Updated: Nov 5, 2021
If you are reading this article I hope that you are already exercising regularly, or at least contemplating beginning an exercise regime. Whichever group you belong to, you should ask yourself one question: What am I trying to achieve? Are you trying to improve your physique? Are you trying to get fitter for a specific event? Are you trying to get healthier? Whatever your answer is, you need to ensure your training approach matches the desired outcome. If you want to achieve a certain physique, then you need to tailor your training appropriately. If you are trying to get fitter for a specific event, then your training should be geared towards mimicking the demands of the sport, and programmed so that you peak for the event(s). If you are trying to get healthier, then read on!
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The first step to this article is to define “health”, by which I mean:
1. Remain injury-free without imbalances and pain
2. Be able to perform your daily tasks and work requirements without pain or great discomfort
3. Be within the recommended guidelines for health markers such as blood pressure, resting heart rate and body fat percentage
4. Be proficient in all functional movement patterns (more on that later)
By aiming to achieve the above targets and following a healthy diet, you should be able to reach a good level of overall health.
So, what do I recommend as a good fitness plan to follow? Let’s take a look:
Being active day today is the main step to improving your health. Aside from the obvious benefits of increasing your movement and therefore calorie expenditure, by remaining conscious of your efforts to be more active you will tend to stay in a healthier mind frame. This, in turn, could help you make healthier meal choices and avoid temptation.
Aim to walk for at least 30 minutes each day, preferably in a FASTED STATE. This could be a 30-minute walk to work, walking the dog or a quick walk around the park on your lunch break before eating your first meal of the day. Yes, this may mean not eating your first meal until the early afternoon, but intermittent fasting is a great way to control your eating habits.
Functional training aims to improve an individuals ability to perform their daily tasks and/or sporting disciplines effectively and without injury by focusing on movement efficiency, joint health and muscular balance.
A functional training programme can be split into either everyday movements or sport-specific movements. Compared to a sport, we perform a much broader range of movements day-to-day. We sit, we walk, we lift, we hold, we push and we pull, all without taking much notice of it. To apply a functional training programme to everyday life, we focus on 9 fundamental movement patterns:
With the exception of fighting (hopefully), these are movements we invariably perform every day. Training them to improve efficiency and strength should make day-to-day activities easier and remove imbalances. Fighting, on the other hand, is a skill we hope to never have to use. The reason for its importance is how vital a skill it could prove to be should we ever need to utilise it. In addition to this, fight training such as pad work is a great workout and I recommend everyone give it a try at least once.
Most injuries result from muscular weaknesses stemming from an imbalance in the body. Muscles work in groups and each muscle group has its antagonistic (opposite) group. The muscles involved in a pressing movement are usually antagonistic to those used in a pulling group. When one movement is trained more than its antagonistic movement, an imbalance occurs which leads to injury. A common one is neck pain resulting from a rounded upper back which is most commonly due to ones posture, especially if they are hunched over a desk for the majority of the time. It could also result from overworking the pressing muscles if you perform the bench press 3 times per week for example!
Aim to train every movement pattern at least once per week. Lifting, in particular, should be trained more than once per week as the muscles involved are often weaker in the general population due to lifestyle habits such as being seated for most of the time
Take the time to recover from your workouts. At the end of your workout is when you are at your WEAKEST! When you sleep, relax and digest your food is when the body begins to recover and improve. This means that as hard as you push yourself when you exercise, you must make the same amount of effort to ensure sleep quality, good nutritional habits and enjoy your downtime.
You can also speed up recovery by remaining active (see point number 1 above). Activities such as walking, yoga, stretching, swimming and foam rolling can help the body to recover by speeding up the natural processes involved in repairs such as removal of waste products from muscles and increased blood flow.
Finding a highly qualified trainer to help you achieve your goals is one of the most important steps you can take. Think of it this way, when you are learning to drive do you: a) jump in the driver’s seat and hope for the best, or b) hire a driving instructor to teach you how to drive properly?
There are so many nuances when it comes to training effectively. Simple following workouts you have found on the internet does not guarantee you will make progress or remain injury-free. A good trainer should be able to coach you through a myriad of exercises whilst keeping you injury-free.
Even if it is just to learn the basics, investing time with a trainer will pay dividends further down the line. Find out how I can help you by contacting me today.
Find What You ENJOY
In addition to the above points, find a sport or activity you enjoy. The best workouts are useless if you cannot follow them. Enjoying your workouts and looking forward to the next session, game or event is the best way to guarantee adherence. This could mean finding a sport you love, joining a team or exercising with friends in a class. Whatever makes you view your next session as a “want”, not a “must” is something you should pursue.
There you have it. How to exercise for overall health. If you would like to find out more about my approach to exercise, nutrition and lifestyle visit The Evolved Way for plenty of helpful articles, tips and recipes.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Maitland is a personal trainer with over 13 years of experience. He has worked alongside a wide range of leading CEOs, entrepreneurs and medical professionals. John is a keen athlete and holds a black belt in Shaolin Kung fu. A fan of the great outdoors, he can often be found exploring the British countryside and mountains...or breaking pine boards with his fingers.