etc.

Here's a routine that can be very good:

10 x press-ups, jog for 30 secs, 10 x press-ups, jog, 10 x press-ups, jog.
10 x sits-ups. jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more, jog
10 x star jumps, jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more, jog
10 x crunches, jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more, jog,
10 x burpees, jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more, jog,
10 x step-ups (or squats), jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more, jog,
10 press-ups again, jog, 10 more, jog, 10 more.

Maybe any ladies might want to cut out some of the press-ups, say the last set of 3 x 10.

You'll see that this routine involves 210 exercises with continuous jogging in-between. The jogging is important to keep the heart pumping and the breathing rapid. Don't be tempted to have a short sit down between exercises, keep going as long as you can.

Most people trying this from a position of relative unfitness won't make it the first time. Go as absolutely far as you can. The next day you will feel like an invalid. It's vital you try it again the day after tomorrow. Most people should, with a push, achieve it the 2nd time. From there never look back and do less than those 210 moves, in sets of 10. Be as religious as possible in doing this routine every 2nd day.

After about a month (or less) you should do the 210 far easier. Your breathing will be stable sooner (after you finish) and it may take a little less time to achieve the full routine. Don't rush though. You should sweat a couple of buckets in doing this and you may find that you sweat sooner and easier the fitter you become, which is ok and natural (I think).

Once you can do the sets of 10 ok enough, move upwards to sets of 12 repetitions and repeat the same routine with this number. You're now doing 252 exercises. Keep that up for a month and then move to 15 reps. Then to 17 or 18 reps. Then 20. Etc. Within a year easily you should be up to 30 reps of the same routine and will be very fit.

At this point you may start to run out of time.......! Better than watching TV though!

Best of all is that this can be done without any outlay on equipment and all you need is a bit of space and a lack of interruption from outside sources.

Oh yes - you need a hot shower of course for after you have finished. A good glass of chilled fruit juice is nice too at the end. Don't get in the shower immediately as you will sweat for a short time after you have ended. Use 10 minutes to sit quietly whilst sipping the fruit juice, before showering. You'll feel great once showered and sat down with a good read. You'll sleep well too.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Andrea » 13 Apr 2012, 15:29

Excellent topic and great posts Gavin and Paul. I hope my regime below will help other ladies on the forum.

Having come from a sub-tropical climate, winter always hits me hard in this country (I've been here for 2 winters now) because it's so bleak, cold, and miserable that I get into comfort food eating mode. That, plus sitting at a computer screen writing and reading for research equals sedentary lifestyle and that's not good and my once a week visits to the gym weren't great. I was not obese, but overweight (thankfully, my fat is evenly dispersed throughout my body). Since there is a history of diabetes in my family and I am doing my best to avoid getting that with my new lifestyle. As vacuous as it may sound, I'm hoping to look nice at my book launch, whenever that may be. So, a few weeks ago (3.5 to be exact) I began going down to the gym daily for 30-45 minute sessions.

I, too, have loathed the sorts of people who frequent gyms because I used to get bullied at school by a couple of football players (complete jocks) and they would call me names and tripped me occasionally. Some men, eh, to bully a girl. Anyway, there are some thick guys at my current gym who grunt and are tattooed all over and talk about the most inane things imaginable. Still, it's an environment where I can get on with my keep fit and a world away from the Barbie dolls at the London gym (it was a combination of these perfectly-proportioned (with help from surgeons and good genes) women, insensitive trainers who kept calling me fat, and mind-numbingly brainless pop music that made me quit that time).

I've lost almost 10 lbs in 3 weeks doing this and eating pretty much exactly what Gavin wrote above (but much less) and drinking green tea and lemon water several times a day. My favourite drinks, cranberry juice and hot chocolate, have had to be rationed to only being consumed when I earn them (a certain number of pages done, etc).

I do the following exercises:
Monday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), 50 ballet pliés, 50 crunches, stretching.
Tuesday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), bellydance/salsa moves 10-15 minutes, stretching.
Wednesday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), 10 minutes on rowing machine, 4kg weights. Stretching.
Thursday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), 50 ballet pliés, 50 crunches, stretching.
Friday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), 10 minutes on rowing machine, 4kg weights, stretching.
Saturday: 5km crosstrainer (30 min), 50 ballet pliés, 50 crunches. Stretching.
Sunday: 5km crosstrainer or alternate with salsa dancing at home (30-45 min). Stretching.


