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Building Your Exercise Routine

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Building your exercise routine is like building a home. You begin by asking yourself what you want and then you develop a plan to attain that goa.

Building your exercise routine is like building a home. You begin by asking yourself what you want and then you develop a plan to attain that goal. When considering a home you ask yourself what you can afford, what your needs are, and what suits your taste. The same is true for your fitness routine. You need to design a program around your needs and goals.

Understanding True Fitness

Ideally, you want to increase your level of fitness so you will feel better and increase your overall level of health. However, higher levels of fitness do not always equate to higher levels of health. Many of us would assume that a marathon runner would be fit and healthy, but that may not always be true. I have worked with runners who have a very efficient cardiovascular system, but suffer from health concerns such as chronic back and joint pain. The problem is that they have never taken a balanced approach to their routines and have over-focussed on running. Yes, in many areas they are fit, but we often discover that they have neglected certain aspects of fitness. In order to build a fitness routine that will increase your overall level of health, you need to consider a balanced approach.

A balanced approach means that you are meeting as many parameters of fitness as possible. Ultimately, you want to increase your percentage of lean body mass, decrease your percentage of body fat, increase strength, endurance and flexibility, and improve your cardiovascular system. Therefore, your routines should include stretching, strengthening exercises and aerobic activity. In addition, you want to pursue these goals effectively and efficiently, to meet time constraints while getting results.

Be Realistic

Most of us don't have a lot of extra time in our schedules. Consider a program you feel comfortable doing every other day. It is always best to start slowly and gradually increase your workload. If you have been relatively sedentary, begin with a walking program. Research has found that walking is the best introduction to fitness. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your walks you should be able to carry on a conversation while you are moving. Do not progress up to more intense movements until you can walk three to four kilometres without becoming too fatigued. Once this is achieved you are ready to engage in a more intense routine, which will meet a greater number of fitness criteria.

#1 Warm Up

Begin your routine with a five- to 10-minute warm-up. The warm-up should include light movements such as walking, as well as stretching. The warm-up is intended to increase muscle temperature to allow for greater movement and a reduced risk of injury. Stretching should be conducted slowly and smoothly. Avoid sudden movements and do not over stretch. Hold the stretch to the point of mild discomfort and maintain for 15 to 30 seconds. Stretch the major muscle groups required for
the upcoming routine and consult a health specialist for instructions and an outline of a balanced stretching regimen.

#2 Build Strength

Next, move into your strength training, but try to avoid taking long breaks between exercises. The key is to keep moving. Consult a weight-training specialist about designing a circuit for you that will work all the major muscle groups. Ask about how many repetitions you should complete at each station and how many circuits you should begin with. Also, it is important that you receive instruction on the proper lifting mechanics of each exercise. Move from one station to the next without prolonged breaks to increase and maintain your heart rate to the aerobic training level. This is approximately 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate and may be determined by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying by 0.6 and 0.8. For example, if you are 40, then your maximum heart rate is 180. Therefore, your aerobic range is between 108 and 144 beats per minute (180 x .6 = 108 and 180 x .8 = 144). At this aerobic training level you are building muscle mass from the resistance training and burning body fat because you are generating an aerobic response. This is the best of both worlds! You can monitor your heart rate by counting your pulse over a 10 second period and multiplying the number of beats by six.

By performing strengthening exercises three to four times a week, for 20 to 30 minutes, you will increase and strengthen muscle mass, bone mass, tendons and ligaments. This leads to more efficient movements and a reduced risk of injury or pain. The American Council of Exercise states that previously untrained men and women gain approximately two to four pounds of muscle and a 40 per cent increase in strength after only two months of regular resistance training. Your metabolism is affected by the amount of lean mass that makes up your body composition, too. The greater your percentage of lean mass, the greater the metabolic response, and this increases the amount of energy burned.

#3 Get Aerobic

After your strengthening exercises, move into an aerobic activity. Choose any type of movement you want, but maintain that movement for up to 20 minutes at approximately 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. This will help to burn off that excess body fat and encourage a healthy cardiovascular system.

#4 Cool Down

Lastly, take 5 minutes to cool down. Spend this time walking and repeat the stretches that you started with. By effectively cooling down you will decrease muscle soreness and feel more energized afterwards.

Remember to consult your physician before beginning any new routine, and start slowly. Set realistic goals which can be easily monitored, and choose something you enjoy. You would never buy a home you didn't like, so don't plan a program you don't enjoy. All you need is about an hour every other day to achieve those goals you have always wanted to reach.

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