Since my graduation from university, I have picked up a routine to visit the gym on a regular basis, starting from 2 times a week, to the current 5 times a week. The gradual progression took place over a span of 1.5 years as I learnt more about my body.
I started off in my school gym during my undergrad days, doing regular cardio (running), just to keep my mind sharp and efficient during intensive school semesters. I tried my best to maintain a twice weekly routine, even during the intensive “hell weeks”, where we had presentations and report submissions for most of our 4-5 modules for that semester.
By maintaining some form of exercise, I have experienced first hand, the reduction in the number of sleeping hours required before I feel rested for the next day. Admittedly during school semesters, sleep was never sufficient, but exercising reduces my mind’s demand for sleep. Without exercise, I will definitely need 7-8 hours of rest before I felt awake. However, with regular exercise, I was able to get by with just 6-7 hours of rest. Secondly, or as a result of this, I needed less caffeine to get through the day.
Benefit 1: Rest efficiency improves.
As I neared graduation, I learnt about the benefits of weight lifting. Lifting weights triggers bone density growth and muscle growth. This has two major benefits: 1) Stronger bones reduces the probability of breaking upon impact. As we grow older, bone loses calcium and density, making them more brittle. Any impact from any falls will increase the chances of a fracture, which is best avoided in old age. 2) More muscles gives me more strength and raises my basal metabolic rate (BMR). Strength, if built appropriately, can improve my posture and stability. BMR will help burn calories when idle, and such increases can help offset a general reduction in BMR brought about by ageing.
Benefit 2: Stronger bones, preparation for old age.
Benefit 3: Higher BMR, burning more calories at rest.
With this context in mind, I searched the web for an efficient and effective set of exercises and started myself on an adapted (simplified due to limited access to the required equipment) version of the StrongLifts 5x5 workout.
It was tough in the beginning as I was extremely new to free-weight workouts, as opposed to the guided movements provided by the resistance machines. Free movement has an added benefit of training auxiliary muscles that work to provide stability. For the greatest benefit, I’ll always opt for free-weight workouts.
Around the same time, I began to have a greater appreciation over my diet and the macro nutrients that I consume on a daily basis. I picked up the basics of a balanced diet and the required nutrients to support strength training.
With ever slight adjustments and improvements to my diet, coupled with exercise, I managed to slowly increase my weight, without increasing my waist size.
While I’ve seen the hype over group fitness (GX) classes held in the gyms, I had always been skeptical over its effectiveness. Fast-forward to the weeks leading to my graduation, I was introduced to a GX programme, BodyPump, by a friend.
I was hooked.
Strength training, checked. Light-cardio, checked. Good music, checked. Self-paced, checked. The group nature of the exercise class makes it easier and more motivating to attend and complete the full 60 minutes of it.
The hardest element of keeping fit is the intrinsic motivation. When it gets boring, tough, and painful, most people would not want to repeat the experience again; but with all things fitness, no pain, no gain.
I think the most sustainable way of keeping fit and being ready for old age is to find 1-2 friends to keep doing an activity or a few activities together regularly, like a routine, that meets all the fitness criteria and goals.
In a subsequent post, I shall write about my experience with Yoga.
In the meantime, stay fit, stay healthy!