The days of ‘no pain, no gain’ are over

The two most common questions personal trainers hear are: “How much exercise should I get?” and “How long should I work out?” The answers aren’t easy, because they vary with each individual.  

As a general rule, you should move more. But just moving isn’t enough, and it might not get you where you want to go. You need to use the right muscles in the right way.

How much activity?

The days of  “no pain, no gain” are over. Pain is the body’s way of telling you have done too much. Similarly, getting your heart pumping so hard that you can feel it beating is also not recommended. The body is not meant to sustain such harsh pressures.

So what should you do? When something starts to hurt: stop – unless otherwise directed by a qualified professional. You should also stop when you can no longer control the activity you are doing; i.e., when you are running and your feet are no longer in their normal stride position or when you are lifting weights with your whole body instead of the intended muscle.

What type of exercise is best? Here are some general guidelines for three types of people:

1. Performance athletes

Looking to increase raw strength? Concentrate on load-bearing exercises and not repetitive ones. Want to increase speed or distance? Focus on high-endurance activities such as distance swimming and running or long-duration activities like riding a bicycle. But remember, no matter what you are doing, you must have the right form. It’s not practice that makes perfect but perfect practice that makes perfect. There’s a reason why professional teams have trainers.

2. People who need toning and shaping up

Most of the people we see at Advanced Training fall into this category. The first step is to determine why you aren’t toned. It might be that your body has too much fat. Or, if you aren’t fat, it might be that the muscles aren’t tight enough to your frame. You will need a balanced program that combines high-calorie-burning exercise with load-bearing activity, ideally customized specifically for you.

3. People who have lost functionality

If you can no longer do what you used to do – whether from injury, illness, aging or a sedentary lifestyle  – it’s easy to become frustrated. Don’t think about what you used to be able to do, focus on where you want to go and don’t look back. Exercises to restore function need to be highly specific, structured and supervised to teach the body how to function under new conditions. That’s why doctors send you to physical therapy. But because insurance doesn’t always allow you enough time to completely recover, you usually end up with a sheet of exercises to do on your own. Exercise without supervision in these cases is risky. This is the time to seek professional help.