How To Design a Workout Program. Part 1: What the Fuck?
This is why we don't start working out. Either we don't know what to do, so we don't begin. Or, we don't know what to do but we try something anyway and get injured or don't get good results or don't know how to track results or never get over the feeling that we're an impostor so we quit.
This is a new series about how someone new to exercise, new to gyms, or new to fitness should think about how to design their workout.
Part 1: What the Fuck?
The scenario is pretty straight forward: you want to lose weight/improve your health/look good naked. You've been thinking about it, you did some research, you're ready to go to the gym. Maybe you're already going. You're doing something in the exercise box that makes you sweat, but you've got this nagging feeling...
What the fuck am I doing? Is this right? Is it effective? Why can't I see my abs yet?
So, you Google machine something about workouts you see if you should really be doing two hours of bicep curls like Mike said (fucking Mike). And this is the article that is annoying because here in part 1 I won't be telling you how to design an effective workout. This is the basic information you need to begin programming.
"Listen up, bro," Mike said. "Don't be a weinis. Just do those curls, bro."
Fuck you, Mike.
There are four basic things you should keep in mind and they are actually very simple to understand although implementing them may take a bit of work.
1) Exercising like a mother fucker while eating a shitty diet won't get you anywhere.
To put it another way, if you eat a shitty diet your blood sugar will still be too high, your cholesterol will still be screwed up, your hormones will continue to exist in a state of dis-regulation, and the inflammation party will continue to rage. Jogging every day and your super awesome bicep curls might help your resting heart rate and super swole guns, but that ain't shit. You're still sick.
2) If you have a specific medical condition, get some specific exercise advice.
We'll get more into this in a bit, but certain movements and exercises are super effective at making progress with certain conditions. Other movement with totally fuck you up if you have a certain condition. There are a ton of resources on specific conditions and I simply can't go into them here but here's a good, dumb example. If you have knee pain, don't fucking jog, asshole. Get your cardio somewhere else.
3) Change up your shit.
If you do the same thing over and over again, never changing, never adding variation, you will plateau. Our bodies seek balance. Our biological systems look for predictability and when they find it, they settle in comfortably.
If you start walking for 30 minutes three times a week, your body sees this change and adapts. You build some lower body muscle, help out your heart, your lungs, maybe improve some blood markers. You are improving. Three weeks later you are still walking 30 minutes a day and the improvements have stopped. Your body has adapted to the change and it is now no longer a change: it's just the way it is. The improvements will stay, but for the most part, you will not continue to see additional improvements.
To continue to make improvements you must make another change. Walk faster, walk for a longer duration, walk up hill, walk with a weighted backpack, walk more frequently, walk in the heat, walk in the cold, walk naked. Whatever. And then you will make some more improvements and those improvements will continue for about 2-3 weeks until you plateau again and then you need to make another change.
Change up your shit rather quickly becomes don't rely on just one type of movement. Change up your shit means that sometimes you walk, you row, you lift, you jump, you swim, you crawl, you do whatever. I'll talk more about how to change up you shit smartly in a future article. For today, when you go to the gym next, do something new.
So far so good, right? Don't eat buckets of shit, seek expert advice when appropriate, and don't do the same thing every day expecting continual improvements. Those are easy to grok, maybe they'll take a bit of work to implement, but you get the idea, right? Now, here's the good one.
4) All movements are not equal.
If you want Michele Obama arms, don't double down on cross-country skiing. The roof of fitness is held up by seven pillars: flexibility/mobility, strength, endurance/stamina, cardio-respiratory/cardiovascular, metabolic, nutrient balance, and body composition. (some folks will also train for toughness, power, and agility/dexterity/quickness/speed, but these are performance skills
not requited for basic health.)
Flexibility/mobility - can you move all of your limbs and joints through full range of motion?
Strength - can you pick up all of the shit around your house?
Endurance/stamina - can you walk up a couple flights of stairs without getting winded?
Cardio - is your resting heart rate under 70bpm?
Metabolic - how is your blood work? Cholesterol, blood sugar, hormones, cellular strength, etc.
Nutrition - do you have a vitamin deficiency, enough energy to get through the day, brain fog?
Body composition - fat vs muscle vs fluid.
Your workout program must pay attention to each of these. Not equally in time spent, but rather so that the end result is you being balanced. If you can lift a horse, but you get diarrhea regularly, you are not balanced. If you can run a marathon, but your calves are so inflexible that you can't squat down to play with your kid, you are not balanced. If your body fat percentage is ideal, but you're pre-diabetic, you are not balanced. Paying appropriate attention to each of these pillars will get you to the promised land of fitness.
And that, my friends, is what the fuck. In the next few articles I'll talk about the specific exercises that give you specific results as we program a good workout program.