Fitness

Happy New Year 2018 !!!!

It has certainly been some time since my last post and, in looking back, I realize that 2017 was a year of wasted opportunities to relate my journey as it unfolded. It was a year that was somewhat sidetracked by healthy doses of procrastination and distraction despite experiencing discovery on all fronts: weight training, cricket, philosophy, and continuing formal education.  

What set things into motion?

It was about November, 2016 when I introduced the dumbbell bench press into the mix and noticed soreness in my left shoulder. Thinking it was general soreness from a new exercise, I decided to try and work through the pain. Not only did it get worse on the bench, but it got worse while performing most other upper-body exercises. The soreness turned into pain and lack of mobility, which screamed "rotator cuff" issues. A trip to The Ohio State University Department of Sports Medicine confirmed my suspicion, and the ensuing physical therapy revealed that I was compensating with my deltoids and biceps (shoulders and arms) on movements that required lats and the scapular muscles (back). In some cases, the targeted muscles were weak and in others they did not fire at all! 

So, out the window went the "progress" that I had made on pull-ups, lat pulls, lat rows, dumbbell rows, and bench, and into "rehab mode" we went. 

It was difficult going from lifting as much weight as I could for 2 sets of 4-6 reps to going extremely light for 2 sets of 8-12. Some heavy lifts even became unloaded stretches. Let me be clear: this was not difficult from an effort perspective, but difficult for my ego!

Incorporating rehab exercises such as internal/ external rotations, shoulder extensions, shoulder retractions, scapations, and including activations (known as "Y's", "T's", "W's", "A's", and "U's") promotes proper scapular, and upper back positioning and strength.  

My resolution for 2017 was to really work on my back and shoulders by literally starting over; to date, I've made excellent progress in that area. By learning how to set my back prior to activity by pinning the shoulder blades together and pushing them down, I am in an athletic position that ensures all of my lifts incorporate the best form and recruit the correct muscles, respectively. Moreover, I've found that by setting my back in this manner, I have more explosiveness during cricket matches, both as a batsman and a fielder. 

Back on track, who knew 2017 would offer more challenges in the months to come. 
Stay tuned!

Take a Moment for Safety

As a new year begins, people will be flocking to gyms to get a good jump on their fitness goals. This will find more people of varying levels of experience moving heavy loads through a confined space. Oh! You've got that new shiny treadmill or weight bench for home? Then, in your case, there's risk in pushing the envelope of physical endurance without someone nearby in case of physical or equipment failure. Either way, it's a good idea to keep safety in mind when engaging in a fitness activity. Here are some ideas:

Before You Start: 

  • Get a checkup from your doctor prior to beginning any exercise or diet program. 

In the Gym: 

  • Be aware of your surroundings both when exercising and moving through the gym.
  • Fitness Machines:
    • Understand the purpose of each machine and how they work. If you are unsure, ask an employee at the gym. 
    • Start off with a very light weight to get accustomed to the movement, making sure you are engaging the correct muscles/ muscle groups. Then add weight as desired. 
  • Free Weights, Plate-Loaded Equipment, and Squat Rack:
    • Use a live spotter.
    • Employ safety stops. (e.g. Leg Press)
    • Utilize spotter bars. (e.g. Squat Rack)
  • Mechanized Equipment (Treadmills, Elipticals, Stair Climbers, etc...):
    • Wear the Emergency Stop Tether.
    • Locate the Emergency Stop Button before you start.
    • Know when to use hand-rails and when not to use them. (This will vary by machine and activity)

 

At Least I'm Here...

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

This mantra came to me when I was in the process of earning my first black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Our dojang (training hall) had a gallery where parents, friends, and visitors could freely watch classes. Usually, those watching appreciated the effort we put forth in our training and offered a lot of encouragement along the way.

However, occasionally, those who weren't acclimated to the etiquette of the school would see this as an opportunity for comedic entertainment. On one particular evening, a guest in the gallery set his sights on my stiff, clumsy movements as I was learning a new technique. The more I failed, the harder this guy laughed, and the more pointed his barbs became. With my concentration now centered on his comments, the frustration grew until I literally couldn't do anything right. I was awash in self-doubt and I knelt to catch my breath, fully contemplating throwing in the towel right then and there.

