A Guide To Getting Back Into Exercise

How do I start exercising again, and how much should I do?

You know exercise is good for you, but when you investigate how much you should be doing and how to start, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. If you aren’t exercising as much as you think you should be, you’re not alone. Research shows more than half of Australian adults are not active enough, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get moving. Maybe you’ve been channeling all your time into climbing the corporate ladder or balancing the challenges of bringing up a family, and that’s fine. It is okay if you’ve been away from exercise for a while. What’s important is that you make the decision to make a change.

Many people assume getting back into exercise means you need to make drastic changes. We recommend you don’t. At Strength Nutrition, our clients build up their activity levels using a measured and achievable approach. We also encourage our clients to follow the Australian Government’s Physical Activity Guidelines. Each of these guidelines are backed by science and a rigorous evidence review process that considers the relationship between physical activity and health outcomes. However, it’s important to remember these are guidelines and they need to be understood in context. This means that unless you have already been training regularly, don’t expect to be hitting all the guidelines straight away. So, what exactly are these guidelines and what they might look like for you?

Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount.

Getting started is about just that, getting started

You should build up your activity levels at a pace that is sustainable. This can be achieved by making incremental changes to your lifestyle. If you are new to exercise, start small. If you go “all out” at the beginning, you will only exhaust yourself and that is not sustainable. The key is to make lifestyle adjustments which improve your health and provide a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment.

Often people can be tempted to set themselves goals which aren’t based on their own usual activity levels. For example, the goal of achieving 10,000 steps a day. If you have a desk job and have been doing an average of 2,000 steps a day, jumping to 10,000 steps might be unsustainable to begin with. Say you reach 6,000 a day, chances are you feel like a failure. But in this instance, you have already tripled your daily activity and should feel proud of their efforts. Before setting yourself goals, take the time to get to understand your current activity levels so you can set realistic goals and gradually increase your activity.

Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.

Going from very little activity to being active every day can seem like a steep goal. It can be achievable if you build it into your daily lifestyle and routine. 

Sometimes people wait for “the right time” or motivation to get started, but the reality is, you need to plan and be prepared for setbacks. Be realistic that your current lifestyle and schedule will have to shift to accommodate improving your fitness. For clients who struggle to find time to exercise, the turning point can be scheduling it into their calendar. Find a time where you can block out half an hour or an hour where you put your health and fitness as a priority and make it a non-negotiable appointment. 

Remember that being active on all days means working in a variety of activities and intensities. Being active can be as simple as leaving your desk at lunchtime to take a walk outside or following a yoga or Pilates tutorial on YouTube.

Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

Any activity is better than none, but targeted training will get more targeted results. Regular strength training will help you to improve your overall health and make everyday tasks easier. It can be used to improve joint function, bone density, muscle, tendon and ligament strength. Strength training also enhances your energy levels, posture, mobility, balance and builds your metabolism.

Different forms of strength training include using free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, suspension equipment and your own body weight. It is crucial that you focus on performing the exercise correctly to reduce your risk of injury and maximise results. This can be achieved by working with a Personal Trainer, who will teach you the correct technique and provide you with a program that will boost your results.

The Australian Government recommends taking part in muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days a week. At Strength Nutrition, we would recommend strength training twice a week as a minimum. Research shows that a beginner needs to train two or three times per week to gain the maximum benefit.  It is okay to start with one training session for your first week. Ideally, you should look to increase the number of strength training sessions to two or three each week. You also need to factor in resting each muscle group for at least 48 hours to maximise gains in strength and size. 

Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.

Setting activity goals for each week will allow you to plan out your sessions in a way that fits your schedule and helps you achieve your goals. The above recommendation can be implemented in several ways, but first you need to understand the difference between activity levels.

Moderate intensity activities will take some effort, but you will still be able to talk while doing them. Some examples are a brisk walk, recreational swimming, dancing, golf or household tasks like cleaning windows.

Vigorous intensity activities will make you “huff and puff” and include jogging, fast cycling, many organised sports and lifting, carrying or digging.

Strength training may come under either of the above, depending on where you are at in your fitness level and what exercise, weight and frequency you are completing. These activity goals must be built up to over time and ideally, with supervision or direction from a Personal Trainer.

When planning out your week, it may look like the following.

Approach 1: 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity.

