You know already that I’m a great believer of exercise to stay healthy. I also feel strongly about trying to be as effective as possible, especially when a beginner in the field of sport. Nobody would attempt to start golf without having, at least, a few lessons with a professional to learn the most important things. The same applies, of course, to exercise programmes in the gym, running, cycling or swimming. A good start can make all the difference.
Fitness training in the gym
Here are a few tips and tricks to help you avoid the most common mistakes:
1. Don’t aim for too much too quickly. Start slowly with safe exercises and avoid, under all circumstances, hurting yourself in the beginning.
2. Don’t do one or two really heavy sessions per week, but rather four lighter workouts throughout the week. It’s not the clenched fists approach that makes you successful in the gym. Persistency, patience and the right tactics are much more effective than heroic workouts until total exhaustion.
3. Aim to exercise all muscles in the body, not only those visible biceps or that famous six-pack. By working the whole body, you will avoid degeneration of certain muscle groups and, generally, become more flexible and balanced. If you achieve a six-pack or not will very much depend on your genetic layout. Some people have a rather thin fascia over the tummy muscles, which makes the rectus abdominis more visible (unless there is a layer of fat above it!).
4. If you aim for increased strength and muscle gain, it is important to rest for at least 24 hours after the workout. It takes at least that long for the body to have the chance to increase the muscle fibre size and power. If you do it right, then a phenomenon, which is called “supercompensation”, will take place. The muscles prepare, after that training’s “shock”, for the next “shocks” to come and grow even more.
5. Control the rhythm and speed of your exercises. Working out too fast and abruptly can cause injuries. Concentrate on breathing correctly – breathe out during maximum contraction and don’t hold your breath during the exercise, as that can lead to rising blood pressure and the bursting of blood vessels.
6. Use weights correct for your purpose. If you aim for maximum power, choose a weight that you can lift no more than six to eight times. If your goal is to improve your endurance, it is better to use a weight that you can lift up to 25 times.
7. Rest for between 45 seconds and two minutes between sets. If you don’t rest for long enough, you will get tired too quickly. If you rest for too long, your body will not adjust and improve.
8. Don’t use free weights too early. They are more difficult to use correctly than the machines and the risk of injury is higher.
9. A very crucial point is to get out of your “comfort zone”. In the olden days, the coaches called this the “no pain no gain” principle. In the same way, I recommend that you change your training programme every three months to avoid becoming too comfortable with your plan and, subsequently, not improving.
10. Don’t distract yourself during sessions. Concentrate on what you are doing, visualise your muscles growing and the shape you want to achieve. Our subconscious mind is very powerful and responds better to pictures of imagination and feelings.
I have recently persuaded Alison, an excellent physical education teacher and personal trainer, to become a member of our team in the Family Medical Centre. I am convinced that, if you are serious about prevention in medicine, you have to go new ways and work with the relevant specialists in a team for the patient’s benefit. Alison supports our patients with weight loss and general fitness programmes. She also works in rehabilitation and has had excellent results. I am delighted to have her on board.
• Dr. Thomas Kaiser is a Medical Director in the Family Medical Centre in Vale do Lobo and Quinta do Lago. His special interests are prevention, anti-ageing medicine and aesthetic medicine. You can contact Alison Harding through the Medical Centre on 289 398 009.