The Needle In a Haystack: Choosing the right fitness/workout program
Written by Deanna Camilo, PT, DPT, OCS
Tis the season of holidays, good food, family time and New Year’s resolutions! Often after a rich and full holiday season, people start considering fitness goals for the new year. Gym memberships, class passes, CrossFit, and yoga? Where does one begin? Deanna Camilo, PT, DPT, OCS has some great thoughts to help you navigate your new or evolving fitness goals for 2018.
With unlimited resources available to the average consumer, how does one know which exercise program is the right choice? Open any magazine in the fitness section of your local bookstore or supermarket and you’ll be bombarded with ways to improve your strength/flexibility/endurance. In fact, have you done any late-night infomercial watching lately? For just 12 easy payments of 19.99 (plus tax, of course), you are guaranteed to be in the best shape of your life. Do any of you find this as overwhelming as I do? Where do you start? How do you know whose paid celebrity endorsements to believe? Trust me, I understand your frustration and I’m here to help guide you.
First things first, I highly recommend that you make appointments with your internist and physical therapist to make sure you are healthy enough to start a new exercise program. Once you’ve gotten the all clear, it’s time to build your program.
The US Department of Health and Human Services currently recommends that adults perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. They, also, recommend that adults incorporate at least 2 sessions of strength training each week. I can hear you now… but Deanna, I want to lose weight! Isn’t the only way to lose weight by doing cardio for hours and hours each week? NO!!! Building muscle mass helps to boost your metabolism (thus boosting fat loss). Strength training, also, helps to improve bone density and aids in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Now that you know the basic components, the next step is to determine your health goal(s). Do you want to become more limber? Maybe yoga would be a good option for you. Do you want to strengthen your core and improve your postural awareness? Pilates would likely be a good route for you to consider.
Look for more information on the differences between yoga and Pilates in my next blog post!
Maybe you’re just looking for a well-rounded program that will help you maintain or improve your current fitness level. Most importantly, I can’t stress enough how little benefit you’ll get from just doing one type of exercise class. Not only is it unsustainable, but there is, also, the potential for over-use injuries. It’s all about balance! Start by figuring out what you’re interested in and what makes you happy. Once you’ve figured it out, make that the basis of your program. Are you a former dancer? Consider taking a barre class 2-3 times per week and then balancing that with your favorite type of cardio (walking, elliptical, stair master, etc.). Do you really enjoy spin classes? Good news is there’s a spin studio on every corner. The bad news is that just taking spin classes isn’t going to get you very far in the “strengthening and toning” department. You’ll just need to make sure to include weight training at least two days out of the week.
For more information on beginning a safe strength training program, the ladies at Girls Gone Strong have some fantastic FREE resources: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/strength-training/.
If you’re a fan of group HIIT classes (Blast, Orange Theory, etc.), I would encourage you to choose a class based off of your current fitness level and not off of where you’d like to be in three months. I see a lot of injuries come out of these types of classes. Not because the classes are inherently bad, but because many people push themselves way beyond their personal limits when they’re competing with others. The other thing to consider with these classes is the instructor to student ratio. Be realistic, a single instructor is not going to be able to provide feedback and correction for all 20 students at once. This type of environment is okay if you are not new to the type of workout or exercises. However, I do not recommend starting with these classes if you have never done this type of workout before. If you are new to HIIT classes, but are interested in starting, consider taking a few private sessions to make sure you have proper form prior to joining the class.
Bottom line: Choose a well-rounded program, be smart, listen to your body, and seek advice from your physical therapist if you have any concerns whatsoever.