Then it happened.    

"At least I'm here."

It was a voice that filled my thoughts and calmed my nerves. 

"At least I'm here."

The more I heard it, the louder it became, and even though it was a big class with a lot of onlookers, I was alone. I was calm. I was confident. Strength filled my spirit, my mind, and my body.

I stood to look into the gallery and made eye-contact with the heckler, and though he may have still been there, both he and his words were rendered powerless.  

"At least I'm here, in the moment, improving."

It takes a lot of courage to do something new, especially when you are in a public forum. Regardless the activity, it's easy to become super self-conscious being the newbie among more experienced people. You can sense that you don't look or move or act like anyone else; it's frightening to be a learner on the path of self-improvement. And that is why most aren't there, content to sit in the crowd and cast their own self-doubt on those of us who are.  

 

Avoid Autumn Gluttony

October, November, and December mark that time of year where holiday celebrations (at least in the United States) feature unending sweets, heavy dinners, and savory deserts. This is also when people say they're either putting off their fitness plans, or putting their fitness regemin on hiatus, "so they can enjoy this time of year". This is always said with a straight face and with every intention of hitting the gym three times as hard come next January. 

Don't be this person!

  • Keep true to your fitness and nutrition routines. 
  • Enjoy the one-off treat, but don't fall prey to multiple trips to the candy bowl each day. While those miniature-sized sweets are only 1/3rd the calories of the real deal, it's easy to get fooled into consuming multiple servings without realizing the consequences. 
  • For example, if you eat one snack/fun-sized serving a day, at an average of 70 calories per serving, by the end of the week it will total an extra 490 calories! 
  • Average three servings a day? Then that's 1,470 calories from sugar waiting to be transformed directly to fat.
  • The keys here are awareness and moderation. Read the packaging or gain an understanding of how these holiday snacks will impact your goals, and choose to partake in moderation.  

Believe me, you will "enjoy this time of year" all the more if you stay healthy, stay moving, and not having skipped a beat come next January when it's time to pay the piper.  

Watchful Learning

Every day spent in the gym is ripe for learning opportunities. We can take much from each day, each set, and each rep; how it feels, what muscles are engaged, what worked, and what didn't. Combining these mental and tactile inputs will build a knowledge base that will increase your level of performance and overall experience. However, sometimes it isn't what we do, it's what we observe others doing. I call this 'Watchful Learning', and it's a great way to add to your workout skill-set.

Watchful learning seems pretty obvious, but it's easy to lose overall perspective at a time when we generally focus on us.

The next time you're resting between sets or waiting on a machine and can't work in, look around. What are others doing? Are their lifts / exercises comparable to yours or is someone doing something different? What do you think their goal is? Also, make note of how people organize their reps and sets. Are they doing 5 sets of 5 reps (5x5), 3 sets of 8 (3x8), 2 sets of 10 (2x10), etc... ? Are they increasing weight as they go, decreasing, or keeping it the same? There are many variables for a multitude of outcomes.

Watchful learning will help with your overall development and provide many alternatives as you progress towards your fitness goals.    

Burnout: Two Causes for Fitness Burnout and Tips to Avoid Them

1. Herculean Effort

At the end of your workout, if you are questioning your ability to make it through the same routine next time, you are probably taking on too much. You are either doing too many exercises, or performing them at an unsustainable intensity. Exercise should be challenging and enjoyable, not a battle to set a new world record each time out. Sure, events that test our overall conditioning are great from time to time and do a lot to benchmark progress. A good session at the gym should leave you feeling with a positive sense of accomplishment, and one on which we can build. 

2. Marathon Training Sessions

If you feel pressured by the clock during exercise, you're either still overdoing things, or you're not focused on managing your time effectively. There's nothing worse than realizing that you've just spent 3-plus hours in the gym and wondering how you're going to keep finding that kind of time to make fitness work. This is when you should scrutinize your exercise plan and pare it down to what can be done in a manageable time-frame. I suggest at least 40 minutes and no more than 1 hour for most. Secondly, stay on task. Figure out how many sets you will do at each station and stick to a set time for rest between sets. For example, let's say 90 seconds of rest between each set. Keeping chit-chat and and smart phone distractions to a minimum will help, too.

