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Fitness Extreme Series

Fitness
Health

Maybe you've never done much in physical fitness, but you would like to learn about it and see what's involved. Or maybe you have been exposed to some aspects of exercise, but don't feel that what you learned was balanced and comprehensive enough. Maybe you've noticed signs of aging and disuse in your body, and want to do something about it.

Most books, videos and television programs dealing with health and fitness are narrow in who they’re aimed at, the methods they promote and the information they provide

On Hence Forth, you'll see a comprehensive approach to exercise and diet improvements for men and women.

Aging and longevity research has shown that physical exercise is the most important single factor for a healthy long life. In the many thousands of years of human evolution, it’s only during the most recent fragment of time that large numbers of us have had the dubious luxury of inactivity. We live under sedentary conditions that are alien to the way our internal organs, skeleton and musculature evolved. Exercise returns us to a more natural condition. Reaction times and hormones tend to remain at more youthful levels for physically active people.

You don't need long gut-wrenching workouts to benefit. You need a persistent long term program of moderate intensity. Fitness requires some effort on your part. Don’t let anybody tell that you can get health and fitness gains without some effort. However, a well-directed program like this one will minimize the effort and maximize the gain.

A few questions for you

  • What are the three basic categories of exercise and their priorities for health and fitness?

  • Considering the diet that most Americans eat, what are the main problems?

  • When it comes to making adjustments to improve our fitness and health, how long should we continue these before we can resume our old bad habits? A few months? A couple years? Until we find somebody to date? The rest of our lives?

  • Read on if you would like the answers to those questions.

    Some exercise answers

    Physical exercise falls into three categories.

    1. The leading priority is cardiovascular fitness, which is exercise aimed at the heart muscle. The main concern in fitness is to stay alive and a strong heart helps in that regard. Cardiovascular fitness exercises work large muscle groups in a light persistent manner so that those muscles demand increased blood and pumping action from the heart. Typical examples are running, biking, and aerobics. Research indicates that cardiovascular (CV) sessions lasting about 30 minutes every other day are sufficient for most fitness purposes. Most people are unaware that for each individual there's window of exertion that CV workouts should fall within to get the desired effects. You'll be shown how to determine the intensity level of exercise necessary for you to get an optimum conditioning effect from your CV exercise sessions.

    2. The next priority in physical fitness is stretching the major muscle groups and strengthening the lower back. The value of a long life is diminished if a person is stiff, partially immobile or in nagging back pain. It’s remarkable how little exposure and emphasis this point gets. The only equipment you need is your living room floor. Stretching exercises should be done a few minutes daily. Keeping the lower back muscles flexible and strong should be a high priority in any fitness plan. There’s a tendency for men to discount stretching exercises and concentrate on strength training. That's not smart. Physical prowess is greatly enhanced by limberness. In most sports, the best athletes have a flow of motion that is simply not possible with stiff weak back muscles.

    3. The last fitness priority is strength training. This is the type of exercise that gets the most attention. Weight lifting can make you look good - but it shouldn't be the first priority in fitness training. A barbell set, a weight bench and a good workout plan are all that's needed. Used with common sense, working out with barbells is as safe as any other method. The strength training routine takes about 30 minutes, every other day. Over a period of months, the average person can improve their strength greatly and make their appearance more youthful and attractive. This applies to women as well as men. Women normally don’t gain muscle mass like men sometimes do with intensive weight training - but they do gain a more healthy, youthful athletic appearance.

    The overall plan is to work out 5 or 6 days a week for about 30 minutes each time. You alternate the days between cardiovascular and weight lifting exercises, with a little overlap that I’ll describe later. In addition, every day you spend several minutes doing stretching routines. In addition to exercise, many people should adjust their diets away from excessive quantities of food, and away from food that is loaded with fat and sugar. Healthy changes in exercise and diet should be life long, not for some limited period of time. Changes that are realistic for a life time have to be sensible - not extremist fad oriented or requiring so much time or effort that they become burdensome and get abandoned. Sensible methods that can be become life long habits are what you will see here.

    Where should you work out?

    Exercise in the most comfortable convenient room in your house or apartment. Have a TV and a radio/tape player there so you can merge the time with entertainment. It should be a brightly-lit area and if you have children, it will be a good influence on them to see you exercising. Don’t confine your workout area to the basement or garage. The idea is to make it as enjoyable and convenient as possible, and to make it as habitual as possible.

    The fitness habit

    The idea of making fitness a habit is important. People often associate "enthusiasm" with working out and getting fit. There's nothing wrong with bringing enthusiasm to a worthwhile endeavor. However, it's not enough, it usually wanes, and it's really not the key ingredient.

    Here's the important thing about a fitness program - make it a habit. Make it a habit to do your cardiovascular exercise regularly. Make it a habit to do your stretching exercises daily. Make it a habit to do your weight training exercises regularly. Make it a habit to not overeat. Habitually steer away from high fat and high sugar foods.

    Developing a "fitness habit" is important. The idea is to abandon bad habits, like physical passivity, and get new good ones. Any exercise plan that isn't conducive to becoming habitual, is a waste of time. If it’s too difficult, or too time consuming it’s not a winner. The plan presented here is something you can make into a permanent part of your daily activities.

    Habit formation

    Habits are developed by means of two basic factors: reward and repetition. When adults make changes in their lives through new behavior, they have go through the process of forming new habits. Enthusiasm by itself is not enough. It can get you started, but it's not the thing that maintains a change in long-term behavior.

