Like most people these days, I sometimes have trouble keeping up with my own busy schedule, yet I know from experience that I need to keep my body healthy in order to function at my best. Over a couple of decades of working out, I’ve found a program that works well for me and fits with the hectic pace of modern life. Here are the basics of my personal fitness plan.
Resistance Training – Three Days Per Week
Building muscle and gaining strength should be at the core of any fitness program, regardless of your overall goals. Without sufficient muscle mass, you can’t run, jump or even get through everyday life very easily, and this is particular true as we get older. Adults tend to lose muscle mass every year, often leading to weak and flabby bodies in our later years, though much of this decline can be staved off through a proper training program. That said, you don’t have to spend your life in the weight room to reap the benefits, especially if you employ High-Intensity Training (HIT), as I do.
In brief, HIT involves workouts that are brief, relatively infrequent and, as the name implies, intense. Intense, in this case, means that each set is taken to the point where you cannot perform another repetition in perfect form. In general, you will do just one set per exercise and perform one to three exercises per bodypart, meaning that you can easily cover your whole body in as few as eight all-out sets. An example of one of my recent workouts is
- Squats (thighs) – 1 set to failure (10 reps)
- Heel Raises (calves) – 1 set to failure (15 reps)
- Bent-over rows (lats, mid-back) – 1 set to failure (8 reps)
- Bench Press (chest) – 1 set to failure (7 reps)
- Military Press (shoulders) – 1 set to failure (9 reps)
- Barbell Curls (biceps) – 1 set to failure (10 reps)
- Lying Tricep Extensions (triceps) – 1 set to failure (12 reps)
- Crunches (abs) – 1 set to failure (30 reps)
I generally workout on three non-consecutive days per week, and I change my exercises every month or so. Once you get used to this type of training, you should be able to get through a routine like this in 20-30 minutes.
If you would like to read more about sensible resistance training, I suggest that you visit Dr. Darden’s H.I.T. web site. Dr. Ellington Darden, a leading expert and author in the field of strength training, coined the term “High Intensity Training” in the 1970s and today maintains this very informative site devoted to the subject.
Cardio – Three Days Per Week
If you’re training hard enough, your cardiovascular system will get nailed during your weekly weights workouts, but there is a place for some additional aerobic-type work. In particular, it can be a way to moderately increase calorie expenditure if you need to lose some fat, and it can serve as an effective warm-up or cool-down for your heavy work. I utilize cardio in this latter way, walking fast or jogging for 10 minutes after each of my lifting sessions.
Yoga – One-To-Three Days Per Week
Thanks to an old gym-class injury, I have some lingering stiffness and aches, and I’ve found that gentle yoga performed after a long day at work can serve as a great tune-up and keep me moving freely. Twenty minutes one-to-three times per week is all it takes on this front.
Diet – Simple and Clean
For me, and for most people, I suspect, simpler is better when it comes to diet. I have a handful of favorite and healthful foods and meals that I eat on an almost daily basis. If you plan right, you can make sure to get all of the nutrition you need in a reasonable calorie package, and you can prepare multiple meals at one time, maybe on Sunday night. If you’re not sure what foods you should be eating, a good place to start would be Dr. Mercola’s Nutritional Typing. In general, I strive to eat unprocessed foods wherever possible and avoid the sugary and preservative-filled goodies that make up so many “diets” these days.
If you’re keeping track, that’s less than three hours of actual workout time per week, and this program really delivers a fitness kick, at least for me. Beyond a stronger body, staying in shape gives me peace of mind and allows me to maintain focus, even during the daily grind.