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FITNESS: Starting the Summer Countdown (Part 2)

It’s not too early (or too late – yet) to start thinking about your summer shape.

Last week for eating to use up your excess fat stores while providing adequate nutrients and energy to fuel your workouts.

That’s the trick that most people never master. They either over-restrict calories with unbalanced diets that only worsen the problem in the long run, or work out like crazy, but inefficiently and compensate for what they burned by eating more food. Neither of these approaches works. So it’s a shame both are so popular.

If you didn’t read , I suggest you take a few minutes to do that, since a good eating plan is no luxury when it comes to healthy, lasting leanness. It’s a fundamental necessity.

That said, let’s move on to the other piece of the equation – exercise.

Not enough people are doing it. Fewer still are doing it consistently enough. And only a very small minority is doing it effectively. Depressed? Don’t be. Once again, I’m here to help!

So how much is enough? The American College of Sports Medicine, the foremost authority on exercise science, recommends 150 minutes a week, at a moderate to moderately high level of intensity.

That's an average of somewhere between 30 minutes five times a week, or 50 minutes three times a week. Some serious fitness buffs try to push the envelope with this, putting in more time and at a higher level of intensity. But there is an adage in fitness that says “You can train hard and you can train long, but you can’t do both.”

At a certain point, full-throttle workouts five or more days a week are going to claim some victims. It might be burnout, an increased vulnerability to illness or injury or it might just be a plateau you can’t seem to break through.

So here are some basic guidelines to follow:

  • Get some guidance on how to train safely and effectively at your current level and for where you’re headed. Different principles should be followed for cardiovascular (aerobic) fitness, core stability and muscle strength and endurance. Here’s a good set of rules on how to find the right trainer for you, even if it’s just a few sessions to get you on the right track. (Click link above).
  • If you ignore my first piece of advice (I hope not but many will), here are some quick videos that introduce some of those critically important principles. Click here for Video 1, here for Video 2 and here for Video 3.
  • Use flawless form (proper posture, correct biomechanics or lines of movement and a fluid, controlled cadence) when performing all types of exercise. The exception for sports is that you must follow the varied, objective-driven rhythms of that particular sport.
  • Since most people have limits on both the duration of individual workouts and the frequency of those workouts, intensity becomes the lone, controllable variable. Factoring in and working around any injuries or predispositions for injury, building a fitness base that accommodates a higher level of intensity, and paying attention to the body’s response to increasing intensity, continually challenge yourself until you’ve reached your target fitness level.

My preference is short, high-intensity workouts, 3-4 times a week. It keeps you fresh and allows the body to recover and make the best use of the nutritious diet you’re eating. A great way to step up cardio intensity without taking more time is to cover more distance in the same time frame, week over week (running, swimming or an indoor aerobic machine). Shoot for about a 2-3% weekly increase.

As for strength training, slow down, doing fewer reps for longer sets. An example with lunges would be starting with 10 reps and taking one minute in week one, and then, in week two, taking 1:15 to do six reps. Try and you’ll see how much harder (and safer) it is.

Try these techniques, combine them with the eating tips I gave you last week, and I’m willing to bet this summer gives you the best body you’ve had in years.

What do you do to get in shape for the summer? Tell us in the comments.

Want to talk in-person? I’m usually at the studio http://trivalleytrainer.com/ and can always be reached at Dan@TriValleyTrainer.com .

Georgia Choate March 28, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Thank you, Dan. I hadn't heard the adage about training both hard and long, but like a lot of busy people who get absent-minded, I did at one point figure it out the hard way. You know we think we're taking care of ourselves, but then we're dragging ourselves out of the gym deflated to finally look at the diet and hours invested in activity and realize we've lost our way. It definitely pays to get guidance. I'm enjoying the series. Keep up the good writing! ~ G
Dan Taylor March 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Sometimes learning the hard way is the best way to finally accept it. Thanks for your insight and encouragement Georgia!

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