After this I have a salad with lean protein lunch, shower, then get on with work for the rest of the day and evening. It's not easy, but it's made me feel so much better about myself.

:)
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 13 Apr 2012, 16:04

Paul, thanks for the response, even posting a training plan! I think the more used to building muscle you become, the more you can increase reps and slightly decrease weight, a high number of reps helping mainly (as you say) with stamina and maintenance - but for mass gain in the early days you want heavy weight. Personally I'm not up to a maintenance level for myself yet so am pushing it pretty hard.

Andrea, yes, certainly things are different for a female, namely there being much less emphasis on the heavy weight and a lower calorie requirement. That sounds like a great routine you have there - congratulations :)
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Rachel » 13 Apr 2012, 19:55

I have Fibromyalgia which is an illness that has it's main symptom as widespread muscle pain. As a result I can not move a lot due to pain, never mind work out.

This caused me to be very interested in the subject of exercise and health. I recently found this news
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-17177251
"Can 3 minutes of Exercise a week help make you fit?"

To sum up the long article: Just a small amount of short bursts of intense exercise, amounting to only a few minutes a week, can deliver many of the benefits of hours of conventional exercise.
Also how much benefit you get depends on your genes.

"In one international study 1,000 people were asked to exercise four hours a week for 20 weeks. Their aerobic fitness was measured before and after starting this regime.
15% of people made huge strides in fitness (responders), 20% showed no real improvement at all (non responders)."

The difference between how much a person improved their fitness from exercise could be traced to a small number of genes. They have developed a genetic testing for these genes.

At school I was terrible at P.E and sport. I remember trying to get fit and I never could. I noticed that some people got fitter and developed muscles easily and some didn't. I sometimes wondered if I was imagining it but after I read this research about genes and response to exercise it made sense.

I believe in the future medicine will be less obsessed with constant hard exercise for health and going to the gym. When I talk to very old people I notice that a lot of them have lifestyles involving a gentle or brisk walk everday, but many did not do high physical intensity work outs in their life. (Well some did have hard physical jobs but not the majority.)

I'm not putting down the efforts of people here to exercise. I'm sure it is a positive thing for some. I just think it is not right for everyone in large amounts.

If I could get rid of my Fibromyalgia, I would not go to any gym or do any push ups. I'ed just take up walking again. That is one of the physical activities I miss the most with my illness.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 13 Apr 2012, 23:34

Rachel, I'm sorry to hear about your Fibromyalgia. I think if people just do the best they can then that's enough!

One thing I didn't mention in my original post is that it is generally advised to drink plenty of water every day, but cut right down on the sodium (salt). Sodium leads to water being retained by the body, which isn't good for the mission of getting rid of fat.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Paul » 14 Apr 2012, 00:17

Yes, sorry to hear of your illness Rachel and you are correct in that we are all different anyway.

Gavin you are correct in the appreciation of weight for growth and repetition for stamina. Each person has a need or desire for their particular level, dependent also on the un-worked size and form.

What I like about my routine (apart from that it's free) is that it is generally more a lower body and legs routine, as well as a heart and lungs workout because you never actually stop moving once the routine starts. So stamina and leanness is a result. It's only the press-ups that really work the arms and shoulders. They can be increased or decreased slightly to suit. I don't wish to be bigger or too big (I'm only 5' 8") but do value agility and being able to stretch ok and of course stamina. It is stamina that's needed for the long game and for any potential 'scenario' of the future.

Is anyone here by the way starting to think about 'hoarding' certain things and at least making basic preparations for coping with a civil and supply crisis?
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 14 Apr 2012, 11:04

Paul agreed, stamina will be needed, but in my case stamina built after strength.

Paul wrote:Is anyone here by the way starting to think about 'hoarding' certain things and at least making basic preparations for coping with a civil and supply crisis?


I am going to take this up in a new thread The Endgame.

One more important thing on the fitness is of course sleep. This is when your body builds new fibres so you need it try to allocate time for enough of it. I think 8 hours is a good amount. More than that and, personally, I can feel a little lethargic for the rest of the day, and that's something I don't want!
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Caleb » 15 Apr 2012, 12:07

Gavin wrote:
  • Lift with intensity: lift the heaviest weights you can. If you can't manage about 8 repetitions, you're lifting too much weight. If you can do 20 at a time it's too light.
  • Lift to exhaustion. When you're lifting weights what you are doing is putting microscopic tears in your muscle fibres. This is simply micro-evolution. Your muscles are strained and the body considers that if this is going to start happening on a regular basis it had better repair muscle, and add more.