• 2 x 45-minute moderate intensity strength sessions spaced evenly throughout the week. For example, you may choose to train on Tuesday and Friday.

• On at least two other days, incorporate 30+ minutes of cardio or conditioning. For example, go for a brisk walk or a bike ride with the family. Remember, exercise is not limited to the gym, or walking.

Approach 2: 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity.

• 2 x 45-minute high-intensity strength training sessions. Remember to vary your exercises. If your strength session was of a lower intensity, add in some high intensity exercises. For example, playing a team sport or going for a jog.

Tip: even if you are completing 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity in two days, don’t forget that being active every day is still important.

Approach 3: an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.

This approach is the most flexible way to hit all the recommendations, such as strength training and keeping active every day. Prioritise and plan your strength training, and then use additional days for other types of exercise, for example:

• 2 x 45-minute strength training sessions, which can be built up to three times a week.

• 2 x brisk walks a week, then add in third, or introduce another activity such as swimming or playing sport.

Tip: when calculating your exercise, remember 10 minutes of vigorous intensity activity is equal to 20 minutes of moderate intensity activity.

When you are planning your exercise regime, it is essential that you enjoy it. Think about what you like doing, try a few new things and then build a plan that is sustainable and tailored to your ability. 

If you work with a Personal Trainer, they will develop a plan which sets you up to achieve your goals and help keep you accountable. At Strength Nutrition, we provide each client with a 4-6 week training program which suits their individual ability, preference and schedule. 

To find out how we can help you make your health a priority, book a session with us today.

References

[1] www.health.gov.au/health-topics/exercise-and-physical-activity

[2] www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines#npa1864

[3] www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/resistance-training-health-benefits

Training during COVID-19

Should you be training during a global pandemic?

Training during COVID-19 can seem a bit tricky. Should you go to the gym? Should you avoid it? No one wants to put their training on hold, but when the entire world becomes consumed with the coronavirus outbreak, it’s hard not to question whether or not you should be getting under the barbell.

The World Health Organisation recently announced that COVID-19 is a pandemic. I am closely monitoring the outbreak from Australian Government Department of Health (www.health.gov.au) and World Health Organisation (www.who.it) and am implementing their recommendations to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, particularly to those who are more susceptible to contracting it.

In order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, we should all be practising good hygiene and social distancing. Now, this can be difficult if you find yourself training in an overcrowded commercial gym with Dirty Dan dropping his DNA all over the place. However, there are a few measures that you can put in place to reduce your risk of infection.

Practise good hygiene

Practise good hygiene (which you all should be doing, COVID-19 pandemic or not): 

1. Cover your coughs and sneezes with your elbow or tissue.

2. Dispose of your tissues correctly.

3. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water.

4. Use alcohol-based sanitisers (if you can get your hands on some).

5. Clean and disinfect surfaces.

6. If you are unwell, avoid contact with other people. 

7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

A note on face masks: face masks are not recommended for the general population. People who present symptoms and might be infected with COVID-19 are required to stay in isolation at home and should wear a surgical mask when in the same room as another person or visiting a medical facility, to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. 

Practise social distancing

Practise social distancing:

1. Stay at home if you are unwell.

2. Avoid large public gatherings if they’re not essential.

3. Keep a 1.5 metre distance between yourself and other people when possible.

4. Minimise physical contact when possible. 

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

It’s important to know that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, and as such, sweat alone cannot transmit it. So, how does it spread? It is spread through contaminated droplets by coughing or sneezing, or by contact with contaminated hands, surfaces or objects. The virus can live on metal, glass and plastic surfaces for up to nine days, which are all common surfaces found in gym environments.

What’s our take on it?

What’s my take on it all? I don’t find the gym to be any more or less hazardous than other social settings we place ourselves in, particularly if the gym you’re attending has a capped number of visitors and is practising good hygiene for their members’ best interest. 

How we’re minimising risk at Strength Nutrition

As you might be aware, I train my clients from a small, private studio in Pymble called Plexus Personal Training. We are not open to the public, and we never have more than a handful (meaning a maximum of 5) people in the studio at any given time. In addition to the above measures mentioned, we are also: 

1. Asking clients to bring a clean towel with them.

2. Washing our hands before and after each session (and asking our clients to do the same).

3. Disinfecting equipment between each client.

4. Asking clients to stay at home if they are feeling unwell.

5. Ensuring that our clients have not travelled within the past 14 days.

We are also asking that our clients to sing our own version of TLC’s ‘No Scrubs’ twice each time they wash their hands (guaranteed 20 seconds of scrubs):

“No, I don’t want corona, 
Corona is a virus that get no love from me.
Travelling ‘round the globe worldwide,
And I’m trying to subside,
From it contaminating me.”

