Healthy Game, Healthy Body
Great, we want to be healthy! We know that exercising makes us feel great by improving our mood, gives us more energy, improves our body’s athletic performance, helps our self-control — an important quality both in a relationship and out of it — and helps us look great.
So we’re going to exercise.
But how’re we going to do it?
First, incorporate activity and movement into your daily life. Fidget more often. Take the stairs. Run for the bus. Go out for a walk. Take advantage of any activity and any chance to move your body. Let your inner child out. Skip if you’re feeling happy. Dance when music is on. Don’t balk when physical activity is involved.
Second, you need to find exercise that you actually enjoy doing. Most exercise can be pleasurable from the endorphin rush. However, there’re certain forms that we have more fun with. Make a regular date once a week perhaps with some kind of outdoor team activity. In my beloved London there’re plenty of courts in the parks, from tennis to football (soccer to you Americanos). It could be rock climbing. It could be salsa dancing. You need to find what’s your favoured exercise and just do it.
It is much more easier exercising when there’s a goal in mind, from having fun dancing away with your partner or doing better against a friend who has beaten you one time too many.
Third, you can form a gym workout. Commit to three times a week or so. When I feel unmotivated for a workout, I try and go to a class at the gym; I like the ones which are functional and fun, like dances or martial arts-based classes. I do try out some yoga to try and get flexibility into my stubborn ligaments.
Myself, I’m more a fan of focusing on muscle building than aerobic exercise (“cardio”). A lot of women worry that they’re going to look like some overmasculinised hulk if they work their muscle groups, which just isn’t true. It’s true only at the extremes. You’ll find it pretty difficult to build a substantial muscle bulk, because you don’t have as much testosterone as a man.
I think it’s best if you design your workout with a trained instructor, but if you’re cash-strapped, you can even do a basic routine using weights and stairs at home that you can vary by researching. I started with twenty minutes cardio in an interval style (alternating between high/moderate intensity and low). Then I did 2 sets of 15 repetitions of the following, with thirty second breaks in between each set: chest press, bicep curls, squats, side raises, tricep kickbacks, leg curls, sit ups and planks. Then I did some stretches. I tried to gradually increase my reps, after which I’d increase my weights. With us girls, its usually the lowest weight or the second lowest weight that you start at, but your mileage may vary.
The reason why I’m into muscle building over cardio primarily is because cardio doesn’t really expend that much energy practically above baseline, nor does it have much use outside the gym unless I want to indulge in extended bouts of running or endurance. Not only does muscle building expend energy during the work out but that keeps on going once you’ve built the muscle: the extra mass needs more energy. I also want some definition and tone to my body, as well as strength.
I need an objective measure of what my body’s doing; my relatives tend to think I’m constantly thinning down, and I tend to think my weight fluctuates more than it does. The objective measure I use are scales. I like watching my weight and keeping it stable; not thin, not overweight. Buy a set of scales and watch your weight on them. Stay within the normal limits of waist-hip ratio/waist circumference(<35in)/BMI* (in order of best measures in terms of health), unless you’re working out and what you’re seeing on the mirror reflects health.
Some people find watching their weight is too much of a psychological issue. If you can accurately estimate where you are in terms of health and don’t have issues in terms of body image, then that’s fine. If you do have issues, then you need to find someone you can trust to help you evaluate where you are.
Lastly, don’t forget to increase your protein intake!
*Some measures are not so good if too much muscle is built up, which can happen and is probably more common in men. The healthy limits can change depending on the constitution given to you making you naturally of a miniscule physique by individual genetics or ethnicity.
ETA: College Slacker has a post up I just noticed on the importance of the gym for guys, and he happens to make the same point about cardio for girls as I did as an aside.
Let me just say that I love the eyecandy at the gym. I love a fit man, and more and more appreciate it as I mature. I don’t think becoming musclebound is always called for and always appreciated by girls, but a certain level of fitness helps.