Generally sound advice, but I'd say these two depend upon what your goals are. If you're looking for strength and/or power, most people would recommend a maximum of eight repetitions per set. Some people, such as Pavel Tsatsouline have advocated a total of ten reps across all sets for a particular exercise/body part. Mark Rippetoe, who is a pretty famous strength coach, advocates a maximum of between five and fifteen repetitions for each exercise.

In terms of lifting to exhaustion, this is also generally advised against if someone is trying to gain strength, for two reasons. The first is that it compromises form. The second is that it can very easily lead to overtraining, which can stall progress, and even lead to injury and/or illness. Pavel Tsatsouline also advises against lifting to exhaustion for psychological reasons (a mindset of success, not failure).

I'd also add the following very simple thing:

Do compound lifts, not isolation lifts. There is an adage in the lifting community that if you're not squatting, you're not lifting. To squats, I'd also add other compound lifts such as deadlifts, bench press, etc. As such, I'd recommend Mark Rippetoe's book/video, Starting Strength.

The workout from there is split in two, with three workouts per week (i.e. each workout three times over a fortnight):

Day 1
Squat -- 3 sets of 5 reps
Bench Press -- 3 sets of 5 reps
Deadlift -- 1 set of 5 reps

Day 2
Squat -- 3 sets of 5 reps
Overhead press -- 3 sets of 5 reps
Power Clean -- 5 sets of 3 reps

He also suggests some supplementary exercises such as pullups, bent rows and dips, in so far as they do not interfere with the main programme. It's a very good programme, but I can't do it right now because I don't have a squat rack and I also don't have heavy enough weights for the deadlift and power clean.

There's also a very useful lift called the Turkish getup, though he doesn't cover it. It's very good for core strength and shoulder stability.



Other more endurance based programmes are:

The 300 Workout, which I could never finish. It's absolutely brutal.

Tabata training, which is four minutes of hell. Basically, do as many repetitions of a particular exercise (squats are the most common) as possible in 20 seconds. Then rest for 10 seconds. That is one set. Do eight sets (i.e. four minutes). Your "score" is the lowest number of reps you do in any of the eight sets. These women make it look easy (turn the sound down as it's a stupid song). It's not.



Or even things like pyramid lifting. One version is to take a weight or exercise you can do, say, eight reps of. Each minute, you must complete the required number of reps, otherwise, the workout finishes. You can take as many rests per minute as you like, so long as you finish the reps within the minute. In the first minute, do only one rep. In the second minute, do two reps. Work up like this such that in the eighth minute, you do eight reps. In the ninth minute, do seven reps. Work your way down the pyramid until you do one rep in the fifteenth minute. A couple of years ago, I could do this with chinups, but it's not easy at all -- sixty-four chinups in seventeen minutes. There's no way I could do it now. It also leaves you extremely sore for days.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 15 Apr 2012, 12:24

You hear anything from around 8 to 12 reps and I think anything in that region is fine. I agree with your point about compound lifting - that's another good thing to do - but continue to disagree re. lifting to exhaustion:

When you say this is "generally" advised against, is this really what you have found? Pretty much every book I have read, and every bodybuilder I have ever heard speak (including Arnie), has emphasised this point perhaps joint equally with eating enough. It makes sense to me due to the need for the body to evolve. When your form is crumbling, you're exhausted. Also, I believe overtraining principally refers to not allowing sufficient rest periods between workouts.

They look like some punishing routines you listed! I might try them when I feel I can.
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Caleb » 16 Apr 2012, 00:54

Gavin: The pyramid routine should actually be fifteen minutes, not seventeen minutes.

In terms of lifting to exhaustion, again, you do have to be really careful in terms of compromising form, especially on big compound lifts such as squats or deadlifts, but also with other compound lifts too. The whole point with compound lifts is that they also work stabilising muscles. When you're absolutely exhausted (say, you're doing huge volume workouts), if your form goes (which is quite easy unless you're under supervision), you're going to injure stabilising muscles such as your lower back or rotator cuff. If you're doing anything explosive, such as the Olympic lifts (or parts thereof, such as the power clean), it's even easier to compromise form and injure yourself. Likewise if you're doing something like plyometrics.

