Anyone looking for a “beefcake” in this edition of FIT better look on another page. I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a liar.
Nine months into my personal fitness quest, I don’t look much different than when I started. Why? Because like a majority of people, I like food and I lack discipline.
But I am healthier than when I started in January. My body fat is lower and my cardiovascular fitness is up.
I’ve learned a lot about myself during my little journey, though. For starters, I like working out, but it’s much more fun and you’re more likely to do it when you’ve got friends to do it with.
I’ve met a couple of guys at the Maple City Gym in Norwalk where I work out. Steve, a college graduate and gym rat, aspires to be a marketing executive one day.
Steve’s one of those guys who’s more interested in looking good than anything else.
Then there’s guys like Luke and Ryan, a couple of lifters who train for strength not specifically for looks or fitness. I can’t really hang with them, but I try.
At any rate, I’m healthier and in much better shape now. I’ll spare you my stats, but here’s six general rules that might make your fitness level better.
1. Include at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every day, no matter how small.
Whether you’re working out to some aerobics video, jogging around the block or riding a bike, I’ve found getting my heart rate up a little every day is the most tedious and the most beneficial form of exercise.
Not only does it help boost your metabolism and burn more fat, the endorphins your body produces from it make you feel better.
2. Try to stick to eating an average of 2,000 calories per day.
Unless you’re a body builder or pro athlete, that’s what doctors say is the amount of energy the body burns off every day. Eating more than 2,000 calories means you’re generally giving your body more energy than it needs, which can potentially be stored as fat.
Eating less and exercising a little every day means the body is generally getting less than it needs and that energy has to come from somewhere, usually fat tissue.
But it’s hard
Sticking to these first two tips alone will lead to weight loss and better overall physical fitness, but if you like to eat like me, the latter is difficult. Not kidding, 2,000 calories can be in a single fast food restaurant extra value meal. So try this.
3. Read nutrition facts on food labels and pay attention to serving size.
Nutrition facts are also available in most fast food restaurants or on restaurant Web sites. The calorie intake, calories from fat, and grams of fat are what I pay attention to, in addition to grams of sugar.
Generally speaking, eight grams of fat or less per meal is a good guideline to follow
Some times just knowing in the back of my mind how much food I’m eating is enough to make me push the plate away or order less food. Over the year, I’ve gone from eating a Quarter Pounder extra value meal super-sized with a large Coke to a double hamburger, no cheese, with a small, sometimes a medium fry.
4. Space out your meals over the course of a day.
Instead of eating three large meals, eat six to eight small ones about every two hours. The key is not to starve yourself. If you do, you won’t stick to it. You’re trying to change your lifestyle, not simply going on a diet.
5. Remember beverages have calories, too.
I always thought juice and power drinks were good for you, but it’s mostly sugar. Keep in mind the serving size rule and read the nutrition facts on most soft drinks and you’ll see how annoying drinking anything but water can be.
One of my greatest discoveries over the last year are these Crystal Light on the Go sweeteners. They’re little sweetener packets that cost about $2.50 for a box of 10 at your local grocery store. At five calories each and no sugar, you add them to a bottle of water and you’re now drinking more water than ever before.
Getting back to exercise
6. Cardiovascular fitness is more fun and easier during play.
I break the biggest sweat throughout the week when I go to a class to practice a martial art called jujitsu. When I’m fighting with people for sometimes up to two hours, I don’t think about how tired I am. Plus, working out with friends is more fun than doing it alone.
I’m not saying everyone should do martial arts, but joining an aerobics class, a dance class or even a recreational basketball team will help you burn calories. The important thing is to have a ritual you keep week to week involving constantly getting your heart rate up. Group activities help you maintain discipline and effort in my opinion.
Of course, these tips aren’t for everybody and you should always check with a doctor before starting any exercise or diet plan. These are just a few of the facts I’ve learned over the course of this year.
I want to thank Cheryl Yancey at Sandusky’s YMCA for helping me during this little experiment, also a big thanks to all the fellas at the Maple City Gym in Norwalk.
I didn’t achieve everything I wanted, my personal fitness quest is not over. It’s only just begun.