What fitness is best for me
This article discusses different forms of fitness programs and the goals which go with it. You will get the information you need to pick a program and question your goals to get a better framework for success. After going through a lot of information we will end with a couple of quizzes to lighten things up and get you started by talking to the ones who are most important to you to gain support for your new regime.
What is your goal?
To determine which form of fitness regime is the best for your personally the very first step is to clearly determine what your goal is. For many people the trigger event for turning to fitness is external. The doctor who raised an eyebrow in your last routine check-up, the girlfriend who left you for the pumped up bro in your apartment block, your child who bluntly called you fat as they usually lack any filters.
In my case, it was my then girlfriend and now wife who plainly said to me that I had gotten fat and unhealthy and that she would break up with me if I did not do anything about it. Therefore my goal was clearly defined, weight loss. I picked the activity which almost everyone, including me, abhors the most, running and set myself a ridiculous goal. I wanted to do my first marathon in under 3.30. I ended up with 3.58 after half a year of training for the Dublin marathon in 2013.
Whatever the reason you want to go into fitness more often than not it falls into these three high-level goals.
There are subcategories for these high levels and the combinations are limitless. For me and my clients, I like to keep it simple and boil it down to these three simple concepts.
Looks are depending on cultural background, what you personally deem attractive and the people who are closest to you. If you optimise for looks you are not necessarily optimising performance. A marathon runner or strongman athlete are optimised for their respective sports and not necessarily attractive in the sense of a men's health front cover. The deceptive six-pack is optimised for looks but not for performance or health. Keeping your body fat under 10% all year round can be dangerous.
If you are into performance you are most likely an athlete who does sports. There are many examples of increasing performance for athletes by improving overall fitness. Runners might want to increase their strength to be faster and less injury prone. Strongmen look to cardiovascular upgrades to perform better in the farmer's walk or Atlas stones. Martial artists will look for the extra edge by hardening their bodies or strengthening their grip. NHL and NFL players like to put on mass when entering the professional scene as the game gets a lot more physical there. Same goes for Rugby players as the sport is more popular in France, England, Ireland and New Zealand than football and Ice hockey. In my experience, whatever it is to incorporate some extra training, focus on something your regular routine does not give you. In 2017 I was mainly focused on absolute strength and lacked in cardiovascular capabilities and explosiveness. After introducing rowing and kettlebell training my overhead press went from 80 to 95kg in three months after stalling for a year. Rich Froning, the multiple CrossFit games winner, also emphasize working on your weaknesses to skyrocket performance. Mobility is often overlooked in this context. Morning yoga on the weekend can fix this.
Health reasons, under which I also understand weight loss even though it could be a category in itself, is another big field. Weight loss should not be a field
Whatever your goals
- What are your fitness goals?
- Are you just training your muscles or training your whole person?
- Can you separate your fitness goals from your weight loss goals?
- Does your training schedule fit your life schedule?
- Does your exercise program incorporate more than one training benefit?
- Does your training program carry over into your daily life
What do you do?
Based on what you do you might be in need for more or less extra fitness in your life. If you work on a farm,
- Switch fizzy drinks for water
- Switch white bread for dark bread
- Switch potatoes for salad
- Cut out dessert / Limit dessert to the weekend
- Get a proper nights sleep (7-8 hours)
- Plan your days in advance (Self Journal)
- Set a goal of 10.000 steps a day (Fitbit)
- Track your calorie intake (Fitbit / Myfitnesspal)
- Set a calorie goal
- Put your food on smaller plates
- Put sugar out of sight
- Implement intermittent fasting
- Stand on your commute
- Switch beer for wine
- Switch wine for water
- Keep alcohol to the weekends
- Quit alcohol
- Quit drugs
- Quit sugar
- Argue less
- Have more sex
- Go out more
- Walk to the shop
These are 25 points which will make you fitter and happier without even stepping into a gym or working out at home. A healthy mind and a healthy body are the results of being grounded in your life and developing better habits. Improving on only one of these points for life will have a life-changing impact. This is the simple stuff and it is actually harder to say no to things then get your daily workout in.