This is all far less likely if you're doing isolation exercises (particularly on a machine) with no power component involved.

Mark Rippetoe, Pavel Tsatsouline and some other strength coaches do advise against lifting to exhaustion. The two principal, inter-related reasons, are that 1) lifting to exhaustion builds up too much lactic acid in the muscles, which actually increases recovery time, 2) they are often training athletes, so the strength training they do must not interfere with their ability to train in their chosen sport.

Pavel Tsatsouline, for instance, has trained Maria Sharipova. The point of her training with him was to develop strength and power, but not to exhaust her as that would have interfered with her ability to train both skills and endurance in tennis.

Mark Rippetoe's approach is that you do extremely low volume to build extreme strength. Basically, there's somewhat of a continuum that goes power-strength-muscular endurance-cardiovascular endurance, and you can be somewhere on that scale, but not everywhere on that scale. If you want to be at the power or strength end of the continuum, you're simply not going to be able to do large volumes of work. There should be some warmup sets first (but they should be prepatory, not challenging), and then there should be a low volume of work with good rests between sets. Those sets should be difficult at the time, but you should walk away from the workout feeling fairly energetic. If you look at his routine for beginners, it actually has squats three times each week. You can't do that if you're working to exhaustion (and building up a lot of lactic acid). This actually promotes the most efficient strength gains. As I said, it depends upon your goals.

Bodybuilding is a strange beast anyway. Those guys often base their entire lives around it, including their jobs. Most, if not all, of the top performers also use steroids. They have ridiculous eating and resting schedules that aren't really applicable to the average person anyway. The other thing is that they do highly specialised routines anyway (e.g. a six day split routine where they only work any particular muscle once per week), and they're focussed upon hypertrophy. There is overlap between hypertrophy and strength or power, but it's not a 1:1 correspondence. It's not functional training. Competitive weightlifters and powerlifters have much higher strength to weight ratio than bodybuilders because they're interested in strength or power rather than hypertrophy.

EDIT: I have been thinking about this more, specifically with regard to your comment about your body evolving. It is true that your body needs to be stressed to adapt, but stressing it in different ways will cause it to adapt in different ways. Your body would adapt differently to running one kilometre than it would to running one hundred metres. There is some overlap, but the adaptations are still quite different. The same will also be true in terms of lifting weights. You need to lift in line with what you want to lift. If a person's goal is to get really strong, then their goal is basically to improve their one repetition maximum. As such, they need to train as close to that as possible. If they train differently, they will adapt, but in a different way.

Look at this. It discusses the one rep max, and how to calculate it. If, for instance, someone had a one rep max of 100kg, then he would be able to lift about 91kg for three reps, or 79kg for eight reps. These would cause quite different adaptations., especially if in the first instance, three sets of three reps were performed with quite long rests between sets, as opposed to three sets of eight with relatively shorter rests between sets. Actually, the final sets on either might not achieve the full number of reps, but that's neither here nor there. However, the second workout might lead to exhaustion (lifting progressively lower weights for progressively higher reps certainly would). The first workout would probably not lead to exhaustion. This is basically because of volume. The second workout's volume would be 24 reps x 79kg = 1896kg. The first workout's volume would be 9 reps x 91kg = 819kg. The second workout has twice the volume of the first. They both cause very different adaptations. A person just isn't ever going to get really strong doing high volume like that because they'd never be training in a zone very close to their one rep max. If we go back to our running example, I think you'll see why in an example that is more obvious. Do you think a person would ever become a world class sprinter by running distances of 1km?
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Re: Fitness tips

Postby Gavin » 20 Apr 2012, 09:28

You hear a wide variety of advice about what you should and shouldn't do with regard to weight lifting and I tried to present the general consensus and what makes sense to me in my tips (also what seems to be working for me).

I think recovery time is one of the core points though because again, common sense, a muscle is going to have difficulty repairing if it keeps on being worked. I just found this article which goes into a bit more depth about this aspect - quite interesting and worth a look, but what it boils down to is "lift again when your muscle feels back like it was and ready". This will probably vary depending on who you are, how used you are to training, which muscle it was and how hard it was worked.
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