Every year we all make our lists of New Year Resolutions and promise ourselves to get in better shape. The truth is less than 7% of us will actually change anything. If you really want to change, then you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Workout like you are 19 years old and willing to really sweat and be exhausted and sore. Figure out what motivates you and what kind of workout you enjoy. If you like running, do that. If you prefer elliptical or biking, do that. And if you prefer varying your work out, mix it up.
Nobody has enough time to work out the way they want to. I try to get an hour work out in before work; unfortunately, I can usually only do 30 minutes. We need to maximize the use of the minutes we have in the gym to be as efficient as possible. Interval training has been shown to have much more benefit than standard work outs. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been shown to be even better than interval training.
A standard workout is going on the elliptical for 20 minutes at one speed. Interval training would be varying the resistance/speed with peaks and valleys during the workout. An HIIT workout would involve making the peaks much higher pushing you where your body cannot supply enough oxygen to the working muscles. This could include not only your leg and arm muscles but also your heart muscle. The HIIT workout will require your body to recover for hours after your workout. Your metabolism will be increased and you will be burning more calories for several hours even after you are done with your training. Short but intense workout challenges are the key to HIIT.
I was caught up in my routine workout and getting bored doing the same regimen for years. Then 3 months ago I decided to go on a bike trip to South America with my 19-year-old son. I knew I had to step up my training to avoid embarrassment and so I would not feel old next to a much younger real athlete. I started biking outside and then started spin classes as the weather got colder. Also, I hired a personal trainer to kick my butt and help me do new workouts. The trainer was smart and goal-oriented helping design a legs and core workout to get me ready for the mountains of Chile. Over the next 6 weeks, I lost about 7 lbs. and dropped my waist size. I also felt better and more energetic during the day. I was well prepared and did great biking abroad.
I am competitive by nature, and this is part of what motivates me. When I am in spin class I won’t quit because I would not let the person next to me work harder. When my son passes me on the bike, I am pushing myself to keep up or even try to pass him. A lot of the work is mind over matter. Find what motivates you and use it.
Whatever physical activity you do, you need to push yourself. However, make sure your body can handle the challenge. As a physician, I advise you to know your body and realize that in doing too much you can hurt yourself. You need to know your limits and if you are uncertain talk to your own physician. It is a new year. Decide to be one of the 7% that actually change yourself for the better in 2018.
By Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA
Director Orthopedic Surgery Westchester Sport & Spine at White Plains Hospital