There are three elements to a woman’s fitness regimen: cardiovascular exercise, proper nutrition and weightlifting. As we move into the holiday season, stress and overeating can take their toll on the body, so it’s wise to develop a routine that is realistic and adjusted to your specific lifestyle needs.
Cardiovascular exercise: Running, fast walking, rowing, elliptical machine, stair master, etc. all fall under this category, as do aerobics classes such as kickboxing, step, and some forms of dance. Anything that elevates your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a consistent period of time is considered cardiovascular activity. No less than thirty minutes a day is recommended.
Nutrition: The three macronutrients, carbohydrates, protein and fat are all vital to a person’s biological function. A healthy diet for the average person should contain a correct balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat. This is a critical component of your lifestyle triage.
- Carbohydrates are the fuel that gives you energy. Carbs have been given a bad rap with all the various low-carb, no-carb diets. The bottom line is, complex, fiber rich carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, whole grain and legumes are vital for your body to run efficiently and provide you with the energy you need for the other two elements of your fitness triage.
- Proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue. Lean sources of protein like fish, meat and beans are important since immune functions, brain functions, joint stability, connective tissue strength, bone strength, and all body movements come from muscle tissue. Proteins ensure that the muscles you exhaust during your weight training are rejuvenated and rebuilt.
- The right kinds of fats, consumed in moderation, don’t make you fat. Excessive calories that become stored because of lack of use is what causes people to become overweight. Small quantities of fat found in olive oil, nuts, avocado and fish are vital to your body. Fat provides your body with insulation for heat, protection of organs and delivery of certain vitamins and minerals.
- Hydration, including adequate amounts of water, is important to your lifestyle triage. Contrary to the popular adage, you don’t require eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Just as with everything else, your body is unique in the amount of hydration it requires. Your best guide is your urine. Dark yellow indicates not enough water, clear indicates just the right amount.
- The United States Department of Agriculture has recently restructured the Food Pyramid making it more dynamic for each individual. You can get your own personalized food pyramid at www.mypyramid.gov, which customizes the pyramid to your gender, age and level of physical activity.
Weight training: This is the critical component that most women neglect. Working with weights is particularly important for women as it helps maintain bone density thereby reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
- Weight training is particularly beneficial because unlike cardiovascular exercise where you stop burning calories the minute you stop exercising, with weights you continue to burn calories long after you’ve finished your last repetition. This is why you should do your weight training first and follow it with abdominal exercises and then hop on your cardio machine of choice. Finish up with ten minutes of stretching the muscles you’ve worked, and you’re on your way to a new you!
- Weight training requires proper form otherwise you will hurt yourself. So if you’ve never worked with weights, invest in personal training sessions with an experienced fitness trainer. Ten sessions with a trainer equips you with enough knowledge to maintain and improve upon your fitness regimen.
Finally, don’t allow yourself to get hung up on the scale. Your body weight fluctuates anywhere between two and five pounds a day depending on how much water you have drunk and the kind of foods you’ve eaten. Just remember, it’s an ongoing lifestyle to maintain a healthy body.