Create a Fitness Program that Works for You

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Style Has to do with how you exercise. The type of exercise you choose will have the most influence on whether you stick to your program or not.

Personally, I hate the treadmill. Put me outside, though, and I enjoy the challenge of watching traffic, going up hills and actually going someplace. On a treadmill, I hope to last 20 minutes. Outside, I can run 40 minutes or more without giving it a second thought.

You have to find something you enjoy. In my book Finally FIT! (Siloam), I offer advice that will help you find the right style of exercise for your unique temperament and personality.

I was never a big weightlifting fan until I learned why it was so very important for me to incorporate it into my fitness program. You do it not to be buff but to have strong bones.

Our bones are designed for normal movement, but they need to grow stronger, more dense. This happens only when they're acted on by the muscles pulling on them.

Osteoporosis is a result of weak bones. If you do not have weight-bearing exercise in your life, your bones will be weak.

Calcium is certainly necessary for our bone health, but density comes from resistance training. When we add resistance to our muscles and make them pull harder against the bones, the bones are forced to get thicker and more dense.

Frequency. If you want a maintenance program for healthy bones, doing resistance training one or two times a week is plenty when combined with three to five cardio exercise days. You should allow 48 hours between weight-training days.

Resistance training breaks down the tissue in the muscle so that it can be made stronger. To grow, muscle tissues need to be broken into more pieces (multiplying) so that when they combine, you have more tissue than when you started.

That's why you get sore after you work out, but with a proper cool-down and stretch, you shouldn't truly hurt. If at any time you begin to hurt, stop.

Intensity You don't have to lift hundreds of pounds to get the results you seek, but you do need to lift properly. Ever see someone at the gym just belting out his reps (repetitions) at warp speed?

If he slowed down his reps and lifted properly, he would most likely need to decrease his weights. His muscles would not be strong enough to handle the full load since he's been working only one phase of the muscle contraction process.

As you lift, the muscle shortens. The "pull" enables you to lift the weight. You are moving against gravity, overcoming it.

But it is typically the "release" of the lift when you have to be most careful of not going too fast. Your muscle will want to let the weight down quickly, but the slower you release it, the more you are working the muscle.

Breathing out on the pull will give you power by releasing oxygen into the muscle. It also slows you down and helps you resist the temptation to pull up quickly. Breathing in on the release provides oxygen to the required part of your body.

Time This is where reps come into play. A rep is the number of times you perform the exercise.

Your fitness goal will determine the number of reps you complete. Those who want to create healthy bones will use lighter weights and will benefit from 12 reps, two times, which equals two "sets." Someone who wants to build muscle mass and develop muscle definition will lift heavier weights for three sets of 10 reps each.

Style Your temperament will greatly impact the style of weight resistance that will work best for you. Free weights (handheld) are easy to use and can be purchased and used at home. To use weight machines you'll probably need to join a gym.

However, free weights are more dangerous than weight machines. Weight machines assist you in regulating the pressure and force you to perform the exercise in a certain manner.

With free weights you are required to use more of your core muscles to stabilize yourself than on a machine. If your posture isn't good when you lift, you could hurt your back. If you use good form, then you are building core muscle strength, and we all need more of that.

No matter what type of resistance program you select, you need to ensure that you are eating enough protein and drinking plenty of water. Eliminate these, and you could damage your muscles.

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