I actually know a young woman who recently completed her thesis on this very topic; bring back the joy of play to ever increasingly stressed out adults in urban settings. Get them outside and moving in non threatening ways and give them the opportunity to play, like kids, again. This is awesome
The intermediate exerciser has learned at least 3 of the 5 important things in order to progress to this level, and it shows. Most serious health club exercisers fall into this category, though my personal observation is that no more than 20% of gym members ever make it to this level, and instead remain novices despite the amount of time they spend in the gym going from one activity to another. The Intermediate Exerciserhas lost significant body fat and has gained some real muscle, either in the form of size and bulk or muscular definition, or both, depending on their goal. The 5 critical things that the intermediate exerciser understands and conforms to:
- broad knowledge of muscle function
Lets take these 5 in order.
- Consistency is just what it says. You are committed to your workouts and have a schedule you will not deviate from when possible. You have set aside a certain number of days; typically 4-6; and a set amount of time; typically 60-90 minutes; and you train. This isn’t something you try to fit into your day. It is one of your highest priorities that you work the rest of your day around. When doing cardiovascular/aerobic training you have a protocol you follow and stick to it. When weight lifting, you typically follow some version of a split routine for your body parts, the classic example being Chest/Shoulders/Triceps on day one, Back/Biceps on day two, and Lower Body on day three. Then repeating that pattern for a six-day workout with one day off for complete rest. You will stick to this pattern till doomsday comes or until you change goals. Additionally, you understand the importance of your exercise routine; variation is not your friend in this regard. You need to stick to a routine that you can make comparative assessments on. That means the same, or extremely similar, exercises for each body part every time you train that body part. If your goal is to be the best marathon runner you can be, you don’t spend hours a week ridding a lifecycle or taking spin classes; you run miles, period! If your goal is to improve your overall muscular strength, or build muscle, you pick your exercises and do them repetitively for months on end, the only variables being that you will continuously push yourself to lift heavier weights every week or even every workout!
- Intensity is all about understanding your goal. It is the most important factor that will determine whether you actually achieve any measurable progress, whether it’s increasing you distance on a bike ride, speed in the 400 meter run, or your 1 rep max doing an olympic bench press. Trying to lose weight requires a certain intensity. Building muscle requires its own level of intensity. Improving athletic performance…has its own special intensity demands. Not understanding what intensity you need to achieve will undermine everything you try to accomplish. Too much high intensity training will undermine a marathoner, and too little will be futile for the sprinter or weight lifter. If you haven’t read my posts on intensity, or want to refresh your memory click here and here.
- Broad knowledge of muscle function means you really understand how all the major skeletal muscles move and work, and know a pretty broad range of exercises for each of them. It’s like having a large vocabulary of exercises to draw on. Since you also understand how the muscles work, it allows you to choose complimentary exercises when doing multiples per body part. You understand why you might want to do pec flys after olympic bench press, not before, or why doing lat pull downs after pull ups might be redundant, so doing dumbbell rows is the better choice to follow-up with in most cases. (Yes, there might be a valid reason to do both pull ups and lat pull downs in the same workout, but that wouldn’t be the most common combo or even the norm). You understand which exercises will enhance your athletic activities or hinder them, and train accordingly.
- Nutrition is simply the understanding that what you consume is both the fuel that moves you and the building blocks of what your body is made of. The cliche´ “You are what you eat” is precisely true. Trying to build a powerful body on a diet of McDonald’s, Pepsi, and Twizzlers, is akin to building a battleship hull out of corroded iron. If you can’t get serious about what you eat, get out of the gym. I follow the 80/20 rule. I eat extremely healthful 80% of the time, and don’t worry about the other 20%. The less fit you start, the more dedicated yo have to be. If you’re very overweight and extremely unfit, you need to follow the 100% rule; all healthy, all the time. Period. Don’t cry about fairness, it won’t help. As a fuel, the foods you eat (solid and liquid) all have their specific purposes, and understanding them is critical. Even the most wholesome foods misused can have a counterproductive effect if not properly applied. Every serious endurance athlete understands the importance of carb loading; where you consume vast quantities of mostly simple carbohydrates like pasta the day before the big race. Serious marathoners are extremely lean, carrying minimal body fat (reserve energy stores) to breakdown as the miles accumulate into the high teens. So they manipulate their diets to maximize the available energy on race day. If you don’t run over 100 miles a week, don’t eat like a marathoner, cause you’ll get fatter than a walrus in a well stocked zoo. 20 years ago everyone said eat all the pasta you want because that’s what skinny marathoners eat, now we say avoid all pasta! Both are stupid statements. The question is: how will eating all this pasta help me in my life’s pursuits! If it won’t, don’t eat so much. The strength athlete eats large amounts of protein because protein is what muscles are made of, and when trying to build bigger and stronger muscles your body needs these proteins to build your muscles into larger ones. If you don’t consume enough protein, your muscles simply cannot get bigger or stronger. It’s not magic. If you’re lifting weights with the correct intensity and not able to get stronger or bigger, it’s a pretty good bet you’re not eating enough protein. The most misunderstood food constituent is fat. Fat is neither good or bad. It is a very dense energy source and a necessary nutrient for a whole host of metabolic processes. Fat isn’t the villain in America’s obesity epidemic; people are the enemy of themselves. When it comes to weight control, what matters at the end of the day is how many calories you ate compared to how many you burned. The average 30-year-old woman burns around 1500 calories per day just staying alive. If her diet consisted of 720 calories of fat (80 g of fat; 1 g = 9 cal) and 600 calories split evenly between protein (60 g; 4 cal/gram) and carbohydrate (60 g; 4 cal/gram) she would be following a successful weight loss program! In 20 days, she will have lost 1 lb. Not the fastest program, but if we replaced all those fat calories (720) with proteins and/or carbs, her weight loss would be exactly the same. Fat doesn’t make you fat…eating too many total calories makes you fat and you not understanding your food makes you fat. Now lets not get into a debate of whether eating so much fat in a day is healthy in other ways, because that’s missing the point I’m trying to make.
