Introduction to Exercising the Body

Here’s where we get started on the practical! This is it — time to go! I’m going to introduce you to different types of training to give you a choice of what sort of exercise you can do. Remember this should be fun! You should enjoy the exercise as well as making an improvement to yourself. Don’t be overwhelmed by all the different workouts; you are only going to do one to begin with and get really familiar with it before introducing another. The reason there are so many is that I know you will progress and need to challenge yourself — even though you may not think so right now, your body will get stronger, your stamina will increase and, as you notice changes, I guarantee you will want to push yourself more.

If a workout doesn’t feel right for you, adapt it or move on to another. What may work for one individual may not suit someone else. For example, one of my clients did not enjoy swimming but knew it had great benefits. I advised her to take up skipping instead, which she did. She even laughed out loud as she did it. Her skipping workouts moved her forward and as her fitness levels increased and she felt more confident in attempting more challenges she began to include a short swim in her routine. Her increased fitness and self-confidence shifted her negative feelings about a particular form of exercise to a positive experience of it. You have to enjoy your workouts — whatever they include — otherwise you won’t stick with them.

I’m going to outline briefly some different forms of exercise . . . let’s call it the ‘here comes the science’ part! Don’t be afraid of the terminology or logistics, it’s a point of reference and a way of increasing your knowledge.

Types of Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise is an activity performed over an extended period of time which gets the large muscle groups working at a regular pace, makes you breathe harder and increases your heart rate. Aerobic exercise uses more calories than other activity and will make your heart stronger and more efficient. Some examples of aerobic activity include:

• brisk walking

• aerobics workouts

• bicycling

• swimming

• jogging

• running

• skipping

• roller skating

tennis/squash

• using cardiovascular equipment (treadmill, cross trainer, rowing machine, exercise bike)

The factors affecting aerobic fitness are frequency — how often you perform aerobic activity; duration — the length of time you spend doing them; and intensity — the percentage of your maximum heart rate at which you work. Most experts believe you should spend 20 to 60 minutes on cardiovascular activity three to five times a week.

Conditioning/Strength Training

Conditioning means simply that — exercise that will keep you at your best. Strength training will increase the body’s power and stamina which leads to toned muscles and a leaner appearance. So it is important that your training schedule includes exercises to build strength and to tone and condition the body. As with cardiovascular activity, strength training will improve the body’s fitness levels as well as having other great benefits like increasing bone density, reducing body fat and making you more resilient to injuries. The aim of strength training is to increase the ability of the muscles used to exert or resist a weight or force. In other words, by putting muscles under pressure they adapt and become stronger. Many women fear that by lifting heavy weights they will bulk up and so avoid increasing effort levels. Women generally do not have enough testosterone to make bulky muscle and therefore increasing the level of effort will only benefit and complement the body’s natural shape.

Core Training

It is essential to train the core muscles (the area between the navel and the spine — it’s the powerhouse of the body that holds everything together) in every single session! If the core doesn’t have strength the rest of the body subsides and has no clear way of development. The core is the foundation where all movement begins. Get this bit right from the start and not only will it prevent injury it will make other exercises easier. Movement starts from a strong core ensuring a safer workout and better overall end result.

Pilates

Pilates is a slower, more delicate type of exercise. This is not to say that it is the easiest form of exercise to tackle. It requires fine tuning, concentration and patience.

Using a steady breathing technique, exercises are designed to work the mind and body (tuning the mind to the muscle). By putting the body in challenging positions you promote the use of deep core muscles and back stabilizers. Stretching, mobility, balance and awareness are key factors in Pilates, and combinations of these are used in this form of body-shape training and correction methods.

FIND YOUR STARTING LEVEL

Throughout your training programme, it’s important to monitor your fitness so you can see the progress you are making and find the right level of workout for you. The following exercises are not designed to determine how fit you are, they are just a selection of basic exercises that will allow you to see your starting point and measure your progress. They are only based on three elements, but you may choose to add or change these to suit you, for example, if you find running 1.5 miles quite difficult, start by walking briskly.

• Run 1.5 miles — how long did it take?

• One minute of press-ups — how many did you do?

• One minute of sit-ups — how many did you do? Your results are only a guide to your overall fitness and are measurable only against yourself. Record the results and then do the same routine every month, at roughly the same time of day for a more accurate comparison, and record your progress so you can add it to your list of achievements.

WHAT’S YOUR BODY SHAPE?

I’ve given you exercises and workouts that will target specific areas of the body as well as workouts for all-over improvement. If you are new to fitness a great way of getting started is to work the whole body and feel the immediate benefits of training. As you progress and want to tailor your programme further, you may find the following body-shape information useful so you can determine your natural shape and work out how to start improving it.

Although genetics determine body shape, it can change with growth and development. You cannot change your fundamental body shape but you can make the most of what Mother Nature has given you by following a good diet and exercise programme.

There are three basic body shapes: endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph. No one is 100 per cent one of these; we are a mixture of body-shape characteristics although one type is usually dominant.

