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8 Stages of Exercise Awareness

Are you prepared to exercise?
Are you prepared to exercise?

Questions often come up as people begin their fitness journey. Some of those include; how often should you exercise? How long should workouts last? When does it get easier?

I call those questions, the stages of exercise awareness. Before exercise becomes a regular, beneficial part of your life; you need to navigate through the stages.

Not everyone goes through all the stages, and you might not experience them in the exact order I'm presenting. But just knowing what those stages are, can help you keep moving forward and getting results. Here are my eight stages of exercise awareness.

Not all movement is exercise. Daily activities are good, but they need two things to be considered exercise. Your movements have to be intense enough to raise your heart rate and they have to last long enough to cause fatigue.

Parking far away from a store entrance is a good idea, and all those steps you take can improve your health. But if it doesn't require a walk of at least 10 minutes, you're not walking long enough to call it exercise. Taking a flight of stairs instead of the elevator is good. But unless you're racing the elevator to the next stop, you're probably not pushing hard enough to call it exercise.

Intensity over time equals exercise. Just adding more activities isn't the same.

One workout isn't enough. You must commit to keep going back. You're not going to reverse years of sitting on the couch in a single 30-minute session.

That doesn't mean you should workout every day of the week. Exercise breaks down muscles by causing micro-tears. Those muscles need a day to recover before you should stress them again. Three days doing cardio and three days doing resistance exercises are a good balance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends, “At least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking [combined with] at least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles.” That's just 30 minutes out of your day, less time than many people spend on social media.

Workouts never get easy. Knowing what to do gets easier. Maintaining proper form gets easier. But the workouts themselves should always remain challenging.

When running a mile becomes routine, you increase to a mile and a quarter. When you can lift 20 pounds without struggling, it's time to move up to 22.5.

The whole point of exercising is to push your body a little beyond what's comfortable. That means increasing weight, doing more reps, running faster or running farther. Your muscles must continue to be stressed to grow.

You're probably not burning as many calories as you think. Those treadmills, rowing machines, ellipticals and exercise bikes are not fine-tuned for you. The calorie burn they show can be off by as much as 30-50%.

In an experiment, I put on a heart rate monitor and exercised on four different cardio machines. Every time I stopped when my heart rate monitor said I burned 200 calories, and I compared that to the cardio equipment's results. The readings on the machines varied from 190 calories to 340. If I trusted the machines, I might believe I'm burning far more calories than I am.

It's best to assume the machines have inflated your actual results by 50%. For the most accurate information, wear your own heart rate monitor during every workout.

It takes more than exercise to change your body. If you're trying to lose weight, it's almost impossible to do that through exercise alone. Results are achieved through a combination of proper diet and challenging exercises.

The same is true if you're trying to build muscle. Eating a diet of unhealthy food, won't give you the nutrients you need to get ripped. No amount of exercise can make up for a junk food diet.

Over time, working out regularly helps you feel better. Sure there are pains as your body learns and grows. But many of the pains you might have experienced before exercise, will start to diminish. After a while, you feel worse when you don't exercise.

That doesn't mean you should workout if you're feeling ill or ignore injuries. It just means the positive things you're doing for your body, will start to outweigh the short term pain of going to the gym.

You can't do the same routine every time you workout. Over time your muscles adapt to your program. If you don't do something different, progress will stop. Keep doing the same thing long enough, and you'll see your fitness levels start to decline.

You also need to be careful of changing things up too frequently. Clinical studies have shown that random workouts every day won't build optimum muscle.

The key is to have short term goals. Then get a program that keeps you focused on those goals for 4-12 weeks. Once you get to the end of your plan, pick a new goal and build a new routine.

Exercising must continue forever. You can't workout for a few months and store it up. Once you get in shape, you've got to keep going to maintain it. Quit exercising, and you begin to lose the benefits. In fact, you lose the benefits far quicker than it took to build up.

Instead of looking at fitness as a chore, you need to treat it as an integral part of your life. It'll help you live longer and you'll be healthier for as long as you keep at it.

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