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Fitness Goals Should Guide Your Workout


I've discovered there are two main reasons that people will seek out a Personal Trainer:

1) They need the accountability.

2) They have no idea what they're doing or what to do.

I completely understand both of those reasons.

The fitness world is constantly changing and there's always the newest workout craze that's the best. To top it all off, you have 800 million choices to make, about something you're probably not stoked about doing in the first place, and frankly it's just easier not to do it all.

Here's the thing: You should first decide what you want OUT of your work out (the result) and then narrow down your options from there. NOT ALL WORKOUT GOALS ARE THE SAME.

Some people want to lose weight. Some people want to gain weight. (WHAT?! Yes, it's true.) Some people want to tone up. Some people want to bulk up. Some people just want to function in daily life better. Some people want to be bikini models. Your goal will determine the best workout options for you, and I've listed a few common goals below to get you started in that direction.

Common Goals

Fat Loss: You’ve been indulging a bit too much and it's time to get active and back at it. Or perhaps there's a big event coming up and it's time to slim down for that dress.

Yes, this is usually the most common goal. The best workout style for you: Intervals and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). Short bursts of intensity with active recovery are going to be your best bet. PLEASE NOTE: this type of TRUEHIIT style exercises are not for beginners! However, applying the same concept to a beginner workout will reap the benefits.

What is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a way of creating a workout of cardiorespiratory training which calls for repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals mixed with periods of lower intensity intervals of active recovery. As Pete McCall, Health and Fitness Expert for American Council of Exercise says, "On a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, high intensity can be considered anything over an effort level of 7. HIIT training calls for challenging work-rates such as sprints for short time frames lasting from thirty seconds to two minutes."

You can apply this method to your preferred work out method: elliptical, treadmill, outside on the bicycle, even walking if you're keeping that heartrate up. Think 1 minute of all out sprint followed by 2 minutes of a jog. Repeat 10 times for a 30-minute workout. Don't forget to warm up for 5-10 minutes before and cool down and stretch after!

Strength Gains: Hypertrophy. Hypertrophy literally means enlarged muscle. Think body building. For these types of results, you need to be lifting heavy weights: 80% of your One Rep Max. One Rep Max means how much weight you can lift, with proper form, for exactly one rep. With that heavy weight, you're going to be doing low numbers of reps, say 4 - 6 reps, for 4 sets. The idea here is that short bursts of intense movements cause the greatest amount of stress on the muscle fiber which causes tension and literally tears the muscles so that they can properly repair. Obviously, as you are able to perform those reps and sets with a little more ease, you'll increase your weight.

With this type of workout, keep in mind that due to the immense stress on the muscles you must be aware of overtraining and proper recovery.

Strength Gains: Resistance. Unlike hypertrophy, resistance training is about strength and the ability to maintain that straight over longer periods of time. I like to say the difference is being able to lift a 300lb object and put it down versus lifting a 50lb object and carrying it a mile. The concept is still the same: heavy weights - 80% of your One Rep Max, but this time you'll work with medium reps: 8-12. When you can perform 12 reps you can up resistance/weight. Again, when working specifically with weights, be aware of your training schedule and allow proper time for your muscles to recover. Two days of rest in this case is adequate. LADIES TAKE NOTE: You WILL NOT BULK using weights and doing medium/high reps. You won't even 'bulk' doing 80% One Rep Max with 8-12 reps - it's biologically not possible.

I want to make a special note in here that exercises like Pilates, Aqua Aerobics, Barre, and Resistance band workouts would technically fall under this category. They are strength gains, but more in the toning sense than the actual building sense. The 'weight' in these cases are lighter - usually springs, bands, or even body weight. Your building then, will either include adding more resistance in the form of a heavier band or adding a spring to your Pilates Reformer, OR, adding more reps, length of the workout, or frequency of performance.

Beginners: A lot of people know they should begin a workout routine but aren't quite sure where to start. The best option: 30 minutes of 'moderate' exercise. What does that mean? 30 minutes of lower intensity. You want to work your body into a new routine to avoid injury and overwhelm. Half the battle of beginning a workout routine is showing up, right? Pick an activity you enjoy doing and do it for 30 minutes. Walking. Swimming. Biking. Dancing (that's how I started!). That's the secret right there - create the routine first. If 30 minutes once a week is what you can commit to, then 30 minutes once a week is what you commit to. From there, you can add either more time, more intensity, more frequency, or explore other activities and styles of workouts as well.

Want to Live Longer: Fun fact: Any exercise of any duration is better than leading a sedentary life. The best exercise for those who want to live longer is exercise. Period.

Training for a Specific Event: Say you've decided to sign up for a 5K, the best way to train is to practice doing the exercise. If you've signed up for 100 miles biking trip, you should practice by logging miles on your bike. However, you'll need to work into it. I do not recommend training for a 5K by running a 5K, that would be silly. But I do recommend running, but starting at a smaller increment. In fact, you could start with intervals: 2 minutes on, two minutes off for say, 30 minutes. Then 3 on and 3 off. Then perhaps, 5 on 5 off. Then shoot for distance! The combinations are endless! Work your way up to the distance and cutting down the rest times.

If you're training for a big event, for example, a marathon, you will apply this above tactic to a certain point, then your focus will be on long workouts. You may hear runners say, "Today's a short run - 6 -8 miles, but tomorrow's a long run: 13 miles." My first response is: GROSS! My second is: makes sense. You don't want to over work your body with repetition, but you do want it to be able to perform the activity to its capability. Again, running 25 miles a day to prepare isn't reasonable. (For my long-distance runners - See notes for running below in Increased Performance.)

Increased Performance: Finally, for those of you who have a routine and have a plan of attack but want better performance results: this is for you. You get to combine ALL THE THINGS! Lift Heavy & Lift Light. Running depletes Muscle Mass so lift Heavy! A weight you can lift 8x with proper form is about 80% ORM (One Rep Max). When you do the lighter weights think fast, quick reps. Add in Plyometric (jumping, powerful moves). Functional Training is your friend: replicate the type of motions and movements you do in your activity. For example: if you're a golfer, train with rotation, flexibility and stability in mind. You won't want to do a lot of heavy weights in your upper body because you need those shoulders to be lose, but you DO want to work for shoulder stability. Fluidity and Stability, not bulk. Compound Movements are best when it comes to performance. Think in terms of two-fers and three-fers. You don't want to do bicep curls, but squat, curl, and press. Compound Movements will get your heart rate up and little more and give you more challenges along the way. Finally, you want to think Active Recovery. Like above in HIIT Training: Sprint mixed with jog. Jog mixed with Walk. And longer rests between actual exercises. Let the muscles recover then apply the stress again.

TAAADAAA! There you have it! A breakdown of types of exercises for your goals.

Are you even more overwhelmed with the options? I hope not.

When in doubt, consult a fitness professional. Be clear about your goals and they can point you in the right direction. Or, leave me a comment and I'll help clarify for you!

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