• Endomorphs generally have a round build with big bones, large trunk and thighs and are prone to carry larger percentages of body fat. Shoulders may be narrower than the hips. Face shape is round.

• Mesomorphs generally have a muscular build, broad shoulders, narrow waist, naturally large muscles and fast metabolism due to the amount of lean muscle they have. Weight may be carried more in the upper body which will be compact or stocky.

• Ectomorphs generally have a light build, narrow waist, hips and shoulders. The ectomorph also has a low body fat percentage. An ectomorph has a linear appearance and an ultra-fast metabolism resulting in a slim appearance even when eating well. Ectomorphs may lack shape due to their low muscle weight. Lean muscle weight is what gives us that shapely figure.

The workouts which follow have sets (how many times you repeat the exercise) and reps (how many repetitions). There are intensity options to choose from as you progress. To help personalize your plan based on your body shape, use the following as a guide to the weight, level and speed at which you should train.

• Endomorphs: fat loss is your main target so it is important that you are as active as possible. Regular cardiovascular training is essential and strength training should also be undertaken to help reduce fat and increase muscle tone. Exercise frequently and use moderate weights (2-4 kilos). You should aim to start the workouts at Level 1 (beginners), increasing to Levels 2 and 3. Rest periods between sets of exercises may be up to a minute when first starting out but as you progress gradually reduce this to 30 seconds. You should include a circuit session as soon as you have mastered the basics! Try to eat smaller meals more frequently rather than large meals with long intervals in-between. And watch your intake of food — fats and sugars should be minimal or eliminated from your diet altogether.

• Mesomorphs: tend to have a naturally fit body and strength training can be performed with moderate weights (2-4 kilos) at a moderate pace. Vary your workouts between all levels and types of exercise. Rest periods between sets can also vary: when using lighter weights (1-2 kilos) reduce rest time to between 30 and 60 seconds and with heavier weights (5-10kg) increase it to between 60 and 90 seconds. Muscle can be gained fairly quickly so when you are happy with their size you can train to maintain. Vary your fitness activities and don’t overdo it.

Ectomorphs: gaining weight by increasing muscle is your main goal. You should aim to work between Levels 1 and 2.

When working at Level 1 with maximum weights (5-10 kilos), the rest period between sets can increase to 3 minutes if needed or to the point when you feel recovered. (Avoid being distracted in your rest time; remember you still have work to do!)

When working at Level 2 reduce the rest time to between 60 and 90 seconds, but still use it to recover properly. As you will be lifting heavier weights you may find it useful to invest in some dumb bells. Eat more food to increase your calorie intake but make sure it is good food and not junk. Keep aerobic activity minimal and don’t train too often or for too long.

If, over time, you have successfully used all the workouts, you may wish to select some of the exercises and put them together in a different order. This can have a positive effect on your training progress and you won’t have to learn any more exercises. If you fancy having a go at re-moulding your workouts you may wish to consider the following tips:

• Start off with a basic workout on which you can build by increasing time or intensity.

• Don’t get complacent with an activity or routine — the body simply adapts, making certain targets harder to reach.

• Notice your energy levels — are they higher in the morning or the evening? Train at the time you have maximum energy.

• Don’t be too adventurous, keep SMART. Your workout programme can be from 30 to 90 minutes, but don’t get carried away. Listen to your body and adjust to suit its needs.

HEART RATE

You should exercise at a level that raises your heart rate to your target zone. This is called intensity of effort. Your target heart-rate zone is 50 to 75 per cent of your maximum heart rate. To work out your maximum heart rate take your age in years away from 220 and then calculate 50 to 75 per cent of that number.

RATE OF PERCEIVED EXERTION

Another way you can monitor how hard you are working is called the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). This method is a lot easier than the heart-rate method, although less accurate, and is a nice way to stay in tune with your body and recognize challenges throughout your programmes. Perceived exertion is assessed by using a 1-10 scale to evaluate a combination of sensory feelings from your muscles and joints as well as your heart and breathing rates. You can therefore use the RPE scale at any time to gauge exercise intensity and monitor a comfortable workout. 1 rest 2 extremely low effort 3 low effort 4 very comfortable but noticeably working 5 comfortable but working 6 slightly uncomfortable but breathing regular 7 uncomfortable — can talk but must stop talking to catch breath 8 high effort, cannot talk 9 approaching extreme effort, difficult to breathe 10 extreme effort, cannot continue Before you begin your exercise programme note your current breathing rate. It will probably be rated at one, then as your heart rate increases when you begin a cardiovascular activity to warm up, you may find you get a little short of breath.

How hard are you working, or how much effort are you now putting in?

The rating should have increased. As you continue and push yourself harder, once the body is warm, the scale should increase again. If the figure is still pretty low or only reaching 6, it’s time to pick up the pace and increase your intensity (effort) level. If it has increased to 9 or 10 decrease the intensity of the activity slightly. You should never be able to hold a full conversation while you are working in your desired training zone, but you should also never be either speechless, exhausted or feeling faint. Over time you may notice that your recovery rate increases and it takes less time for your breathing to return to normal.