Managing your routine and maintaining focus are very important, but often overlooked, steps in realizing short and long term goals.

Just Starting Out...

There is an earnest feeling of freedom in being a beginner.

With nobody to impress, no expectations, and no obligation to demonstrate skill, beginnings are a time when each experience offers up a universe of possibilities to explore. "Staring Out" is a wondrous time, indeed. 

However, something happens when we begin to assimilate knowledge and put it into practice; our egos become engaged. Fulfillment is no longer derived from learning, but in receiving recognition for our accomplishments. 

Here's the rub. When our ego dominates our actions, we are literally just reliving the past! Questions become filtered to hide ignorance, we overlook opportunities to improve, and progress stagnates.  

Keeping a beginner's mindset allows us to remain in a constant state of learning and growth. Each day, each exercise, each set, and each rep exist independently of one another. Therefore, each action affords us the ability to affirm that we are "just starting out".  

Remember, the next time you feel self-conscious trying something or that you aren't as accomplished as those around you (basically, anytime you feel at risk of looking foolish), that is your ego speaking.

Remind yourself that you are "Just Starting Out" and experience the freedom of the beginner.  

A False Sense of Accomplishment

When someone decides to become active and incorporate fitness into their lives, especially those who are new to exercise, one of two things usually happens: 

  1. They buy into a membership to a gym or other type of fitness facility.
  2. They run out an purchase expensive exercise equipment for their home.

There's a lot of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with exploring gyms or shopping for gear. In the act of purchasing, we feel that we're taking a giant positive step to become a better version of ourselves. Despite our goal, be it losing weight, getting in shape, building muscle, etc... there seems to be the compulsory prerequisite to affirm our resolve by plunking down our hard-earned cash before we truly begin!

Parting with hundreds, or even thousands of dollars never felt so good!

Sadly, this is the apex for most aspiring fitness enthusiasts. 

That gym membership card will make its way to the back of your wallet, and that nice new fitness equipment will be set up in a musty basement next to the washer and dryer. Sure, both "investments" may get some heavy use in the first few weeks, but hey, life happens. Before you know it, both are cateogorized as "out of sight, out of mind".

Investing money into fitness before making fitness your lifestyle is a false sense of accomplishment. 

Remember, memberships and equipment are only the tools, and not fitness itself.

January 4th, 2016.... Are You Ready???

January 4th, 2016 is right around the corner. What is so significant about this date? It's the first Monday of the New Year. This is when all of the New Year's resolutions kick in and people flock to the gym to get back in shape. In other words, I call this day 'Black Monday'

If it has been some time since you last exercised, you might benefit from some of the prior posts on this site about planning, setting expectations, and reinforcing new habits. 

To recap, increase your odds of successfully 'getting back into shape' by following these two simple guidelines:

  • Planning Ahead
  • Setting Realistic Expectations

Your resolution to get back in shape should start long before you show up to begin your first exercise in the form of a PLAN. Know which exercises you want to do, and know how to do them. Write down some alternatives in case the stations you want to use are occupied. This will result in a more efficient use of your time and energy, and reduce the chance of injury. 

Setting realistic expectations through your plan will encourage you to capture some 'quick wins' and give you a sense of accomplishment on which you can build. Remember, it took months, years, and even decades for most of us to fall out of shape, and it wouldn't be fair to expect one to recapture fitness over a day or two. Keeping your expectations tempered is a way to condition yourself to experiencing exercise as a fun, positive outlet, over the long-term. 

These two simple tips will keep you motivated, allow positive results to be experienced quicker, and increase the odds that an active lifestyle becomes a permanent habit!

Taking time to Celebrate Progress

Take some time to celebrate your progress!

As we near the end of another year, now is a perfect time to reflect on the progress that we've made, and position ourselves for continued success in the year to come.  

