In my job, it’s pretty common to see people who give a halfhearted effort at exercise and then give up when things don’t happen fast enough.
Very rarely do good things come to those who don’t work hard for them. That is just the way life is.
When you join a gym, it is not automatic that just by paying your monthly dues you will get in shape.
You cannot get on a recumbent bike on level 1 for 15 minutes and call it a day. That is barely a warm-up.
Of course, everyone has to start somewhere and that is a good start, but progression has to be part of the plan.
Working at an intensity that is challenging to you also has to be part of the plan. Gradually changing that intensity is how you get stronger and lose those pounds.
You cannot get results by doing the bare minimum two or three times a week and calling that “exercise.” The intensity level has to be a challenge to YOU.
That usually means sweating and getting your heart rate up to 65-85 percent of your maximum heart rate (HR MAX). To discover what that is, take your age and subtract it from 220. That is your HR MAX. Now multiply that number by 65-85 percent. That is about the intensity you want to reach and keep for at least 20 minutes, three to five times a week.
Many beginners who are deconditioned don’t ever get to this point, so they don’t see results and they give up.
But don’t give up. Educate yourself on how hard you are supposed to be exercising and how it feels to get to the intensity that is right for you. Or ask a professional to help you figure this out.
If your exercise of choice is a treadmill or elliptical, there are easy ways to see how hard you are exercising besides just how you feel. Many cardio machines have a reading for METs. Maybe you have seen this on your treadmill and wondered what it means.
“METs” means “metabolic equivalent.” Basically, that translates to the energy cost of that exercise compared to rest. So an MET of 5 takes 5 times more energy than rest.
Here are some examples of this for different daily activities: Vacuuming is 3 METs, golf is 5 METs, brisk walking is 4-5 METs, running is 10-11 METs, mountain biking is 8-9 METs, Group Ex cardio class is 6-9 METs.
The higher the METs, the more calories you will burn. So if you go back to that recumbent bike we talked about earlier on level 1, you can see that is hardly worth leaving the house for.
I know some people do not want to hear that, but it is true. You can start this way, but you have to steadily progress.
Ways to do that are to follow the FITT principle: Frequency, Intensity, Type and Time. Tweak any of these four parts and that will tweak your workout in a positive way.
Frequency recommendations set by the American Heart Association are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise (around 5-6 METs) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (around 8-11 METs).
Intensity should be moderate to vigorous, or a combination of both.
Type is whatever exercise you will do! Do you like biking? Is swimming your thing? How about group exercise? My theory is to find a type of exercise that you will stick to, but also change things up as often as you can!
Time should be around 30-60 minutes, three to five days a week.
Anytime you get in an exercise rut, change a few of these components and you will see results.
If you are just starting out, consult your doctor for recommendations.
The crazy thing is that the older we get, it seems the harder it is to see results. Many of the reasons are obvious. Our metabolism is slowing down by the decade. Our bodies cannot perform the way they once did, which plays with our minds somewhat. We have become more set in our ways, so change is hard. Or just plain physical ailments that happen as we age.
But we can still find ways to be super active, even though we may have some of these issues. The key is to use the FITT principle to get out of our comfort zones enough to see results.
Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer and manager of the Oxford YMCA. Her fitness column appears the third Sunday of each month.