  • As an adult, you have to decide what you want (a reward like looking better and being healthier).
  • Determine what you need to do to get it (like what’s described on this website).
  • Then start doing it repetitively.

  • Losing weight and/or building up your muscles are not rewards that will occur immediately -- they take at least some months. So the reward is delayed and to a large extent the formation of a new habit in physical exercise and diet depends mostly on repetition. But that's nothing unusual. Many of our habits grow from repetition and delayed reward. Brushing your teeth several times a day doesn't yield any immediate reward. The payoff is a "non-event" - the dentist NOT using his drill on you months into the future. But that ephemeral association doesn't deter most people from engaging in dental hygiene. The delayed reward of looking better and avoiding health problems in the future shouldn't preclude you from forming new habits in the area of physical exercise and diet.

    Building habits through repetition is easy. How many times have you driven an often traveled route without thinking? Sometimes, it can get so habitual that even if you intended to divert off the course to go someplace else, you miss the turn off and follow the habitual course. That's the behavior that you want to get working for you in the areas that you choose. You want to find it easier to follow your fitness program, than not to.

    Here are some factors and techniques that might help you in developing positive habits.

    Favorably alter your environment

    If you want to encourage yourself to exercise regularly, then put your equipment in a convenient place. Don't put it down in the basement or in some room you never go into. If you want to stop eating certain types of foods, then throw them out of the kitchen and avoid restaurants where they are served. Stock up on the kinds of food you intend to eat. If you want to cut down on eating, minimize your time in the kitchen by preparing easy to make things. If you want to encourage yourself to do your CV exercises regularly, keep your running shoes, skip rope or whatever equipment you use in plain sight. What you see - you think about. What you think about - you do.

    Monitor your behavior

    Get a calendar devoted solely to your physical fitness and/or diet programs. Maintain it daily. Everyday mark down whether you followed the program, or did not. The days for which you failed should cause you a certain amount of dissatisfaction and impatience with yourself. Remember, repetition over time will make the desired behavior become easier to fulfill. Lapses just delay and make your goal’s achievement more difficult.

    Creative thinking

    Get in the habit of imagining and mentally rehearsing what you want to do. Several times a day, whether you are alone or not, take 20 or 30 seconds to imagine seeing yourself and feeling yourself doing your next scheduled workout. Maybe you find yourself in some irrelevant meeting listening to someone rattling on. Give yourself the luxury of escaping for a moment.

    In your "minds eye"...

  • See yourself coming home this evening.
  • See yourself changing into your workout clothes.
  • See yourself doing your exercises.
  • Feel the satisfaction you will have when you've done your workout.
  • This kind of visualization works in a couple ways. It's a good method to implant a thought that will recall itself at the right time. But when you add good feelings to the visualization you not only tend to remember to do it, but actually want to do it. Generally, when you want to promote a certain activity by thought, it's best to think positively about the benefits that come from carrying out the behavior, rather than thinking about the negative consequences of failing to do it. In other words - think positively.

    Set up an intermediate reward system

    The main reward in a physical fitness program takes some time in coming. However, perhaps there are some things that you particularly enjoy that you can hold as rewards to yourself for following your program. Perhaps two weeks with no lapses should be rewarded by spending a little more than you normally would to see a good play, or for shopping.

    Be realistic

    You often hear about people setting very high goals and then driving themselves to fulfill them. You don't often hear how this can promote discouragement and failure. If you want to lose 30 pounds give yourself 15 to 30 weeks to do it in a steady progressive manner. Even if you could lose it faster than that, it's usually unwise to do so. Crash diets put too much strain on the system. The methods involved in doing them are almost never supportable over the long-term, so people who crash down in weight, almost always vault right back up again.

    Similarly, be patient in your muscle strengthening program. You will probably gain muscle strength quickly the first few months without it showing up very much in the mirror. Don't expect 30 minute weight lifting sessions every other day to result in you looking like a body builder. However, this type of program will start visibly showing through in six months to a year. And over the course of several years the average person will take on an appearance of an obviously fit person.

    Support from a partner?

    Can you benefit by teaming up with a partner? I think that's questionable. The idea is that you encourage your partner if they start slacking off, and vice versa. The problem is that a weak partner will undermine your efforts. In addition, you may wind up disrupting the formation of your workout habits due to scheduling problems. You definitely do not want to miss or even alter the timing of your workouts because of difficulties in synchronizing two schedules. Schedule disruption's will damage your ability to form the fitness habit. And habit is the key. Most people will be best off developing the fitness habit on their own.

    Just starting out?

    If you’re just starting an exercise program after a long period of inactivity you should take it easy during the first month. The objectives during this beginning period are not to see how strong you are or even to get much of a workout. The priorities are:

  • 1. To slowly accustom your muscles and heart to exertion. Doing too much in the starting phase can lead to serious muscle soreness. Obviously, doing cardiovascular exercise when you are out of shape has the risk of overtaxing the heart, and should be done cautiously and perhaps only after a physical exam by an M.D. Listen to your body, and use good judgment.
  • 2. To learn the proper form of the routines. Do the exercises right, so you get the maximum benefit.
  • 3. To ease into the habit of taking time each day for exercise. Be consistent and use repetition to ingrain a good workout habit in you.

  • How you start out on an exercise program is important. Overdoing things in the beginning can mess the whole thing up. Here's an anecdote about a guy who was in that position.