If you've been religious in recording your results during each exercise session, the numbers are tangible proof of the improvement you've made. In the context of day-to-day or week-to-week, these numbers rarely seem to change. Their significance doesn't really come to light until the sample size increases to several months to a full year.

Just for fun, pull out one of your first exercise trackers and dedicate one session to replicating exactly what you did back on that given day. Same routine, weight, sets, reps, time, distance, etc... Use this day as an opportunity on which to focus and perfect your form. 

The ease at which you can now perform the movements will astound you, and provide some great motivation. It's mind-blowing to do with ease now what used to be nearly impossible. Because you will need less rest between movements, you will still be getting a great workout due to the increased intensity! 

Moreover, the ultimate proof is by recognizing the improvement in the way we look and feel: healthier, stronger, faster, and long-enduring.   

All of this is a testament to your dedication, perseverance, and effort.

Just think where you will be a year from now...

Kicking Cola to the Curb

Soft drinks are the devil. 

Marketed as thirst-quenching, fun, refreshing, and safe, soft drinks pack a caloric bomb loaded with sugar, sodium, and carbs. 

Consider the nutrition label of a popular cola.
1 Serving = 12 oz.
150 Calories
30mg Sodium
41g Carbohydrates
41g Sugars

Between the high fructose corn syrup and the sodium, these drinks are engineered to overwhelm your brain's pleasure response to sweetness and keep you coming back for more. Throw in a perceived need for caffeine and we've got the makings for a nice little addiction.

Let's assume one soda per day. In 1 weeks’ time, that will equate to 1,050 calories per week. This is roughly half of the daily caloric intake for the average person. Two cans per day put that to 2,100 calories per week and 3 will take you to 3,150!

Bear in mind that these are empty calories. In other words, they provide no nutritional value. 

Cutting soda out of our lives is tough because our brain and taste buds have become conditioned to crave their ingredients, which makes us dislike other drink options. I, myself, was one of the many people who claimed that even water just didn't taste good once I was under the spell. 

When sparkling fresh water no longer sounds good, it's time to re calibrate those taste buds!

Here is a suggestion:

Infused Water

I replaced my 2-3 can / day soda habit with ice water infused with various fruits. You can stick to lemons, limes, oranges, etc... even cucumber! Or you can mix your fruits/ vegetables for a unique taste. The only limit is your imagination, plus you get the nutritional benefits of the juices with minimal calorie load. 

If you find yourself dining out without the ability to infuse, then ask for some slices of citrus fruit and squeeze the juice into your water. This works just as well.

I'm not going to lie; cutting soda from my diet was tough. It took me about two weeks to overcome the cravings, and then a few more weeks consciously avoid falling back into the habit. However, within about a month after switching my mindset (and maintaining my activity level), I found that I had better digestive health and was no longer continually thirsty. Most importantly, people began commenting on how much thinner I started to look! 

I invite you to take that first step to re-calibrating your taste buds and ditching the empty promises of soda.

Using Your Food Journal to Effect Positive Change in Nutrition Habits

You've been diligent on keeping a detailed food journal for a few weeks now, and, if you're like me, there probably are some surprising results! 

Without a journal, we rely on a memory that is selective at best. We congratulate ourselves for ordering a salad for lunch, and forget that it came with fried chicken strips and a half a cup of ranch dressing. We feel great about our breakfast of oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit while disregarding the doughnuts we munched on. We also tend to remember the big stuff while overlooking impulse decisions, such as taking a piece of candy from the bowl at the office each time we walk by... and we walk by it 15 times a day!

So? What do we do with this journal information?

First off, I would recommend approaching nutritional change through baby steps. Small changes, one at a time, over time, will most likely result in better decision making and long term adaptation to lifestyle habits.

Let's use the sample listings in the previous post, for example. 

