Getting Fit – Part 2: Working Out
As I outlined in my first post, Getting Fit – Part 1: Diet, how you look and feel is predominantly based on what you eat (along with your sleep habits). The remaining 10% is based on your level of activity. As they say, abs are made in the kitchen.
If you have a healthy eating plan in place and you are starting to feel and look better, it’s now time to put on some muscle and work on your cardiovascular fitness.
Do you need to belong to a gym to get fit? No. Does it help? Yes. Going to a gym accomplishes a few things:
But, there are also benefits to working out at home:
My advice: DO BOTH.
I belong to a 24-hour gym that is, luckily, 2 minutes from my front door. That is my main workout spot. They have all the free weights, kettlebells, and machines that I like to use. If for some reason I can’t get to the gym (work schedule, kids, etc), I have some things at home I can do. I have a heavy bag I can beat the shit out of, resistance bands, a kettlebell, a jump rope, and a basketball goal outside. I also have a big open area in the basement and a laptop I can use to follow along with yoga Youtube videos (usually the ones with the prettiest instructor… I’m looking at you, Ms. Adrien).
So what exactly do I do for workouts? Well, twenty-year-old me would’ve answered that by saying, “Weights. Lots of weights. Often. Oh, and basketball.” Twenty-year-old me was also in tremendous physical shape. He ate a shit ton of food (thank you all-you-can-eat cafeteria) and worked out like a demon. He wasted those good looks, youth and six-pack abs on a not-so-good-looking girlfriend that he would later marry and find out she was a horrible fat cheater. But, I digress…
Today, in my 40’s, I approach things a little differently. My workout schedule is not as regimented. I still do quite a bit, but I’m more careful. My workout week has changed quite a bit. A typical week may look like this:
Monday: Cardio for 30 minutes (stair master or elliptical). Full body warm-up routine. Dumbbell Bench Press, cable flyes, Dips, tricep pull-downs with rope, kettlebell swings, battle ropes, stretches.
Tuesday: Cardio for 30 minutes (stair master or elliptical). Full body warm-up routine. Kettlebell Goblet Squats, Kettlebell swings, medicine ball leg curls, leg extensions, abs, stretches
Wednesday: Yoga, abs, basketball.
Thursday: Cardio for 30 minutes (stair master or elliptical). Full body warm-up routine. Static hold pull-ups, hammer strength rows, seated cable rows, barbell curls, hammer curls, battle ropes, Stretches.
Friday: Cardio for 30 minutes (stair master or elliptical). Full body warm-up routine. Dumbbell push presses, dumbell clean and press, lateral raises, face pulls, battle ropes,
Saturday: Stay home. Do 100 push ups, abs, squats, lunges, yoga, stretches
That’s my general routine. I mix up the exercises all the time. I hit the same muscle groups, just in a new way each week… rotating between a few different exercises. I do still follow the standard “bodybuilder split” workout routine. I focus on chest and triceps one day, then legs, then back and biceps, then shoulders. There’s really no science behind it. It’s just a weight lifting philosophy I have followed for years and I like it. Some people get away with three full-body workouts per week. I like to go to the gym and pump iron, so I like to do a split routine and go more often. Both a split routine and a full-body regimen work fine for building your body.
My workouts are still predominantly weights, but I throw in some “high-intensity cardio” type of things, like battle ropes and kettlebells. Now that I’m in my 40’s, I also throw in stretches, a lengthy warm-up routine, and cardio every session. It’s important I keep limber and warmed up and ready to go, trying to avoid injury. I do stretches AFTER working out (never before)… sometimes later in the day at home.
This is MY routine that works for me. YOUR routine that works for you could be completely different. You could be the type of guy that likes to throw on the running shoes and hit the road for a couple of hours. Maybe you like to do a martial art, or even some wall climbing. Whatever your IT is, you gotta find it and do it.
Yes, overtraining is a very real thing. In this day and age of “work work work”, you can easily eat a shitty diet and not get enough sleep. Try to do my workout plan on a shitty diet and no sleep. You’ll get burned out in no time. You’ll get ill. You’ll get injuries. Your body will be telling you to slow the F down. If you don’t listen to your body, you may end up blowing out a knee or something REALLY bad like Rhabdomyolysis.
If you’re a competitive TYPE A kind of a guy, hitting the gym can become addictive. You see the results. Women look at you. You feel amazing. So, you bump up the intensity a bit. That’s when the problems can happen for the older guys. If you find yourself extremely sore, tired, worn out, sickly (fluish), dreading your next workout… back off. You’re not in the Olympics. You’re not going to be on the cover of a magazine anytime soon. You just want to look decent and keep going at it again and again. Consistency is key. You can’t be consistent if you are injured or sick.
Let’s say I want to get better at pull-ups, so I come up with the goal of this week doing 100 of them (total for the week – 7 days). The first day I do a really hard set of 15 pull-ups… to complete failure. The last rep takes every last bit of energy I have to do. Totally drained. Rest a bit. Jump back up and get five more. Feel like I’m going to die. Rest a bit. Get three more. Rest. Then one more. That’s a total of 24 for the day. The next day I’m way too tired and sore, but I still go. I get five pull-ups in my first set. Then I get three. And then another one. Totally drained and out of time. It took a lot of rest to get that last one. Back and arms are killing me. Done for the session. That’s 10 for the session… up to 34 total by day two. Day three requires rest. I have three more days to go to get 66 more pull-ups. At this pace… that’s not happening.
An alternative plan may be to bang out five quick pull-ups. Rest. Do another five. Rest. Do another five. Rest more. Do another five. Go home. That’s 20 total for the day. By the next day, you are rested enough and think you can do the same routine again. You bang out another 20. It was a little tougher than the day before, so you rest on day three. On day four you do the same 5-5-5-5 routine. Now you’re up to 60 on day four. Day five you do the same. Now you’re up to 80. Day six you rest. Day seven you bang out the last 20 with ease. That’s 100 total pull-ups. Goal accomplished… and with gas left in the tank.
Americans tend to have a “balls to the wall” go all-out mentality when it comes to just about everything physical. We had to learn a thing or two from our Eastern European counterparts who used to routinely beat the pants off of us Olympic sports like wrestling. Their secret? They wouldn’t go all out all the time in training. They concentrated on volume and repetition. Their practices weren’t completely draining hell sessions of sweat and agony. They DID have scheduled high-intensity training sessions, but those weren’t the norm. They saw the benefit of leaving some gas in the tank and getting in as many training sessions as possible so that their wrestlers were skilled and ready for the Olympics when the time came. Their athletes had a ton more mat time under their belt when it came to the day competition. If you want to get better at wrestling, you wrestle more. You can’t do that if you’re sick or nursing an injury.
Get to it. Choose a workout plan and stick to it. Give it three months to become a habit. Keep doing it. Mix it up. Back off when you need to. Get help.