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July 5, 2015

Knowing the reason you want to get fit

A trend that gets a new start every few years is that of the level of fitness of our population.

With obesity increasing, diabetes at epidemic proportions and heart disease still a number one cause of death, this topic seems to appear in the media on a regular interval.

This week (July 6, 2015), Time magazine published “The Answer Issue” where just about every little fact that you may not know is written down.

The page that received my attention asked “What is the most effective workout?” Fitness is a broad topic and covers many types of workouts that make up fitness. The most frequently asked question for people starting a program to become more fit is, “Fit for what?”

The article had five areas that were addressed and included: for gaining muscle, for weight loss, for your mind, for endurance, and for flexibility.

Those five areas of fitness basically will cover most of what trying to get in shape will include. The problem for a person trying to get fit is to how to put all of these forms of exercise into a program that will fit into a span of one week.

It is fairly well established that, for any improvement to take place, the exercise should be done at least twice a week. That makes ten sessions of exercise in seven days; and that means that a person will have to do two sessions of different exercises three or four of the days of the week.

Gaining muscle involves lifting weights or doing some resistance exercise; weight loss is best done with high-intensity bouts of exercise; for improving your mind, the activity of walking is recommended; the endurance segment brings in bouts of running, cycling or swimming; the flexibility portion recommends yoga or pilates exercises.

Three of the segments involve walking, running or intervals that will be tough to double up on. Intervals are a hard workout; so it is one exercise that will be by itself and hard to double up with another form of exercise. Walking is an easy double-up segment.

Since it is under the category of improving your mind, it would be a natural fit to include a session of yoga or pilates in your program.

High-intensity exercise usually consists of doing intervals on the track or fast bursts of speed during a run. That requires the next day to be an easy exercise, so a run might be better scheduled a day later.

If you think that a slow run, bike ride or swim might fit after a high intensity run, the article mentions that, if you are able to easily carry on a conversation during exercise, you are most likely not working hard enough. Lifting weights keeps the metabolism revved up for up to 24 hours after a strenuous workout.

About the only exercise that might fit after weights is to go for a walk. After a bout of strength training, the muscles are pumped up and that makes flexibility exercises difficult; so maybe yoga isn’t the best to try after lifting weights.

The exercises that seem to be the best to pair together as part of the doubling up in an exercise program appear to be walking or yoga. But walking is a brisk walk, not the stroll that some may want to do.

Muscle-gain exercises and high intensity are the programs that are the ones that should be done alone. But, if you do each twice a week, that only leave three days for the other fitness exercises. If you exercise hard for either of these exercises, it might be enough to do just one day a week for those two.

A good long run, a walk, a bike ride, a swim or a couple of days doing yoga or pilates might fit into the fitness program in place of a second day of high intensity work. A second day of strength training using lighter weights and fewer sets also might work in the program.

Getting fit isn’t as easy as it looks when you start to begin an exercise program, especially when you add in the complications of how many days, and hours a day, are available to exercise.

Then you have to ask yourself, “Do I really want all of the five segments; or do I go back to ‘Fit For What?’ and just pick one or two, and be happy with that?”

Picking even one is a step in the right direction toward getting fit.

Moe Johnson
Dr. Maurice Johnson - better known around San Marcos as “Moe” - is a professor in the Department of Health, P.E., Recreation and Dance at Texas State University - San Marcos. Moe has been a fixture in the San Marcos running community - both as a runner and race organizer - since way back when Moby Dick was a minnow. His column on running and fitness appears each Sunday in the Sports section of the San Marcos Daily Record.

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