Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Fitness Feng Shui

Fitness Feng Shui

By Randy Zarecki, BS, ACPT, NASM, ASCM

I remember reading about the winner of a mountain bike race being of a higher level of fitness than his competitors a few years back. I’ve also often wondered why Health and Fitness are sometimes combined, as in Health Fitness, yet are, at other times, separated, as in Health and Fitness. Then there’s Functional Fitness, Personal Fitness Training, Fitness Programs, Fitness Tips, and so on.

Quite clearly fitness is a highly overloaded term meaning many different things to different people. So, it seemed appropriate to coin the phrase Fitness Feng Shui to define just what fitness should mean within the context of a holistic approach to life and well-being.

Fitness Feng Shui is as much an art as it is a science. While intimately rooted in physical elements like how you look, and how you feel, or how strong you are, it is as much a state of mind as anything else. While you can measure muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition, cardiovascular condition, and flexibility, Fitness Feng Shui is an attitude … a lifestyle … and a way of living an enriched and enhanced life through regular exercise.

Fitness Feng Shui is a very powerful tool to keep in your life enhancing bag of tricks! Improving how you look can improve your self-esteem, increase your confidence, and, in many cases, open doors that might not otherwise exist. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight with reduced levels of body fat dramatically reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, and many forms of cancer. You can reduce your blood pressure, reduce stress, sleep better, and have better sex with Fitness Feng Shui.

Indeed Fitness Feng Shui is a fundamental element of health and happiness.

Lifestyle Elements:

Fitness Feng Shui is also more of a journey than it is a destination. It’s definitely a state of body, but perhaps even more so, it is a state of mind. It’s about how you think about exercise and fitness: how you plan your week; activity choices you make at home; and how you spend your vacations.

Exercise needs to be scheduled into all of our busy lives, and that exercise appointment with yourself needs to be the most permanent, immovable appointment of your day!

Exercise Elements

The exercise element of Fitness Feng Shui, while elusive to adopt, is straightforward enough. It includes a healthy balance of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, stretching, proper nutrition, and sufficient recovery.

Observation of the exercise community reveals that most of us tend to lean more heavily on one element or another. Runners run run run, and have enhanced cardiovascular systems, but very little muscular strength. Cyclists, notwithstanding the mountain bike race winner mentioned above, do a bit better with enhanced lower body muscular strength development, but tend to have disproportionately smaller and weaker upper bodies.

On the flip side, bodybuilders and other ‘gym rats’ often neglect cardiovascular training, and frequently have very low cardiovascular fitness levels. Yoga students can develop terrific flexibility, but can lack muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness levels.

Fitness Feng Shui then, is the proper combination of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and stretching. But just how much of each is appropriate?

Stretching is something that should be a daily activity. It assists in keeping good skeletal alignment, improved posture, and reduces exercise induced muscular recovery time. It could include a yoga or tai chi session, but doesn’t need to. A highly focused 15 minutes of stretching each morning or evening can be sufficient for most individuals.

Strength training is something that should be performed 2 to 4 times per week. Strength training increases bone density, stabilizes the joints with stronger tendons & ligaments, and enables a more active lifestyle. Focus on large muscle group, and compound exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups for a highly efficient strength training workout. Always spend a minimum of 10 minutes warming up with some low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise, as well as a minimum of 10 minutes warming down after your workout to help flush lactic acid (a byproduct of exercise) from the muscle tissues. A proper warm down also helps begin the recovery phase so that you’re refreshed for your next exercise day.

If you are new to strength training, do seek the advice of a professional. Proper body position, breathing, resistances, and appropriate repetitions can vary significantly from individual to individual. Don’t get injured or struggle with making progress.

You should complete some form of cardiovascular exercise 3 to 5 days per week. Total cardiovascular exercise volume and intensity will be varied on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to safely, effectively, and permanently reach Fitness Feng Shui.