- Rest is so basic and obvious that it’s absurd how little attention avid gym goers give to it, but the intermediate exerciser understands that the end of the workout is only the end of the beginning of the exercise process. For the endurance enthusiast or the strength training enthusiast sleep is understood as the point in your day when all the hard work is actually transformed into results. The results of your training and proper nutrition can only be realized after a good nights sleep. While asleep your body makes all the cellular and physiological adaptations to your body in response to what you did that day. If you don’t get good sleep, your improvement can be slowed, stalled completely, or even reversed into a negative (over training syndrome), when instead of performance improvements you see lower energy levels, lower endurance, lower strength, and more frequent injuries. Imagine if NFL players were required to play 3 days a week, or if every MLB team were only allowed to have 1 pitcher who had to pitch every single game. That’s obviously ridiculous because these athletes have a hard time going thru a regular season injury free. In my hypothetical, they’d be lucky to last a month before being permanently impaired. To a lesser intensity, that’s exactly what the majority of gym goers are doing to themselves, going from class to class to class, three to five hours a day, 5, 6, 7 days a week. Ms. Intermediate understands that if she gauges her intensity correctly she will be done with her workout in 45-90 minutes (unless a marathoner or other ultra endurance athlete) and she will eat properly and get her 7-9 hours of sleep.
In conclusion, you must master and implement at least 3 of these factors in order to achieve any real results, and 4 of them to be able to move on to the next level. Think about what I’ve said. If you’ve been spinning your wheels in beginner land for more than 6 months, you need to implement the steps above to get to the next level. Good luck.
This has nothing to do with fitness, but I can’t resist…
Well, that’s true if you judge from the 2012 Texas Republican party platform. Granted, party platforms aren’t usually turned into legislation, but they’re meant to appeal to voters. What appeals to Texas Republicans? This, from page 12 of the document:
Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.
Nope, wouldn’t want to do that. There’s more:
Protection from Extreme Environmentalists – We strongly oppose all efforts of the extreme environmental groups that stymie legitimate business interests. We strongly oppose those efforts that attempt to use the environmental causes to purposefully disrupt and stop those interests within the oil and gas industry. We strongly support the immediate…
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The old myth of the muscle bound, “muscle headed” weight lifter has been dying a slow death. The evidence has been accumulating over the last 5 years that traditional weight training offers dramatic benefits for brain health, memory improvement, and reduction of risks for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not just cardio, folks.
There is growing evidence to substantiate that even something as simple as basic weight training can help protect against memory loss. In addition, it has been shown to keep thinking sharp, and prevent early onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions.
A recent six-month Canadian study examined the affects of strength training in inhibiting progression of dementia in women 70+ years of age. The outcome of the study proved favorable. It showed that exercise could be used as a mechanism for decreasing the rate of mental deterioration. This finding would not only prove beneficial with the elderly, but could also be applied to younger populations. There have been veritable studies released over the years showing the positive affects of exercise on young men and women. These affects include increased acuity, improved cognition, and mental quickness.
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Interesting research on the nutrition front. As always, a study does not make a fact, but properly done and viewed in its proper context can lead to some important clues on the way to true understanding. Health and Fitness professionals have known for a long time that people who sleep less (not including cocaine and methamphetamine abusers) tend to be more overweight than the general population. There are probably a host of contributing factors that play into this observation.
I’ve always argued that, biochemically, food is the fuel for your body. Everything you do requires energy, even the things you don’t consciously control. Breathing, heart beating, twitching, thinking, are all energy-consuming activities. Even the act of being awake is more energy-consuming than being asleep. While this might sound like a perfect complement to a weight loss regimen; stay up as many hours as possible and think a lot; the reality is that the human machine never wants to run in an energy deficit, and it never wants to burn stored energy (fat) if it can help it! The human body understands fat in a completely different way from your conscious mind. Every drop of excess body fat is there to save your life, on a cellular level.