So before you even read further I have a little exercise for you whether you are really serious about getting fitter. Copy paste these 25 points and prioritize them from easy to hard for you. Start with what is easiest and do it for a week. Then come back to this post and comment why you choose this and how your week went to share with others who want to change their life for the better. After that read on.
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit
Same goes for your fitness.
At this point, you might go into the "this is all too hard" mode and want to stick with the habits you already have.It is hard to find the motivation to start and even harder to keep motivated to stay on target. The key to success is to take it one step at a time and build consecutively and continuously. Take the building blocks of your new fitness goal and introduce them into your life one by one to feel like a success rather than a failure.
A good example of what to avoid
The thing about these plans is that they are way too ambitious, too short-sighted and only tied to the event, the wedding. You put yourself under a lot of pressure to reach that one goal of going two dress sizes down and nothing else matters. You have set yourself up for failure by such a single-minded goal.
A better way to stay motivated is to break down the goal of looking good at your wedding into milestones which build on each other. A better diet will help to make your hair shinier. Eating more vegetables than potatoes will make you look less bloated in the face. Strength training will tighten your muscles and skin. Just by changing the perspective a little and looking at the bigger picture we have established a better frame of goals to keep you motivated long term.
When I prepared for my first marathon I only focused on running more week over week. I did not pay attention to diet or counting calories and lost 15kg. Focus on something easy which can be chopped up into smaller milestones and reach them one by one rather than setting that big, seemingly insurmountable mountain in front of you is a more promising road to results.
What is your fitness level?
Before you decide which exercise regimen to pick and after you have improved some of your daily habits it is time to look at your fitness level. This will determine which kind of programs are good for you and which you should stay away from. By and large, the fitness industry has four categories of fitness levels which are
These mean different things for different types of exercise specifically. Generally, you will get fitter the higher your level is. For powerlifting and weightlifting, you can find benchmarks on exrx. A good way of measuring your cardiovascular capabilities is VO2 using the Cooper Test. The fitranx system is one of the most fun ways to test your fitness that I have come across in the last time.
Your fitness level depends on how long you have been training, how old you are, your health record and many other factors. Generally, the older, more overweight and less trained you are, the less fit you will be. While this is obvious, it becomes less obvious for someone who stops sports for a long time. If you have laid the right
- Lose weight intermediate to advanced: Spinning
- Build and tone muscle: intermediate to advanced CrossFit
- Build and Tone muscle: Beginner to advanced Kettlebells
- Performance and Endurance intermediate to advanced boxing boot camp
- Flexibility: Intermediate to Advanced: Bar Method
- Improve overall Health: Beginner to advanced Yoga
Regarding fitness levels, there is also a trend that men tend to overestimate what they can do while it is the opposite for women. Especially if you have not been active for years start a level lower than you think you are to avoid injury and demotivation. Your routine should be there to energize you, not to drain you.
Group or individual
Another big question is whether you want to take care of your fitness by yourself or in a group. Based on how you tick you might be driven by group dynamics or by putting numbers on a board. Some like to compete, others like to collaborate. Think about these factors before you make a decision on how you take care of your fitness.
What you definitely should do to make your fitness journey a success is to share your goals and progress with others. This can be a team sport or as simple as a little chat about the news with your wife over dinner. There are heaps of studies which show that publicly declaring what you want to achieve does make it a lot more likely that you follow through. This can also be achieved by posting to Instagram, writing a blog or other modes of tracking your progress.
If you have a lot of self-discipline, you can travel the lone star route. For beginners, this is usually not the case as it is unlikely that they would be unfit if they were more disciplined. If you lack self-discipline get you a network of people to who have some so that you can rely on more than one person to keep you on track.
