There are many different theories on how best to get in shape, whether it’s a high-intensity workout, yoga or running – and everyone will tell you that his or her method is best.
The HIIT convert will swear that it’s the only way to burn fat and get fit fast, the yogi will persuade you that getting your flow on will leave you more relaxed and supple, while the runner will wax lyrical about the benefits of hours spent pounding the street.
So which is the best option for you?
The answer is that all of the above have their place, but your first port of call should be to build a solid base of aerobic fitness, strength and mobility.
‘Base training’ is essentially a preparation period. You’re laying the foundations on which harder workouts can be built, and it’s split into three parts:
An aerobic base involves training at low to moderate intensities for longer periods of 40 minutes or more. Fast walking, slow jogging and cycling are all examples of this kind of training.
A strength base is achieved by performing resistance training such as performing squats and push-ups. Mastering bodyweight exercise is essential in this phase.
A mobility base involves increasing the strength of our joints in multiple planes of motion.
If you begin a training plan without an optimal base, your risk of injury increases.
Consider the fact that exercise is essentially a made up thing that human beings have created to try and replicate what we would have done physically as hunter-gatherers. Back then there were no gyms, bootcamps or spin classes. Our ancestors ran to survive or hunt; they lifted heavy objects to move from one place to the next and they were never sedentary long enough for their mobility to be impacted.
The environment we live in now means that we can no longer expect to be strong, mobile and fit purely from our daily activities – we need to recreate the athletic base that our hunter-gatherer ancestors took for granted.
No physical activity is bad for us as long we have the prerequisites needed to perform them. Unfortunately many people tend to skip creating an athletic base, preferring to move straight into more intense workouts. This approach can increase the chance of hitting a plateau or, even worse, getting injured.
There is no quick fix solution, just short-term thinking. For example, achieving the initial result is the easy part; most things you try will work at the beginning. Your goal should be to create a base to continuously progress from. This is easier than you may think and begins with the following five simple steps:
1. Move more each day
Aim to stand up at least every 45 minutes; set a silent alarm to remind you to do so. Walk whenever there is an opportunity, talk the stairs, stand on the tube – staying active is shown to prevent or manage many health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.
2. Integrate mobility training into you day
Warm up for your day by performing joint rotations every morning. Rotate each joint in a circular motion while trying to avoid compensating by moving any other part of your body. This will increase blood flow, bringing nutrients and lubrication to the joint, allowing it to function properly.
3. Incorporate resistance training
Resistance training such as squats and push-ups will increase your strength, muscle mass and bone density. Aim to schedule at least one session into your diary each week. Begin with higher repetitions of 15 to 20; this will increase your muscular endurance.
4. Take part in low-intensity cardio
When you begin exercising, simply going for a brisk walk will build your aerobic base. Over time you will be able to go faster while remaining in your aerobic zone and your endurance will improve.
5. Eat real whole food
With all this added exercise you will need to fuel your body with adequate nutrients. Live by the 80/20 rule: eat real whole food 80 per cent of the time and use the other 20 per cent of your calories as ‘treats’.
All physical activity has its benefits, whichever you choose, it will become easier and more enjoyable with a good solid base.
At the beginning it can feel like you’re carrying a sled to the top of a snow covered hill. The journey up is tough but the ride back down makes all the effort worthwhile. Don’t be the one left standing at the bottom wishing that you had started.
Progress is addictive and it begins with creating solid foundations for success.
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