“But wait”, you might say, “doesn’t being overweight contribute to early onset cardiovascular diseases and diabetes”? Yes it does, but only of you live long enough. Your body, on the cellular level isn’t concerned about your health over 10 year periods. It’s concerned with keeping you alive one day at a time, and it understands body fat as a protective mechanism to keep you alive as long as possible should you ever run out of food for an extended period of time. A pound of fat is 3500 calories of energy to keep your heart beating, lungs breathing, and all your neurological functions functioning in the absence of food. 3500 calories can keep you alive for a week, assuming you at least have water. That’s how your body views fat, and once it stores it away is loath to tap it. It’s also important to remember that converting fat into usable energy is a metabolically slow process, and the brain, heart, lungs, and cells, need energy now, not in ten minutes.
It only makes sense then that should a person stay awake for overextended periods of time, the body will demand extra, new energy intake (food), to keep itself awake to continue whatever activities your engaged in, even if it’s just sitting in front of the tv, vegging. It only makes sense that the food your body will crave is food that will be hi in instant energy (sugar) and long-term dense energy (fat); the perfect combination of late night snacking to keep you up and to keep you alive for the next week or two. Just don’t worry about the next few years…when you might drop dead.
Anyway, read on:
Nutrition is a touchy subject. People are either oblivious to its importance or they take on an almost religious reverence towards whatever philosophy they believe in. My own daughter was a 90% vegetarian, but was forced to add red meat into her diet because she developed dangerous vitamin deficiencies. No one diet is going to be able to satisfy the optimal needs for the entire spectrum of human need. Below is a link to a good NY Times article; a thoughtful discussion by respected clinical and sports nutritionists. Enjoy
Sports Nutrition is such a murky mess. If there is any one area related to fitness that is almost hopelessly mired in superstition, lies, half-truths, and misinformation, it is sports nutrition. It’s not surprising. There are so many magazines and supposed experts, and mis-informed medical personnel who believe they are experts, but have never done any actual research, and have not really read a preponderance of the research, before making up their minds. To many in the medical community, the whole idea of strength training is anathema! Back in the 1940’s there was a study that showed that strength training enlarged the heart, which was associated with increased risk of heart disease. It was also seen as a socially marginal and suspect activity; practitioners were usually assumed to be homosexual, at a time when that label was many factors more prejudicial than they are today.
The simple fact is, there have been few supplements as exhaustively researched as creatine monohydrate, and no legitimate peer reviewed research (hundreds of them) have ever shown any negative side effects of statistical significance. What’s especially infuriating is when you read an actual research study that concludes it is extremely safe, and then the authors of the study still insist on including warnings of possible negative side effects that the study they just published refuted. Thats how hard preconceived beliefs, biases, and prejudices can be, to overcome.
What creatine supplementation will do for the vast majority of users is the following:
- Increase lean muscle mass
- Increase in body weight (due to increase muscle mass)
- Increase muscular strength
- Increased recovery times during and post workout
- Increase in anaerobic endurance (more reps)
Anyone interested in increased strength, increased muscular development, and power output should probably supplement if their diet does not include foods naturally rich in creatine. Creatine is stored,; and consequently found; in muscle. Beef and fish contain the highest concentrations, but the more processed and cooked, the less creatine will be available for human absorption.
The human body is capable of storing approximately 5-10 grams of creatine at any given time, and we naturally produce about 2 grams from our own internal resources. To fully saturate our cells we need to make up the difference with diet and/or supplementation.
Aerobic endurance athletes will see less benefit from creatine supplementation as creatine is primarily a source of anaerobic energy. Likewise, aerobic athletes often benefit from being light weight, and creatine can cause actual weight gain from the increased muscle mass. this needs to be factored into an aerobic athletes decision whether to supplement or not. It should be noted, though, that even with supplementation, weight and strength gains will be non-existent to minimal if not accompanied by a program of rigorous strength training. There is no such thing as magic.
Below are links to a true expert who performs and reviews real research on the subject. An educated exerciser gets results.
Creatine Side Effects: The Truth About Creatine Bloating, Creatine Diarrhea & other Dangers of Creatine | Nick Tumminello Hybrid Strength Training & Conditioning | Ft.Lauderdale Personal Trainer | Sports Performance & Bodybuilding: “”
Just want to share this with everyone paying attention to my postings:
My one time client and friend, recently competed in her 1st strength competition to raise money for the MDA (muscular dystrophy association) and placed 1st in two out of three events! She is the beach press and dips champion!
Congrats Julie! You’ve gotta be the fittest Medical student I’ve ever trained!
Sprinting affects muscles in almost the exact same way intense weight lifting does. For proof, look at the thighs of an Olympic marathoner and an Olympic sprinter, and you’ll get the idea. The confusion the average person seems to be laboring under is that if they do a couple of sprint or intense weight lifting sessions a week they might “suddenly” wake up one morning looking like those kinds of athletes, instead of like the super model they ache to emulate. If only either of those outcomes ere possible! They are delusions. Doing some high intensity training, appropriate for your age and current level of fitness will only speed up the process of you getting a little fitter than you are now. Don’t worry. Just do it!