Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let's Talk Exercise

Exercising.  Some of us try to avoid it and others rush right to it.  Why is that?  Studies show that you need to do something for 21 days for it to become a habit, but, when it comes to exercise, that number jumps up to 6 months!!  There are 5 stages of change that a person can go through.  The first is Precontemplation, meaning that you are not even thinking that you need to change your lifestyle to become healthier.  Next, is Contemplation, which is the stage where you are thinking about starting an exercise program in the next 6 months.  Third, is Preparation, in which change is being planned in the next 30 days and some sort of new behavior is being attempted.  Fourth, is Action, meaning that you are fully involved in your new lifestyle of healthy living and exercise.  Lastly, is Maintenance, which means the new behavior has been being done for at least 6 months.  Now which of these stages do you think has the highest failure rate?  Surprisingly, through years of research experts have found that the Action stage has the highest level of failure due to the fact that you need to implement your change for at least 6 months to get it to stick and be a habit.  I tell you this so that you can be extra diligent with your exercise routine to make sure that you get past that 6 month point to make this new habit "stick"!  Now, what stage are you?

Exercise can produce a lot of results or maybe not as many as you had hoped for.  This is due to the type of exercise you choose.  There are several things to talk about here.  First, our muscles have memory.  This is good when you haven't exercised in a while (hopefully this will not be you because you will make it a habit!), and you start again and in a short amount of time you start to see your muscles changing again.  It's because your muscles remember what they used to be like.  Now, muscle memory is bad because if you do the same exercises over and over and over again, your muscles are like,"hey!  I've done that and I don't need to change as much because I've done it over and over".  Basically, your muscles don't respond as well and you experience the dreaded plateau.  Second, we need to talk about the overload principle.  This basically means that unless you overload your muscles past a level that they are accustomed to, you will not see change.  Think about it this way:  you need to push yourself and do those last two reps or kick your treadmill up a few notches to make it hard and uncomfortable.  Sure,  you will improve your cardiovascular health if you don't overload your muscles, but, you may not see the changes in your physical body appearance without it.  

So, let's apply what we have just learned!  If you run on a treadmill or use any  type of cardio equipment such as elliptical, recumbent bike, stair climber, etc. do interval training instead of just setting it at 6.0 and running for 30 minutes.  Try this:  if you normally run at 6.0, do that for 2 minutes and then kick it up to 8.0 for 30 seconds and then do that over and over until  you have run your 30 minutes or however long you are running.  Same with an elliptical- go along at your normal challenging pace for 2 minutes and then really rev it up for 30 seconds.  We can use this same principle with hand weights.  This type of exercise is called Tabata and it is high intensity interval training.  Here's what it looks like:  20 seconds on and 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds.  An example:  Do squats- all out effort as many as you can do, maintaining good form though, for 20 seconds and then rest for 10 and repeat that for 8 rounds.  I guarantee you will feel muscles that you never felt before just doing a few sets of squats!  You can use Tabata, which was invented by Dr. Tabata in Japan after researching how interval training effects the body, with any type of exercise:  lunges, jumping jacks, stomach crunches, push ups and also with hand weights:  bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, shoulder presses, chest presses, etc.  Just use light weights to start with so you can gauge what's too heavy and what's not.  Tabata can be so intense that you can't do this type of exercise every day of the week.  But, I would recommend always doing interval training when you are doing any cardio exercise, as long as you have been cleared by a doctor for exercise!  A good rule of thumb is this:  if you experience muscle pain that's okay, but, if you experience joint pain you need to stop or lighten the load or the intensity.  You can use the Tabata method while running or walking also, meaning 20 seconds on 10 seconds off, but it is a little difficult on a treadmill because you are changing the speed so often. It is easier if you are just running outside and you can speed up and slow down on your own.  

Happy Exercising!!!  If you have any questions, just ask!


  1. Ginger,
    Im wanting to do some circuit training but have no gym but a exercise ball, jump rope and the band. What do you suggest? I also don't have tons of time either.:) I love this blog thanks for doing it!

  2. Great question, Alicia! I would recommend taking advantage of the jump rope and doing some tabata with that- jump hard for 20 seconds with a 10 second rest- 8 rounds. That will get your heart rate going. You could also do a type of circuit such as: jump rope for 1 minute, do 10 push ups, do 20 stomach crunches on the exercise ball, do 30 squats and then repeat that cycle 4 or 5 times. Let me know how you feel after doing that!

  3. Awesome¨! Now I know what to do!! I will let you know how I feel after that!!! Now...motivation needs to stay!

  4. Hi Ginger...I recently started doing Zumba, Budah Khi (a form of kick-boxing), Hip-Hop and Pilates/Yoga...1 hour a day (up to 5 days a week). I'm loving it and feel great! However, I'm not seeing any weight loss (just maintaining and I WANT TO LOSE). My eating habits need work, but I've changed those drastically too. I usually drink enough water, but not always. What am I missing? More time? Weights? Major food over-haul? Consistent in water intake? Combination of all? Thanks!

  5. Josie- I think it is a combination of most of those. First, how long have you been doing this regiment? Second, have you taken any body measurements? If not, I would suggest getting a notebook and take measurements using a measuring tape of your bust (across the fullest part), arms (upper part around the fullest part of the bicep area), natural waist (around where the belly button is), abdomen(usually right around where we wear our jeans, about 2-3 inches below the belly button), hips (making sure the tape is going around the fullest part of your rear end), thigh (stand with your foot firmly planted on the ground and measure around the fullest area), calf (foot firmly planted on ground and measure the fullest part). If you have these measurements you will be able to see in a much more accurate way how your body is responding to exercise. Measure yourself about every 6 weeks. Also, start keeping a food diary. Most people are surprised at what they actually end up eating in a day. As far as water goes, you definitely need to be drinking at least 8 glasses a day. Water will rev up your metabolism as well as doing some weight training. The more lean muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolism will go. As far as time goes, an hour of cardio is really good. I would just add in at least 30 minutes of weight training 2-3 times a week. And, remember what I said in this post about the overload principle- work your muscle to exhaustion. Hope this helps!!