In the first journal listing, a few opportunities jump right off the page; and to get yourself started, only pick ONE:

  • Eliminate one of the two Glazed Doughnuts - Equates to 1,344 calories per week
  • Exchange a small order of French Fries in place of the large size. - 1,960 calories per week
  • Replace either the Large Soft Drink or the Can of Soda for a water (you'll see huge results by eliminating all soft drinks) - potential of 3,010 calories per week
  • Only have 1 Chocolate Chip Cookie rather than 2 - Equates to 700 calories per week

These results assume one eats these, or comparable foods, each day.  However, it drives home the impact of one small tweak. 

Just like increasing weight or reps when exercise becomes easy, once you've managed your first change, then move on to another. 

This way, we are controlling our change without the feeling like we're depriving ourselves. As you see from the examples above, even a small change can equate to some pretty big numbers over a week's time. 


Bear in mind, the information I've provided is an example on how to effectively change nutritional habits, and not meant as a recommended nutrition plan for any particular goal. Please consult your doctor or a licensed nutritionist for more information on the specifics of nutrition that meets your individual needs. 

Getting a Handle on Nutrition

Many people are sold on the untruth that nutrition is an all-or-nothing proposition. One either consumes pizza, bacon, beer, and cookies, or survives on raw carrot sticks and brown rice; there's no in-between.

This mentality makes nutrition, commonly referred to as the dreaded "diet", a very unpopular topic that most gladly avoid. It's the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in the room. 

The truth is, swapping one set of eating habits for another overnight just doesn't work. By going this route, it doesn't take very long until we feel deprived, hungry, and miserable. This is when one treat leads to two, two leads to three, and before you know it, old habits return with a vengeance. 

How do we change this mindset?

First, start a food journal. 

Eat as you normally would and write down everything you have. Do this for 2-3 weeks to establish your baseline. Be honest and keep it simple. I started mine by noting what I ate, the quantities, and the calories. As my goals evolved, I started tracking protein, sugar, fats, and fiber as well. 

A food journal can be a notepad, a spreadsheet, or even a smartphone app; whatever is easiest for you! 

Here is an example:

Hint: You can easily find nutrition information online, and, after a couple of weeks, you'll probably notice a lot of repetition. At that point, it becomes mostly copy and paste.

Why a food journal? 

1. It's a great way to actually understand our eating habits and pinpoint easy opportunities for change.
2. Like our method of tracking our workouts, a food journal will help in monitoring our progress.
3. We can link effects of various types of food on our fitness goals and and overall health.

Here is where I invite you to begin your food journal. In upcoming posts, we will cover what to do when our nutritional baseline has been established.

 

Nutrition: The Other Side of the Coin

We've invested the sweat, spent the time, and yet the results just aren't there. At least not those we would expect given the effort. Prolonged periods of limited results only increase the chances of us giving up. How do we get over this hurdle?

Rather than look for new exercises, or spend additional time exercising, let's think about nutrition

Many people will continue to consume their normal meals, snacks and all, thinking that a good workout can overcome bad dietary choices. Not true.     

Becoming fit on exercise alone is a myth. 

Becoming fit on nutrition alone is a myth. 

The fact is, we need to manage both sides of the equation in order to be successful.

Right now, you probably think the word 'diet' is going to enter the picture. 'Diet'; as in small portions of vegetables, grains, and all of that 'healthy' stuff that isn't fun to eat. Well, fear not. That isn't going to happen.

What we need to do first is understand how we're fueling our bodies, and then make small adjustments to maximize the quality and manage the quantity of what we eat. Finally, we need to do this in such a way that we do not deprive ourselves of the enjoyment of the culinary experience. 

Let's break this down next time. Hint: If you've been following the blog, you already have the tools to hit the ground running on this one. 

Weights, Reps, and Form - Where to Start and When to Increase

What is a good starting point for weights and reps, and when do we decide it is time to increase them?

First, let's look at this rule of thumb:

  • Muscle Tone: Low Weight/ Many Reps
  • Strength: High weight/ Few Reps

Personally, I am looking to increase strength, so I opt for the latter option. In that regard, I began with a weight that I knew I could lift correctly for at least two sets of 4 reps. When I was able to build up to two sets of 6 reps on consecutive days, I would increase the weight and only expect 4 reps. If I could get 5 or 6 on the first try, I would keep 'leveling up' each session until I reached the point where the last rep of the second set of 4 was difficult to lift correctly. Normally, I like to get 8 - 12 reps per exercise per session with the last rep being almost impossible. 

