Six areas to address for long-term fitness results
Watching late night infomercials, you could be forgiven for thinking that every second week somebody invents a miracle fitness contraption.
Inevitably, people will buy these seeking a ‘shortcut’ to health and fitness.
And inevitably, these devices will be in the cupboard or under the bed within six months, never to be used again.
The reality is that there are no shortcuts to fitness, but neither is it an unsolved mystery waiting for a miracle machine.
Here are six areas to address for long-term fitness results.
We integrate all of these key “pillars” into our approach to health and fitness at The Richmond Gym.
Strength and muscle development
Everybody should be doing some form of strength training; men, women, old, young.
Too often, people assume that strength training is only for people who want to get ‘massive’ or ‘ripped’.
In reality, being strong is essential for all areas of life and in particular for injury prevention in life and the activities you love.
In-fact, the definition of muscle says it all:
“A band or bundle of fibrous tissue in a human or animal body that has the ability to contract, producing movement in or maintaining the position of parts of the body” (Source: Oxford Dictionary)
If you are new to strength training or coming back after a break, it is a good idea to start off conservatively and really take your time building up to heavier loads. This will allow you to improve your technique and strengthen underlying tissues to set you up for success in the future.
Training consistently and improving your technique will give you a solid foundation that future strength levels can be built upon. It is a good idea to take your time building your technique and your body’s strength up. It is hard to put a time frame on this, so ask your coach for guidance.
If you are advanced or have special requirements for your sport or work you may need to break down your abilities into different types of strength and target specific types of strength, this is known as strength/power profiling.
Muscular and cardiovascular endurance
When most people think of gym, they invariably think of either lifting weights or doing ‘cardio’. Traditionally, this meant walking or running, stair or skiing machines, or aerobics classes.
There are really two forms of endurance, strength endurance and cardiovascular endurance. While the two are complementary, training for each should be different.
The popularity of high intensity interval training (HIIT) like Crossfit and other non-conventional training methods means there are plenty more options out there. Our small group class fitness at The Richmond Gym is also based on a HIIT approach.
Endurance is important and having greater levels of endurance will help you recover faster in and between sessions.
Recovering faster will allow you to perform more work in a session and may also help you to add in additional sessions during the week.
Performing more work and more frequent sessions will really make a big difference in the long term.
Much like with strength training, technique is key for endurance training as it will help you avoid injury and if you have better technique your energy expenditure will be optimised (different techniques may increase or reduce your movement efficiency).
Like strength qualities, to take things to the next level you can further break down your abilities and profile your endurance to meet the specific requirements of your sport, fitness goals or work and lifestyle.
The old adage that quality is preferable to quantity is absolutely critical when it comes to fitness, especially for strength or strength endurance exercises.
Attempting to get extra reps by sacrificing quality is not only counterproductive (you’re likely to be recruiting the wrong muscles), but potentially dangerous because you can increase your risk of injury.
Only quality reps count.
Technique and movement quality are key features of the way we train at The Richmond Gym.
You don’t have to have perfect technique from day one, however you should always be working to improve upon it.
Better movement quality will help improve your output in and outside the gym.
But what exactly is movement quality and how can it be measured?
Basic movement patterns all measure movement quality, such as: hip hinging, squatting, pressing/pushing, pulling, lunging and twisting.
Improving these key movement patterns will assist and transfer to almost all exercises within the gym.
If you’re not already working on improving your movement quality, try incorporating it into every workout you do and see how you go.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), or activities outside the gym
Regular and well designed strength and endurance training is essential to long-term health and fitness.
But fitness shouldn’t begin and end with the gym.
You need to be active outside of gym too. Humans have evolved to be active and it’s only relatively recently that we’ve had very sedentary lifestyles.
Exercise scientists refer to this as NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and it is basically the energy you burn outside of going to the gym or playing sport.
NEAT can have a profound effect on your health and fitness.
Generally speaking, a person’s daily energy expenditure can vary greatly from day to day.
Making use of a pedometer can help reduce the variability of your daily energy expenditure.
For example, if you aim for 10,000 or more steps a day, your energy expenditure will be more constant over time than if you just wing it.
Rest and recovery
One of the biggest areas of research in sport right now looks at the benefits of sleep.
It is easy for me to say you need to have a deep sleep for 8 hours every night, however many things have an effect on sleep that you have limited control over.
Sleep hygiene is something we can easily control, which should help with your sleep.
Sleep hygiene involves constantly making your habits and environment conducive to quality sleep.
Some changes include making your bedroom pitch black, avoiding screens or reducing exposure to some types of light an hour or two before going to bed (there are free Apps you can get on your phone and computer that remove blue light https://justgetflux.com/).
Certain drugs (stimulants) and alcohol disturbs the rhythm of sleep patterns, thus limiting them may be useful in promoting better quality sleep.
Developing stress management strategies to help you may also aid in promoting good sleeping patterns. This may include mindfulness, meditation or seeing a professional to help you deal with stress levels.
Diet and nutrition
Diet and nutrition are essential for performance and aesthetic goals.
At The Richmond Gym, we base our approach to diet and nutrition off current, evidence based research.
We generally recommend simple and sustainable long-term dietary adjustments, rather than drastic and unsustainable shorter-term dietary fads. Our aim is to inform and educate our clients in a manner that can be adapted into their lifestyle with ease.
For example, one simple dietary modification might be reducing the amount of soft drink or junk food in the diet and increasing the amount of vegetables consumed in turn. Not only would this increase the micronutrient content of the diet (key vitamins and minerals essential for good health), but it would by default reduce energy intake too, which may be a factor in the client’s improved weight management.
Another idea may be to modify your work or home environment so that there are less or no junk foods easily available to you, and replacing these with a fruit bowl, or other nutritious foods.
For some people, digestive issues may be a barrier in weight loss, and overall health and wellbeing. Consulting with a health professional about any dietary allergies or intolerances is always advisable, particularly because nutrition is such a personal matter. Our resident Clinical Nutritionist holds a Masters degree in nutrition, and specializes in digestive issues and weight management.
Taking a closer look at your energy balance (overall calorie intake) is a good place to start once you feel that you have plateaued off the modification phase.
On the other hand, for those who find calorie counting to be too time consuming or tedious, mindful eating with a rough awareness of calories overall may be a better and more sustainable option.
As a general guide, in terms of macronutrient partitioning the main thing you need to think about around training are carbohydrates, as protein should be evenly consumed over the course of the day.
Increasing the amount of lean protein consumed regularly can also be a simple tool to progress body composition changes.
You may wish to have a protein shake post exercise, but it is by no means necessary, provided you eat 3-5 evenly spread protein containing meals.
Ultimately, finding an approach that suits your lifestyle is the best method, so talk to our nutritionist about this, and look to use an approach that is sustainable for the long term.
- Six areas to address for long-term fitness results - September 18, 2016