By Mike Croskery
"Mirror, Mirror, on the wall...." It is usually after a holiday season has passed that people notice with some dismay that certain changes have taken place in their bodies. The numerous parties, hectic schedules, and an abundance of food all to often result in a bigger bulge here and a softer touch there. Fortunately, your body has a truly amazing ability to change its appearance so that you can shape up those problem areas and look the way you want! It all comes down to identifying the problem and formulating a plan to achieve success.
Desires to ‘tone up’ the midsection, ‘harden’ and ‘shape’ certain muscles, or lose fat from a particular area are quite common. However, what do they really mean? Essentially, ‘toning’, ‘hardening’, and ‘shaping’ involves causing the specific muscles to grow bigger and will often entail losing some body fat as well. Unfortunately, when it comes to losing fat, your body will not allow you to take fat exclusively from one area without taking fat from everywhere else on your body. In other words, ‘spot reducing’ is not possible.
Muscle definition is determined primarily by muscle size and the amount of fat that lies between the muscle and the skin. The most efficient way to increase the size of the muscles is to use weight lifting exercises that use those muscles. Often 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions per set (where the last repetition of each set is hard to finish) is sufficient to cause the muscle to grow in most people. For those unfamiliar with weight training, pick a weight which you can lift consecutively for 8 to 12 times. This is called a ‘set’ of 8-12 ‘repetitions’. Perform this 2 more times with a 3 minute rest between ‘sets’. Good results should occur when this routine is performed every 3 to 5 days.
In order to lose the fat that covers the muscles you want to see, aerobic-type exercise (such as walking, jogging, cycling or cross-country skiing) that you can perform for a long period of time is the most efficient exercise to choose. This will not only result in losing fat from those problem areas but also results in an overall loss of body fat.
The type of exercise that you choose is not nearly as important as the length of time and proper intensity with which you perform it at. After doing a good warm-up for 10-15 minutes, exercise at a little higher intensity for an additional 20-30 minutes longer. You should be exercising at a brisk pace while still being able to comfortably carry-on a conversation. Doing this 2 to 4 times a week is often enough to start to notice changes after a few weeks.
The most important aspect to any fitness program or routine is consistency and progression. After a time your body adapts to the exercise demands and consequently ceases to make progress. Therefore it is important to re-evaluate your program every 4 to 6 weeks in order to make it continuously effective. However, the time and labour will pay off when you can turn to your mirror with confidence that you will like what you see.
Please note that before performing this, or any exercise routine, it is advisable that you consult your physician in order to make sure that you are in good physical health and able to pursue an exercise program.
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