(Re)Defining Fitness – The Fitness Recipe

Me: What is your current workout like?

Client: Some cardio. Then some weights and then abs.

Just so we’re clear – that answer means nothing to anyone who knows anything about fitness. So I ask the client to explain his/her routine in a little more detail and this what I get every single time.

Routine –

  • Mon-Wed-Fri – Weights + cardio for 30-40 min
  • Tue-Thu-Sat – Cardio for 60-90 min
  • Abs – 3-5 days a week.

Cardio = Elliptical machine or treadmill or stepper

Weights = Machine exercises (chest press, pec dec, rows, leg extensions, leg curls etc.), bicep curls,tricep pushdowns

Abs = Situps, crunches, side crunches, cycles, leg raises and everything else that works the abs!

I have one advice for you… stop freakin kidding yourself!

The Recipe:

You have got to start looking as fitness as a product! For the most part, fitness, like anything else, obeys some basic laws. Ya know, something like consistent effort + good nutrition + recovery = results.

So  if you have been working out consistently for a while but haven’t got the results you are looking for, you have the recipe to blame.  While I need much more information to figure out what exactly is wrong, I’m pretty sure it is one (or more) of the following.

  • The ingredients
  • The quality of ingredients
  • The prep
  • The procedure
  • The cooking time

The Ingredients:

If A + B + C = D, you need A, B and C to get D.

Let’s take the example of a cake. For a basic cake you need sugar, butter, flour and eggs. Each one of these ingredients play an indipensible role and you can’t really do without any one of these. Similarly, for general fitness you NEED the following.

  • Strength training
  • Endurance training (aerobic and anaerobic)
  • Mobility work
  • Rest

Sure, you can make the cake more fancy by adding in other stuff and/or by varying the proportions of the different ingredients, but you ain’t going no where without the basic “necessary” ingredients.

Bottom line – Get your basics right. Include full body strength training, endurance training and mobility drills in your workouts.

But what about abs you ask… read this awesome post by Arvind to know everything about abs I say!

The Quality:

Low quality ingredients = Crappy product

Pretty simple logic really. It doesn’t matter how cutting edge everything else is, but if your ingredients are crap, your product will be sub par. So quality of ingredients is paramount!

You know how, more often than not, good quality ingredients cost more? Similarly, a good exercise uses as many muscles as possible, forces you to move in as many planes as possible and hence is metabolically more demanding than other low quality exercises. For strength training, this means squats instead of leg press, pushups or dumbbell presses instead of pec dec and pullups or inverted rows instead of lat pulldowns. And for endurance training? Same deal! Stop watching TV and get off the damn elliptical machine. Go out and run a 10k or do some 800 m repeats instead. You dig?

Bottom line – When choosing an exercise, choose the best there is!

The Prep:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Decide which days you want to workout, where and what time. Put it on your calender like you will when you schedule a meeting. As a bonus, find a friend/colleague/stranger who plans on working out around the same time and has similar goals.

Bottom line – Plan your workouts!

The Procedure:

Get in. Do your thing. Get out.

If you did all the previous steps right, you should find yourself in the gym/training area by now. Sure I can write a 5000 word blog post talking about training but let’s save that for another day. For now I’ll just say – at this point it is just a matter of actually doing the workout!  Simple… not easy… but simple.

Bottom line – Look away from the TV. Throw out your cellphone. Stay in the moment. Focus. Give it your best effort. Nothing more nothing less.

The Cooking:

Meat or muscle… you’ve got to let it rest if you want the best!

If you have been eating right and training consistently and smart, but you’re not still not seeing results, there is only one missing piece to this puzzle – Recovery. Any kind of exercise induced adaptation happens away from the gym. Be it muscle growth or neuromuscular coordination or endurance, rest and recovery determine how well your body responds to the stimulus it has been provided.

Bottom line – Chill out on rest days. Let your body do it’s thing!

Like everything else, fitness too has a recipe. Do the right things in the right order at the right time and you will get the results you desire.

Peace out!

10 responses to “(Re)Defining Fitness – The Fitness Recipe

  1. Linda April 14, 2011 at 3:43 am

    “Basic Fitness” is not much of a goal when deciding which cake to bake. I would add that a very important 1st step is to define goals – decide the cake 1st. Otherwise, success may be hindered before you leave the grocery aisle (to keep w/the analogy.)

  2. anand srivastava April 14, 2011 at 7:13 am

    I think you missed a quality diet in the fitness regime. Without that there will be no recovery. I know you know this, but I just meant that the recipe outlined is not complete. Ofcourse you could have just pointed out that read other articles on the site for food info. But as part of recipe it is required.

    • RG April 15, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Nutrition is always a key factor. Did not want to get into that here. After all we see people eating crap and still staying fit dont we? 😉

  3. Rob Flanders April 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Another great post Raj. It’s amazing how people think that they are keeping fit by wearing the latest trainers and fine tuning their workout face in the mirror? “If it’s the latest craze it must be good”. They put so much effort into buying the must have accessories . If this effort was redirected to defining their goals and then setting out on a journey where they put 120% concentration and effort into their workouts and nutrition they would be feeling great with True results!!

  4. Arunima April 15, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Thanks for the detailed post Raj !
    Could you please elaborate a bit on what mobility encompasses. Wouldn’t endurance training include mobility or do I understand endurance wrong( sprints or short interval cardio) ?

    • RG April 15, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Arunima – Mobility is training your joints to be mobile. This isn’t stretching.

      And endurance training, if done with a legit coach, should include mobility work. But most people don’t do enough or any mobility work. Ever seen a distance runner who can’t touch his feet? Wonder why? Lack of mobility work!

      I have a more detailed post on mobility coming up.

  5. Bea April 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Excellent post…. I get to see lots of areas where I am getting it wrong. I am going to re- read this a couple of time or perhaps more. .
    Thanks so much for this brilliant post RG.

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