In summary…

It is inevitable that more people worldwide are going to contract COVID-19, and whether or not you decide to continue training is ultimately a personal choice. I believe that maintaining health, strength and fitness are very important and beneficial, and I personally will be continuing training during COVID-19 with the above risk mitigation measures in place. 

I did an F45 Workout, and I will not be back

What does an F45 Workout feel like?

F45 have the world hooked on their 45-minute “functional” workouts. It’s reported to be the fasted growing franchise in the world right now. There are 1750 studios across 45 different countries (and counting). There’s no denying the popularity of an F45 workout – heck, I can’t even scroll through my Instagram feed without seeing someone posting a sweaty selfie in front of the red, white and blue logo after they’ve almost had a cardiac arrest in *Hollywood*.

I decided to give it a crack. I walked into my local F45 studio and found myself in Firestorm – a high intensity interval circuit, with a gruelling 54 stations. But I thought this was F45, not F54?! So, what did I think of the whole ordeal? Spoiler alert: I will not be back.

The start of Firestorm

We had two trainers for a group of 22 people (that’s 11 people per trainer). The trainers briefly explained the requirements of each station and went through a basic warm-up routine. We were asked to do as many reps as possible for 30 seconds, and rest for 10 seconds between stations. Admittedly, I was spending those 10 seconds trying to figure out where the next station was and what exercise I had to do, rather than actually resting. There were burpees, squats, box jumps, burpees, planks and more burpees (to name a few). I honestly felt like calling it quits by the time I got to station 22.

There wasn’t much room between each station. I was working dangerously close to some of the other Firestorm victims – to the point where I couldn’t even do a full star jump without slapping to person next to me in the face. It felt overcrowded, cramped, and like my personal space was being invaded. There was simply not enough room for the amount of stations and people squeezed in the studio.

We’re at the halfway point…

I came face-to-face with the sled at station 24. I was once crowned the “Prowler Queen” and I was confident that I would smash through the next 30 seconds. There was 60kg stacked on the sled – a weight that I had pushed multiple times in the past. As soon as the buzzer went off and I started to push the piece of metal along the blue track, I knew I was in trouble. I was moving as slow as a snail, but the sweat was dripping off me as fast as a broken fire hydrant.

Both trainers were very friendly and encouraging throughout the workout. However, they didn’t offer much technical instruction or correction. In their defence, I don’t think these workouts were designed for that purpose. It felt like a race against the clock. It was clear that people were (unknowingly) compromising their form for reps, with the trainers cheering everyone on to push harder. Quality over quantity? Not in this place.

At station 47, I was faced with a 20” plyometric box. Deep down, I knew what I was in for… but I checked the screen just in case they wanted us to just sit on it for 30 seconds and catch our breath. Wishful thinking. It was what I had originally thought – box jumps. At this point, I could feel my pulse pumping through my entire body. I did not have the energy to complete one single rep. To put it simply, I was exhausted.

45 minutes and 54 stations later, and the torture was finally over. Everyone in the studio started cheering, and lined up for the obligatory sweaty high-fives. The studio had created a great community vibe – a lot of the members knew each other by name, and were asking “Same time tomorrow?”

Finally, it’s all over

I left the studio and walked to my car relieved that it was all over. I felt challenged – it clearly got my heart rate up and burned a bunch of calories – but was it productive? Each F45 workout is designed around “functional” movements, which claim to mimic everyday activity. I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember the last time I did a burpee outside of a gym environment… Each workout is created from a database of over 3000 different exercises, so no workout is ever the same. That might attract some people, but not me. There was no form critique. No room for program customisation. No aim for progressive overload (not that I would recommend it in this context).

Whilst F45 are doing a fantastic job encouraging people to be more physically active, I believe that there are much more efficient ways to become healthier, leaner and stronger. In saying that, if it takes an F45 workout to get you off your keister and in the gym, go right ahead!