When you are starting out, you may find that sometimes your starting weight is ridiculously easy, or it may be too difficult. I say stick with the easy weight and learn the correct form, increasing weight or reps next time. The more complex the movement, the less weight I would add on. Example: for a push press, I would only increase the weight by 5 pounds, but a leg press, I may add 20. If the weight you choose is too difficult, there is no shame in lowering the amount in order to get your reps. It will happen; you will get there, so don't worry.  

Remember, it's not about how much you can lift, it's about how well you lift. It means nothing if your form isn't correct. A correct push press of 20 pounds trumps a sloppy one at 50. So the first month or so of any new exercise should be a learning period to find the perfect intersection of weight and form. 

To recap: Two sets of 4 reps, the last rep should be difficult while still keeping correct form. When you are able to do 2 sets of 6 reps, increase the weight and lower the reps back to 4. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

2 Books and 1 Website

Outside of the coaches, instructors, masters, and grandmasters under whom I've studied, 2 books and one website helped form my core attitude towards fitness and exercise. 

What is my core attitude?

Functionality - The exercise must contribute to more efficient transference of energy.
Proportion - Muscles must maintain proportion to effect an efficient transference of energy.

1. "Arnold's Bodybuilding for Men" by Arnold Schwarzenegger with Bill Dobbins 

This book lays out the basics in a clear and easy-to-understand manner. Excellent for beginners as it outlines a progressive exercise routine that can be done without the need for expensive equipment. Don't let the title fool you. While the author does touch on bodybuilding in later chapters, the exercises and methods are transferable to most fitness goals. It's money well spent to get started, and a go-to resource as you grow.

2. "The Art of Expressing the Human Body" by Bruce Lee and John Little

The most comprehensive resource that chronicles Bruce Lee's complete journey to generate functional strength for his performance as a martial artist. This book covers everything from weight training to cardiovascular endurance, circuit training to stretching, nutrition, philosophy, etc...  There is something for everyone here, and a great inspiration for those of us who aren't genetically gifted with a giant frame!

3. Steve Reeves International Society (http://www.stevereeves.com/)

Steve Reeves, Mr. Universe 1950, was a pioneer not only in Bodybuilding, but fitness as well. His accolades came at a time when muscle definition, proportion, and function were valued over sheer size. In his day, 'musclemen' valued both strength and endurance of the total body. Many of his training methods and nutrition ideas have remained key elements of athletic training to this day. Check out his ideas on Power Walking. This website provides a wealth of information for those who look to build functional muscle and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Choosing an Exercise Regemin

Now that we have a way to script our exercise and track our progress, we need to come up with a list of activities that will satisfy our fitness goals. As mentioned previously, this could be a list of stretching, cardio, lifts, or some combination of these.

I'm not going to delve into specifics here, because everyone is different in terms of goals, body type, limitations, etc... What works for me may not work for others. Given the nature of progressive resistance, what works for me today may not work for me tomorrow.

Here are good places to find movements that best suit your needs, with some pros and cons of each:

Internet

Pros:

  • Unlimited information
  • Ability to convey form/ movement through video
  • Free

Cons:

  • Unlimited information
  • Qualifications of contributor unknown
  • Quality of information directly related to instructor experience

Books

Pros: 

  • Easy to locate and isolate Information
  • Great for Reference
  • Portable

Cons: 

  • Text/ Pictures may not fully demonstrate or articulate correct form
  • Finite scope

Smart Phone/ Tablet Apps

Pros:

  • Portable
  • Interactive

Cons:

  • May require Internet Connection
  • Charges may apply for premium content or features
  • Requires phone/ tablet be available during exercise

Friends

Pros:

  • Team environment/ Fellowship
  • Excellent motivation

Cons:

  • Perpetuate bad habits
  • Convey incorrect information

Certified Personal Trainer

Pros: 

  • Trained and Certified in sport and exercise curriculum
  • Customize fitness regemen to fulfill client needs
  • In-Person/ Hands-On coaching
  • Immediate feedback

Cons:

  • Expensive (Some Require Gym Memberships)
  • Some may be sales oriented (future training sessions, nutrition products, equipment, etc…)

Scripting and Tracking Fitness: The Basics

Scripting and tracking your exercise routines is a simple but excellent tool to sustain motivation and increase performance. The best part is that you can find ready-made templates in most fitness books, on the Internet, or as smartphone apps for free!

