Transition to the gym Part V - Recap
Updated: May 5
If you have gotten this far through the previous blog posts, we commend you and your desire to know more about returning to the gym. Through the previous 4 posts we have taken a dive into a number of topics and have pored through a lot of detailed information. While we do not expect anyone to commit these posts to memory, it is our hope that some new perspective has been gained on how to exercise with maximum effectiveness. This fifth and final blog post on the subject will be a recap of the main ideas presented thus far and should help serve as a quick reference to this information. Looking at each post individually:
Blog Post 1: there are a number of reasons why someone might frequent the gym and oftentimes, several reason coexist. The general themes here are:
for the purposes of health based fitness (exercise for the sake of exercise and the health benefits thereof)
for the purpose of aesthetics (building a particular type of body composition and appearance)
for the purpose of competition (training for powerlifting, Olympic lifting and other forms of competitive weight lifting)
for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance (developing greater strength, power, flexibility, etc with exercise)
Exercise holds different meaning for different people and thus their choice of exercise modality will differ from another. It is a practice as old as recorded history itself, with competitions centered on strength and athletic ability laying the foundation for modern day events such as the Olympics and World Cup. Each individual looking to participate in some form of exercise should begin by understanding what their own motivations are so as to match up with the most appropriate form of exercise.
Blog Post 2: there are a number of terms and phrases used within the realm of exercise that will help track and measure progress. Some key ideas to keep in mind in order to maximize your efforts:
Physical activity: ANY bodily movement produced by muscular contraction and relaxation that demands an increase in calorie requirements well beyond baseline resting levels.
Exercise: a type of physical activity that involves planned, structured and repetitive bodily motion with the expressed purpose of maintaining or improving aspect(s) of physical fitness.
Physical fitness: the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure pursuits and meet unexpected emergencies.
SAID Principle: an acronym that stands for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. The SAID principle states that different types of exercise will yield different outcomes with respect to features of physical fitness and to induce desired alterations to the body, one must engage in an exercise modality consistent with those goals.
Exercise Volume: the cumulative amount of exercise performed over a given amount of time, expressed as numerical values (amount of weight lifted, distance ran, etc) or in relative terms that can be quantified (light intensity day of work x4 hours, high intensity day of work x8 hours, etc)
Exercise Frequency: how often in a given amount of time exercise is performed (i.e 3x per week, 2x per month, etc).
Exercise Day Ordering: how one lays out their exercise days, rest days and the order in which they will be performed.
Blog Post 3: when performing exercise and getting into the swing of your routine, there are some variables worth considering to ensure you’re making the most of your time and setting up for a sustainable program:
Heart Rate: how often your heart is completing once cycle of contraction and relaxation in a given amount of time. It is a direct reflection of metabolic activity and oxygen utilization when exercising by looking at how much faster the heart must beat to circulate blood through the body and to working muscles when active versus when resting.
Rating of Perceived Exertion: how hard you feel you are working. This is a 0-10 scale where each digit higher on the scale reflects a subjective increase in one’s perceived level of exertion.
Fatigue: reductions in voluntary muscular force production and prolonged muscular effort as a direct result of prior physical activity. It costs energy to exercise, and fatigue is the result of expending energy.
Recovery: any action undertaken to help manage fatigue and assist the body in preparing for the next bout of physical activity or exercise.
Exercise Ordering: we enter each workout with a finite amount of energy. As we proceed through a given workout we will steadily chip away at that finite amount of cellular fuel and become fatigued. In order to prolong your ability to generate muscular force and create movement, it is smart to order things with the most energy consumptive exercises first and the least consumptive following.
Nutrition: the work put in at the gym is only as useful as one’s diet. Proper calorie balance and macronutrient distribution is essential for meeting fitness goals. Macronutrients = fats, proteins and carbohydrates that are essential for life vis a vis providing energy and “building materials” for the body. Micronutrients = vitamins and minerals that are also essential for life, but instead aid chemical processes in the body versus directly providing energy.
Carbohydrates: the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, veggies, grains and some dairy products. These can range in complexity from a single glucose molecule to large structures formed from hundreds of intertwined molecules.
Fats: complex molecules formed primarily out of fatty acid chains that play a role in the structure of human hormones, building cellular membranes, insulating the skin and viscera, and much more.
Protein: intricate molecules containing amino acids and varying in complexity, which have roles as enzymes (substances that facilitate certain chemical reactions in the body to drive physiological processes) and as major structural components to certain parts of cells.
Blog Post 4: there are particular strategies commonly used to mitigate fatigue and promote readiness for another bout of exercise:
Peaks, tapers, deloads: “peaks” and “tapers” are used more often to prepare for a planned competition, whereas a “deload” is a strategy more applicable to those outside of elite athletic competition. “Peak” refers to a period of steadily increasing training volume, whereas a “taper” refers to an intentional decrease in training volume. A “deload” is a more general term used to describe the inclusion of a deliberately low volume period to break up higher volume periods of training. Implementing these actions will require some planning – view your exercise regimen in blocks of 4-5 weeks and designate periods of peak and deload.
Peaks: this is the period of your exercise program where you will be increasing your training volume.
Taper/deload: this is the period of deliberate reductions in training volume to promote both recovery and gains consistent with one’s fitness goals.
Cardio versus Resistance Training: also referred to as “aerobic” versus “anaerobic” exercise. The former depends on a steady supply of oxygen to sustain a prolonged effort and uses one particular energy pathway in the body, while the latter does not utilize oxygen and drives more power-focused movements of short duration. Cardio, broadly speaking, is any mode of exercise that requires sustained uninterrupted movement greater than 2 minutes and utilizes oxygen to drive energy production. Resistance training includes high intensity efforts such as sprinting or high intensity interval training, as the large force producing muscles of the body are generating a brief but powerful output of movement and depend on anaerobic metabolism.
Machines versus Free Weights versus Cables:machines are pieces of gym equipment that moves through a well-defined range of motion with usually one movement possible, and tends to emphasize a particular muscle group with its action. “Free weights” refers to dumbbells and barbells, where the resistance of a dumbbell or barbell is somewhat more variable than that of a machine and tends to be more effective to train the muscles of the body that resist gravity’s pull. They also offer significantly greater durability and versatility compared to machines. Cables are somewhat of a crossover between free weights and machines. “Cables” refers to the columns with a pulley system and stacked plates with interchangeable handles and adjustable height. They operate similarly to other machines (stacked plates provide resistance through a pulley system) but have the advantage of versatility. Both compound and isolation exercise is possible with a cable column.
This series of blog posts has covered a tremendous amount of information, so if you are feeling the need to talk through the finer points do not hesitate to reach out to one of our skilled physical therapists! There is significant variability amongst individuals, and thus the most appropriate way to exercise, and we would be happy to guide you through a customized exercise program to get you to your fitness goals. Until then – stay healthy, safe and happy!
Dorian Campisi, PT, DPT