Add Fitness 101 to Your Back-to-School Schedule

By Tia Norris, September 2016 Issue of Echo Magazine in Phoenix, AZ.

This time of year means back to school for many community members, and as such, I’ve created a lesson plan to teach the do’s and don’ts of fitness here in the “Talking Bodies” classroom this issue.

This might sound remedial, but given the amount of misinformation in the fitness industry, it’s difficult to know what’s accurate and what’s not.

Luckily, you have a professor of fitness (aka personal trainer) in your corner to help you make informed fitness choices this back-to-school season.

Step into my classroom.

Health: Do make yourself a priority.
We all have responsibilities, whether it’s family, work, travel or whatever. The truth is that you’ve got to put yourself first at least some of the time if you want to be healthy. Just like hitting the books, you must invest time in your exercise, diet and recovery – otherwise you’ll fail. Schedule those appointments with your trainer, knowing that you’ll be held accountable to the time. Take a half hour to squeeze in a quick run or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout at home, or over lunch. If you don’t put yourself first, no one else will! And, most importantly, when you do make the time for yourself, you’ll be less stressed, more energized, more focused and stronger – even when it comes to dealing with the rest of your responsibilities.

Literature: Don’t believe everything you read (or hear).
First of all, most “trainers” or “fitness experts” out there just do not know what they’re talking about. They might know what works for them individually, but not for all their clients collectively. Second, remember, that every single person on the face of the earth is different! What works for him or her may not work for you. Yes, you’ve got to do your research and see what all out there, but take it with a grain of salt and be prepared to adjust or throw away fitness programs that don’t work for you. And read carefully!

Phys Ed.: Do focus on what you mostly enjoy, as part of a balanced, comprehensive program.
Unlike school, I encourage you to quit the subjects (in your fitness program) that you despise. Let’s say you hate weight training. Fine, then don’t do it as the biggest part of your program! Or let’s say you can’t stand running. OK, cut it out then! The world of fitness is truly infinite. You can go from weightlifting, to running, to yoga, to dance, to team sports, to martial arts, and so on, unit you get sick of something or, better yet, find something you mostly enjoy. Of course, not all days are going to be good or easy days. But if you actually enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll do it harder and for longer. Don’t punish yourself unnecessarily with something you hate, or you’re doomed.

Chemistry: Don’t rely on supplements, cleanses, magic pills or fitness gadgets.
There are no cheat sheets or shortcuts that will actually work and keep you safe long term. Most supplements and cleanses are either a placebo effect or no effect at all, and therefore both are a waste of your money. Not to mention that cleanses are a pathetic Band-aid over the problem – I’ve seen it a thousand times: you’ll go right back to your bad habits as soon as you finish the cleanse, gaining back some, all or more of the weight that you initially lost. And stop relying on those fitness gadgets! All they do is track what you’re doing – and if what you’re doing was getting you the results you wanted, you wouldn’t have a need for this device, right? At the end of the day, there is no substitute for good old-fashioned sweat and discipline!

Science: Do drink more water than you think you need. And measure it!
This should be a no brainer for Arizonans, but it really applies to athletes of every skill level and every variety. Active adults need at least 100 ounces of water daily, at minimum. If you’re outside at all or doing vigorous activity, drink 128 ounces (one gallon) or more. Do not underestimate the need for water! Your body is 80 percent water and will not function optimally without it – including performance, recovery, sleep, mood, fat burning, hormone optimization, and more.

Physiology: Don’t neglect recovery (sleep, massage therapy, etc.)
You can’t burn the candle at both ends. If you’re killing it in the gym but only sleeping five hours per night, your body will eventually reject the workouts and you’ll end up packing on fat and losing muscle. Sleep is when all of the most important recovery processes happen. All active adults need at least six to seven hours per night – preferably more – especially if you’re working hard. No excuses, make it happen!

Whether or not you’re heading back to school this season, make sure to you have a fitness routine that’s right for you this fall. If you have any questions, consult an expert (extra credit if it’s me).

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