It may be several years since you've donned your gym gear, back in the day when exercising and training were all about lifting heavy weights or doing star jumps.
Physical exercise has changed considerably in recent times, due to continued research undertaken in the sports medicine field.
The secret to success lies in the ability to measure the quantity and intensity of your workouts, based on your own fitness level, and by consistently following a regular exercise programme.
An exercise programme which is too light will not create any long-lasting changes to your body, whereas an exercise programme which is too intense may not enable you to complete your programme due to injury or overwork.
Aerobics, tone building and flexibility exercises are key ingredients to reaching and maintaining optimal physical fitness.
The combination should be customised and centred around personal goals which might be running a marathon, losing weight, improving posture or even controlling a disease such as diabetes or hypertension. Therefore, there is clearly no one simple solution which caters for every need.
It is, however, possible to provide some guidelines to start you off. Moderate or rigorous aerobic activity should be performed at least 5 times a week, muscle tone training 2-3 times a week and flexibility exercises every day.
How should the programme be carried out?
For aerobic activity, measuring your heart rate is considered an excellent way of evaluating the intensity of any workout. In many ways, heart rate is equivalent to the number of revolutions that an engine makes.
It is therefore essential to monitor the heart rate to avoid creating too much stress. If we analyse exercise over a specific period of time, we can say that just like the RPMs of an engine (beats per minute), the heart will beat faster or slower depending on the intensity of the exercise.
To calculate the correct intensity, work out your maximum theoretical heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. The correct workout intensity will be between 60-80% of this heart rate. Technogym was the first company in the world whose equipment automatically adjusted the intensity of the workout based on the pre-determined heart rate (Constant Pulse Rate System). This method ensures that your body is working at its own pace.
If you would like to increase your strength and muscle tone, you should be lifting weights which will enable you to perform 5-15 repetitions before your muscles become tired (fewer reps produce greater gains in muscular strength, whereas more reps lead to improved muscle tone). A programme of freestyle exercises is a little more difficult to regulate since you cannot change weights. In this case you can modify the programme by increasing the number of repetitions or the difficulty level.
If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you use isotonic machines that guide your movements and ensure correct posture so that exercises are performed correctly. Once you have gained a little practice you can use cable machines and free weights, which give you more freedom of movement.
You should also develop your flexibility by stretching regularly. Stretching exercises should be carried out on each muscle group to the maximum without experiencing any pain or discomfort and while breathing deeply. Yoga is a valid alternative and focuses on developing elasticity and fluidity of movement.
The results: how to achieve them
First of all, it is important to be realistic and set yourself achievable goals. You can do this by sticking to the programme recommended on the basis of your initial fitness test. The best thing to do is speak to your trainer who will set your starting level and the recommended amount of time you can invest in your programme. It is useless to set goals that can be reached only by dedicating time or effort that you cannot commit: this will only lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
Are you already active or are you seriously thinking about becoming so? Congratulations! You have made the best decision to achieve the Wellness lifestyle.
Starting out on the right foot. How to start training.
Starting an exercise programme by yourself is feasible, but it does require considerable determination on your part as well as some experience.
If you are not self-motivated, or you do not have enough space at home for a personal gym, the best solution is to find a Wellness-oriented club, and then seek the services of a trained instructor who can create a customised exercise programme for you.
We all have individual physical needs and characteristics which makes it very important to select the most appropriate exercises and weight loads. The instructor should approach this correctly by evaluating your physical fitness level and your lifestyle.
This analysis will enable the instructor to plan a ‘customised’ exercise programme which will assist you in achieving your goals.
Last, but certainly not least, is the 'fun' factor. Be honest with yourself and try to understand what exercise you find most enjoyable and is more rewarding, rather than trying to perform the exercise that delivers the most promising results. Exercise will only be a regular and pleasant part of your life if you enjoy it.