Heart Rate is used almost exclusively for cardiovascular training programs. Heart Rate, the term, is rather self explanatory ... it is quite simply the frequency with which your heart beats, usually expressed in beats per minute (BPM). The fastest it will ever beat is your maximal heart rate. Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) is completely dependent on age and hereditary factors - you simply cannot change it with training.

Heart rate zones are ranges of heart beat rates where the heart, lungs, and circulatory systems convert energy sources to energy uniquely within each range. Between your Maximum Heart Rate (MaxHR) and Ambient Heart Rate (see Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic for Definitions) are four (or five or seven, depending on who you ask) heart rate zones. For our purposes ... to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, reduce stress, reduce body fat, and preserve lean body mass, we use 5 zones in our Prescribed Cardiovascular ProgrammingTM Model.
The challenge with Prescribed Cardiovascular Programming is threefold:
1. Volume (time) needs to be defined and managed to make progress, and burn calories without overtraining;
2. Intensity needs to be sufficiently high to train elevated Heart Rate Zones, yet brief and/or low enough to prevent catabolism (the unfortunate use of lean body mass as an energy source); and
3. Volumes and Intensities need to be adjusted for fitness level, gender, and age

The next best thing to following FT’s Prescribed Cardiovascular Programming is to read, understand, and follow the recommendations in my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic report. But if you merely want some simple guidelines for what a reasonable cardiovascular program should look like, here you are!
Use a Relative Perceived Exertion (RPE) to define Intensity as follows:
10 = The Hardest Thing you’ve ever done and you must stop exercising immediately;
9 = A very, very difficult level, but something you can continue to do for a few seconds;
8= A very difficult exercise level, but something you can continue to do for a few minutes; and
7 = A Somewhat Difficult exercise level, but something you could continue to do for an hour

Each Week, your total Cardiovascular Program should Include:
One or Two Easy, but Longer Duration cardiovascular events: spend 45 to 60 minutes at Level 7
Two Moderately Difficult and Moderately Lengthy Cardio Events: Maintain, alternatively Level 7 and Level 8 intensities between 35 and 45 minutes. Total effort in the Level 8 range should be no more than 10% of the total exercise time. These are rolling hills kinds of things – gradual, slow increases in intensity with longer periods of time in Level 7 in between for ‘rest & recovery’
One day per week you should complete a Shorter Duration, High Intensity effort of about 30 minutes. 60% of the exercise should be Level 7, 15% of the time should be spent at Level 8 Intensity; and 1-3% of the effort at Level 9. These are ‘spikey’, very high intensity exercise bouts like 30 or 60 second all-out sprints or steep hill short hill climbs followed by a rest interval. They should be briefly painful, but not agonizing. Pain Good. Suffering Bad.


No discussion of Fitness Feng Shui would be complete without guidance on recovery. Indeed, what separates weekend warrior athletes from world class athletes is our body’s genetic ability to recover from exercise. World class athletes simply recover more quickly than the rest of us, enabling them to exercise more frequently and more intensely to achieve even greater levels of fitness.

For the rest of us, use performance and pain as your guide. If you’re having an off day on the bike, or a weak day with the weights it’s either because you’re training too hard or not training hard enough. And more often than not, it’s the latter.

Continue to stretch daily, but reduce your strength training from 4 to 3, or 3 to 2 days per week if you’re feeling week. Or, reduce your cardio efforts from 5 to 4 or 3 days per week if steady improvements aren’t made.

Again, if in doubt, check with a Fitness Professional for true Fitness Feng Shui, for "... when the body is fit, the mind will sing!"


Katy said...

I couldn't agree with you more---feng shui fitness is a great approach to holistic health. Keeping our bodies in alignment to Qi energy is just as important as feng shui alignment of our environment.

Feng Shui By Fishgirl

Feng Shui Fitness said...

Be careful to recognize FFS=Fitness Feng Shui and
FSF= Feng Shui Fitness
I agree Body and Environment.
Aloha Geri Ann