Personal physical fitness is a hot topic among pop culture but for many reasons other than the health benefits it yields. Even so, it could be said that next to sex, physical fitness sells second best. It’s the results that everyone likes and desires, never the work that is entails or requires. Having gone through personal transformations from hard work, exercise and strict dieting, everyone always asks, “What’s your secret?” or “What diet did you use?” It’s almost saddening for the asker to hear “Hard work, diet, exercise.” You can see the wind die from their sails and their hopes shatter. As with anything in life: if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
My personal fitness plan is unique in that my lifestyle is unique. There aren’t very many diets or exercise plans out there that fit into a suitcase. One of the hardest parts of my diet is that I’m often in places with limited choices for healthy eating. This leads to the hard choice of eating unhealthily or not eating at all, not the best options when you’re trying to stay fit. This fitness plan is designed to maintain a healthy aerobic condition and body weight. It is not designed to make anyone (most importantly: me) into an Olympic athlete.
Warm up and Cool Down
To facilitate the slow warm up and cool down of the exercise period, I stretch for 10 minutes before and after the workout. In addition to stretching I begin my run with a short period of speed walking and usually end my run with the same.
Most important to me is the post workout stretching period. Whether scientific or not, I find that a post workout stretch helps prevent injuries and decreases recovery periods in relation to muscle strain.
Type of Exercise
Because it’s universally recognized and generally available anywhere, my primary form of exercise is running (most often on a treadmill). I will run a mile at approximately a 10 minute mile pace and then cool down for one minute. My goal is to reach a target heart rate of 190 beats per minute and sustain that throughout the workout. The cool down period should not bring the heart rate below 150 beats per minute. I run approximately 3 miles which should equate to around 30 minutes on the treadmill or on the trail.
In addition to running I perform resistance training with resistance bands that fit in my suitcase. I started carrying these bands with me everywhere I go when I realized that my excuse for not working out was that no place I stayed had free weight equipment. With the bands I do a variety of resistance training workouts. Bicep curls, tricep extensions, chest press, overhead press, lateral raises, butterfly press, in addition to sit ups and push-ups. I alternate working out my chest and back with legs. Using a combination of the resistance bands and body weight, I work out using: squats, lunges, leg-ups, and calf raises.
Frequency and Time
At a minimum I work out three times per week for just over one hour. This allows ample time for my body to recover from muscle strain while at the same time promoting progression and strengthening.
I schedule 10 minutes at the beginning of the workout for stretching and warm-up. I stretch the same way every time I work out, giving no preference to whether it is chest and back or legs emphasis day. This gives me another chance to help my body recover from previous workouts instead of only focusing on the workout of that day.
My primary method of raising my heart rate to my target is running either on a trail or on the treadmill. I like to walk at a faster than normal pace for 5 minutes and then slowly increase the pace until I’m running at approximately a 10 minute-mile pace.
After running about 3 miles, I will proceed to the resistance training. I schedule 15 minutes of resistance training in order to take advantage of my increased heart rate. I focus on repetitions instead of amount of “weight” or resistance. Counting backwards from 20, I will do 20 repetitions, then the second set I will do 10 repetitions, then finally 5 repetitions. This yields a total of 35 repetitions for each resistance exercise I complete.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is the diet; consequently it is also one of the harder plans to maintain. There is no fad or instant success story to use, it’s just plain math. I count calories to help prevent my intake exceeding my outtake. I budget myself for 1,800 calories a day and for three days a week I burn about 500-700 of those calories with my workout. Keeping this intake and outtake in balance (or less in than out) ensures that I can keep my weight at a healthy level or even aids in weight loss when desired.
I eat a balanced diet of fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Because my lifestyle tends to dictate what food is available to me (traveling, hotel bars and airports) I try to stick to low fat, high protein, and baked or grilled foods. It’s a funny thing about traveling, you can find almost every vegetable known to man, they’re just deep fried, or coated in butter, or in a crème sauce.
I focus less on what I specifically eat and more on the caloric content overall. Micromanaging my diet to the point of specific foods creates more headache than results I’ve found.
This diet and exercise plan has helped me maintain a healthy weight and a healthy lifestyle. It has changed the way I choose food while eating out at restaurants and when I go shopping. The workout regime has helped me find time in my busy schedule to spend time on myself and my well-being. Overall it has improved my quality of life as well as long term health outlook.