If you do not want to be in a group because you feel very self-conscious and still need support to keep things interesting and stick with a program try programs like bikini body mommy or lean in 15. Streaming to your home is also a good option if you live in a rural area and would have to commute for 30 minutes or more to your gym. In this case better stay at home as the travel time equals your workout time.
For the gentleman
Males seem to have a tendency to like strength and everything which is a bit more extreme. This might be the competitive streak, hormones or plain stupidity. I like to think it is a mix of all of these components. The types of programs you can do are
- Stronglifts 5x5
- German Volume Training
- Smolov Jr
- Texas method
- Wendler 531
- Starting Strength
- The cube method
- Running the Frankfurt marathon
- Running the Dublin marathon
- Running the Vienna marathon
- Coach to 5k program
- Running a race near you
- Concept 2 Rowing
I have excluded anything which involves music, dancing, bouncy balls or balance boards. I do not see a lot of men using these and maybe that is for a reason. If you like them, by all means, make the most of them.
If you want to know how many repetitions you should do on your strength training and how to reach goals there you can refer to these blog posts
- How to bench press 300 pounds
- How to bench press like a powerlifter
- How to deadlift
- How to increase your grip strength
- How to improve your squat
- Breathing squat
For more general instruction you can refer to
For the ladies
Based on the experience with my clients and what I have seen over a decade in different gyms ladies lend themselves very well to circuit training and the treadmill. You seldom see them in the free weight section. Based on this following programs do work quite well:
This is a good list of things to start with. If you feel like you are very fit and always have been a bit of a Tomboy, go for the male assortment I have already laid out. Do not shy away from strength training.
Women often think that strength training makes them pop like a balloon and look like a bodybuilder which is not true. There are many different ways to train yourself with free weights which make you healthier without bulking up.
For the elderly
When you are older and missed paying constant attention to your fitness you ought to be careful. A broken bone or ripped tendon heals that much slower. Reaction times are not what they used to be and you might have developed one or two chronic conditions.
These are things to accept and be aware of and not to be discouraged by. It is still better to move and be active to be a part of life rather than getting sedentary and wither away at home. Doing some group activities also helps to keep social interactions up and fight loneliness which becomes ever more present in our urbanized and digitalized world. Here are some activities you might want to consider:
For the athletes
If you are an athlete already I don't have to tell you about the basic principles of training. You might even know them better than I do. Once you have established a basic level of fitness and regular routine the game becomes different. The two questions I am pondering over the most lately are
- What are my biggest weaknesses?
- How can I achieve the same result in less time?
I already know my strengths. I am good at everything which involves the slow development of force. I am better at long distance running than sprints. I am better at the deadlift than the snatch. That is just how I am building and where my preferences lay. Based on the diminishing law of returns I will not get a lot of extra fitness out of investing more and more time into these skills. Same as an athlete. If you are as good as Wayne Gretzky to put a puck in the net it makes more sense to maintain that level rather than improving on it. So if you have achieved mastery in one skillset the game becomes more about how to maintain that level with less time invested and work on your limiting factors.
In my personal case, I am working on improving my explosiveness by using kettlebell swings. The result was bringing my overhead press up by 15kg in three months and setting new beltless personal records at the 170kg squat and a 190kg deadlift which beforehand I was only able to do belted.
- What fitness class is right for you?
- What is your fitness personality?
- Which workout is right for you
These three quizzes are fun to do and will give you a little more quality what you might want to choose. I enjoyed doing them. Once you got the inspiration talk to your spouse, children, coach or doctor to see what they think of the results and what they think would suit you. These are the easiest first steps to get to a decision what fitness is best for you.
There are more programs out there than ever before. It was never easier to stay healthy, in shape and happy than in our modern day times in which information like this blog post are available right at your fingertips. The major challenges are knowing you well enough and making a proper plan which you can actually follow through with. Therefore go back to the three main topics of looks, performance, and health and prioritize them. Then adjust your everyday behavior. Lastly, pick a fitness program to match.
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