The basic parts of any fitness tracker are:

  • Date - The date on which the exercise occurred.
  • Exercise - The activity that you did. 
  • Reps - Short for "repetitions". This denotes the number of times you did the exercise.
    Example: One dumbbell curl = one Rep. 5 squats = 5 Reps. 10 push-ups = 10 Reps.
  • Sets - Groupings of the same exercise usually separated by a short rest period. 
    Example: 5 squats, 3 times, with a 90 second break between each 5. This means you would do 3 sets of 5 squats for a total of 15 squats. 
  • Resistance Unit/ Weight - The amount of weight used in each rep.

Certainly, if you choose to add the ability to track stretches, cardio, and other specialized movements, your template will require more customization. 

Using the terms above, our tracker may look something like this:

Date
Exercise Reps Weight
Weighted Hip Bridge 5
5
Dumbbell Row 5
5
Chest Press 5
5
Leg Press 5
5
Dumbell Laterals 10
10

Notice that each exercise has two rows? This means we would do two sets of each. 

Or, we can show the same thing like this:

Date
Exercise Reps Sets Weight
Weighted Hip Bridge 5 2
Dumbbell Row 5 2
Chest Press 5 2
Leg Press 5 2
Dumbbell Laterals 10 2

Each template assumes that we will fill in the weight after the exercise. 

Again, the basics can be modified to fit your exercise plan. If you wish to do an exercise that is measured in time, laps, or distance, then you can track those as well. 

Once you found a template that you like, you can make a photocopy or transpose it to a piece of paper (like a 3x5 memo pad or notebook), spreadsheet, or app. Personally, I prefer keeping mine stored in a spreadsheet template which I print for use. The best option is the one that is easiest for you to carry to the gym and keep current.

Scripting Your Exercise Routine

Thus far, we have defined our root motivation for choosing an active lifestyle, and in that process we came up with at least one achievable goal in which to initially measure our progress.

Now, here is where most people adapt the shotgun approach to exercise and throw all of their energy into a random flurry of activity unrelated to their goals and motives. As we've discussed before, this method is usually short-lived and unsustainable. 

Let's avoid that trap now by adopting a more reasonable tactic; I strongly encourage scripting an exercise routine in advance.

What is a scripted exercise routine?

Quite simply, it is a list of exercises (stretching, cardio, weights, etc...) we plan to accomplish in a single session. 

What are the advantages of using a scripted exercise routine?

By understanding what we plan to accomplish in each training session before hand, it maximizes our time and effort spent exercising. Thereby, it assists in allowing us to realize positive gains more readily. It is an excellent tool to guide our activity and document our results.  

What good does it serve to document our results?

Documenting our results during each training session has a several benefits. First, it gives feedback on performance as to whether we are ready to progress in weight or duration the next time out. Secondly, keeping records helps to easily identify areas where we may need special attention in order to progress, sometimes pointing to auxiliary exercises or modifications in technique. Third, the records we keep today set up the script for our next session. Finally, being able to see tangible results of each session over time becomes a powerful motivator. Even after only a few sessions, seeing the result of our accomplishments makes us more likely to continue and progress towards even more amazing results!

Bear in mind, professionals who rely on fitness for success or survival approach their training with a purpose. Why shouldn't you?

Next time, let's talk in more detail about how to script our exercise routine!  

Brief Recap

Remember, we are exploring the following steps to getting active:

  1. Define our Motivation
  2. Plan our Workout
  3. Execute on that Plan
  4. Measure our Progress

We just finished discussing step 1, Defining our Motivation.

Next, we will discuss step 2, how to Plan our Workout.

Stay tuned.....