Five Fitness Tips – July 2012


I shared five of my favourite nutritional tips a few days ago, and am going to do the same with regards to fitness and exercise today.

To start off, I’ll share one of the best and most important quotes regarding health and wellness.

“You can eat better than a bad training program, but you can’t out train a bad diet.”

There is no sense of instant results with eating healthy, which is a big reason why people struggle to do it consistently. It is a lot easier to “feel” a tough workout than it is to “feel” a healthy day of eating. You won’t skip the fries for a salad and come home with a washboard stomach. Conversely, you can eat the fries that one time and your appearance won’t change (much).

However, it is all about incremental decision making. One salad isn’t going to make the difference, but 50-100 will. Nutrition is at least 80% of the equation when it comes to feeling and looking good (in fact I’d argue it is closer to 90%). You can go to the gym or hit the trails seven days a week, but if you aren’t eating well, you won’t come close to your goals.

1. Learn to love complexes.

If you are ever short on time or want to build muscle and burn fat at the same time, I’d highly recommend introducing complexes to your routine.

What they are – a number of exercises performed consecutively with little-to-no rest in between.

Ideally, minimal (or no) equipment is being used. I like to use a barbell or dumbbells. The weight won’t be perfect for each exercise – most people can row more than they can press, for example. However, there are ways to work around this. Kettlebells are great to use, as well.

Go for time. Instead of doing 10 reps (some exercises this may be too low of a number, and for others it may be too high), do 30 seconds or a minute per exercise.

Don’t have consistent reps. 10 rows, five presses, 10 dead lifts, 20 squats. Just an example. Find a rep number that makes the weight you are using challenging. The point of complexes is to avoid breaks and rest – having to change weights defeats the purpose of them.

Start with the most challenging exercises first (usually multi-joint exercises like squatting or dead lifting). And, of course, only use exercises you are comfortable with. The fundamental lifts are important, but only if you are doing them correctly. And if you aren’t, ask someone for help.

This is an example of a more advanced complex, but it gives you a sense of what they are all about (working hard).

2. Incremental thinking.

Don’t worry about when you work out. Some people like to get their lifting done early, while others have more energy later in the day. Don’t worry about having the perfect workout. If you can only go to the gym for 20 or 30 minutes, that still beats not going at all. The incremental mindset is crucial – getting in shape isn’t an endeavour with a final point (for most). Do the most with what you can – time commitments, injuries, or anything else – and the results will come.

Even going out for a 10 or 15 minute walk, or spending a few minutes doing a quick body weight routine in the morning is better than doing nothing at all.

3. Train with someone.

There are many reasons why it is smart to find someone to work out with. The most important reason is accountability. Don’t feel like going to the gym? It is a lot easier to make up an excuse and telling it to yourself than to do the same with a training partner.

Another reason – intensity. You will work out harder (whether that means faster, more weight, or more reps) with someone cueing, encouraging, and counting for you. Just make sure you pick the right workout partner.

And no, these guys don’t count.

4. Don’t skip the warm up.

Similar to my point on the incremental mindset – getting a good warm up routine in is not something you are going to notice right away (like the pump from a great lift or the feeling after a grueling run or bike ride). However, stretching and mobility work ranks just below nutrition on the health hierarchy. If you have to cut your workout short, don’t skip the warm up or post-workout stretch.

Static stretching before a workout isn’t advised to professional athletes as it does decrease maximum muscular ability, but for the average gym goer, stretching out tight muscles (especially those who sit for eight to 10 hours each day – hip flexors, hamstrings, glutes, thoracic spine) is extremely important.

Not only will you feel better, but you will be able to lift a lot more and run a lot faster if everything is working how it should.

Two of my favorite stretches:

5. Progression is important.

Keep track of your workouts. Establish measuring points (be it body composition, something speed/time related, or the amount of weight lifted).

There is no end date for exercising, so it is imperative to set tangible goals along the way to keep accountability.

Another important note – challenge yourself. Progressive overload is an unwavering principle of exercise. If you go to the gym and press the same weight each week, what are you expecting? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. As long as you are comfortable with your form and the exercise – use a weight that is heavy. Push yourself to lift more, run faster, and so on.

The human body is very good at finding the path of least resistance. Once you do something long enough, your body becomes quite good at it. Do different things – keep it difficult. Switch up your exercises. You will be happy with the outcome.