Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Pre-Workout
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Beginner
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Intermediate
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Advanced
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout
Fitness Plan - Post-Workout

Pillars of Fitness

I. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

There are many ways to exercise to better health, and HIIT should be on top of your list. It’s one of the most efficient ways of working out because you can get great results using only short bursts of exercise. This makes it great for those who have busy schedules at work or at home.

As the name implies, HIIT involves exercises performed at a high intensity. The goal is to overload the muscles during training until they become fatigued. This is done by continuing through the repetitions without stopping. The intensity breaks down the muscles, making them weaker during rest. During this period, the muscle rebuilds, making them stronger. Aside from the time you save, HIIT may benefit you by:

  • Letting you burn more calories — The increased intensity burns more calories compared to traditional resistance exercises.
  • Increasing your muscle mass — HIIT can help increase muscle strength better compared to regular exercising.

One of the key aspects of HIIT is hitting your maximum heart rate (MHR). Achieving this number can help you maximize the benefits of HIIT and boost cardiovascular health. There are three zones considered wherein your body experiences different potential benefits during your workout:

  • Aerobic/low intensity — 50% to 75% of MHR or heart rate reserve (HRR)
  • Anaerobic/moderate intensity — 75% to 85% of MHR or HRR
  • Anaerobic/high intensity — 85% or greater or MHR or HRR

The low intensity range is typical of regular cardiovascular exercise lasting 30 to 60 minutes. Moderate intensity is achieved through bursts of one to three minutes. High intensity, however, is reached through strong bursts of exercise lasting 10 to 45 seconds.

To compute your MHR, follow this procedure:

  1. Jog 400 meters (about 525 steps) for a light warmup.
  2. Run the same distance again as fast as you can.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 a couple more times, totaling six laps.
  4. Check your heart rate immediately after the third set. This is a good indicator of your MHR.

You can compute your heart rate in other ways, such as:

  • Manual reading — Sit down in a chair and relax for a few minutes. Place two fingers on your carotid or radial artery, then count the beats for one minute. This will be your heart rate, or beats per minute. Don’t use your thumb because it has its own pulse.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) — The most reliable way to measure your heart rate, this test records the electrical activity of your heart.
  • Wearable heart rate monitors — Chest straps attached to an exercise machine or fitness tracker can measure your heart rate.
  • Pulse oximetry — These devices, some of which display oxygen saturation in your blood, attach to your fingertip. Be sure to purchase one that gives both oxygen saturation and pulse rates, as some brands may give oxygen rates only.

II. Strength training

Strength training, or resistance training, is exercising while using weights. The common misperception with this method is that it’s geared toward people looking to develop larger muscles, but actually bodybuilding, which is meant to increase muscle mass and size, and strength training are different. According to Bodybuilding.com:1

“In simple terms, strength is about increasing force production. Size, on the other hand, is about getting a pump and creating microscopic damage to the muscle, which then causes it to repair itself and grow larger … The general rule of thumb when training for strength is that the reps should be low and the resistance load should be high …

Strength training is about teaching your CNS [central nervous system] how to bring more muscle into the game … Unlike strength training, the goal of training for size is more physiological than it is neurological. It is about upgrading your body’s hardware, like bone, connective tissues, and muscles. You literally build your body, forcing the tissues to develop and grow stronger.”

So, what we’re talking about here with my fitness program is strength training, where you build your muscles just enough to increase your strength, which can benefit you in numerous ways, such as:

  • Lowering the risk of chronic conditions — Arthritis, depression, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes may be managed better through strength training.
  • Developing strong bones — Strengthening your muscles increases bone density, which may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Enhancing quality of life — Having stronger muscles can help make everyday tasks easier.
  • Managing your weight — Weight training is another way to burn off calories, which can help maintain healthy weight.
  • Sharpening your cognitive skills — Strength training may benefit cognitive well-being, especially among the elderly.

In addition, strength training may help boost your mood. Those affected with depression may manage their symptoms better, as it has been shown to be effective against depression. The small “high” you get after lifting weights can make a difference in your day. Other mental benefits include reduced anxiety and improved sleep quality and self-esteem.

If these benefits grabbed your attention, there are plenty of strength training exercises to consider. Here are some of the most popular forms:

  • Bodyweight exercises — These exercises make use of your own weight. Examples include pushups, squats and planks.
  • Hand weights — Tools such as dumbbells belong to this category. With weights, you can do exercises such as bicep curls while watching TV to keep your muscles engaged.
  • Kettlebells — These weights are used for swinging motions that you can’t perform with traditional weights.
  • Medicine balls (exercise balls) — You can throw, lift and swing to activate several muscle groups with these exercise tools.
  • Resistance machines — Resistance machines target specific muscle groups in your arms, abdomen and legs. While you can buy expensive equipment for your home that encompasses a range of resistance exercises, in a gym you usually will move from machine to machine, depending on which muscles you’re exercising. You will then adjust the weights on each machine to match your strength level and desired challenge point.
  • Rope or rock-wall climbing — Climbing makes use of many muscle groups that can increase your agility and coordination.
  • Strength classes — You can join classes offered in your gym that focus on strength training. Classes on BOSU ball, smart bells and Pilates are three exercises you can try.

III. Functional training

The final pillar that will help you incorporate fitness into your everyday life is functional training.

Through various functional exercises, you’ll notice that everyday tasks slowly begin to improve. Although it is less intense than the other two pillars, it is vital in order to build overall mental and physical strength. In order to get the full benefits of functional training, you will be walking as well as practicing yoga.

Walking

Walking, which all of us do throughout the day, can counteract the damage brought by long periods of sitting. If you walk for just 10 minutes, you can burn six calories per minute right away. This will not only increase your heart rate, but also release nitric oxide into your system. Nitrogen oxide will help oxygen-rich blood reach your muscles and organs, lubricating your joints, which reduces stiffness.

Try to make daily walking a part of your routine. It has shown to be helpful in lowering the risk of:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Premenstrual syndrome symptoms
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Varicose veins
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s

You can also modify walking so it can be a HIIT exercise. Simply walk normal and fast in timed intervals to get your heart rate up. You can try three minutes of slow strolling followed by three minutes of fast walking five times, which totals up to 30 minutes of walking. Even this exercise alone, without lifting weights or anything else, can put you in better health.

If you want to become proficient and incorporate walking into your daily routine, aim for hitting 7,500 steps each day. After doing a study on it, researcher I-Min Lee of Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that your benefits gained from walking max out at 7,500 steps a day, with a “Goldilocks” zone of between 4,400 and 7,500 steps per day.2

Here are some strategies you can also try to increase your amount of steps:

  • Walk across the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of sending instant messages or email
  • Take the stairs instead of riding the elevator
  • Park your car further from the entrance of the place you’re going to
  • Take a longer route back to your desk
  • Try going for a walk during your lunchbreak

Yoga

Another form of functional training is yoga. The relaxing nature of yoga complements the frantic pace of HIIT, meaning it’s a good stress reliever. Research shows yoga may benefit your health in several ways, such as:

  • Helping manage mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Boosting emotional resilience and ability to manage anger among teenagers
  • Improve immune system function
  • Boost sleep quality
  • Lower the risk of hypertension and heart diseases
  • Reduce the risk of migraines
  • Improve sexual performance and satisfaction in both sexes
  • Lower cortisol levels