Ideally, no one fits perfectly into one body type or another and its possible to switch body types with proper training and diet or impulsive eating and slobbery. It’s possible to get to your ideal body type if we are realistic about it and have proper training and dieting. But to be realistic we should realise that an ectomorph can’t possibly gain more muscle than a mesomorph but might have better cardiovascular ability due to a smaller frame while a pure endomorph can’t expect to be slimmer than an ectomorph due to larger bones as well as a greater propensity to put on fat.
But that doesn’t mean we stop trying to get as close to our desired body type by force of will as well as proper knowledge. Its always the journey and not the destination, so if your only goal is to get the body you want from the magazines, your chances are slimmer than one who would set goals so that he would reach his own potential and along the way overcome challenges and being a better person for it. In essence, its not about having a better body but being better.
So let’s get down to the technicals.
There’s alot of literature about exercises and muscles. Alot of it is very technical and not very intuitive and practical (I guess that’s the academic side of fitness). Basically to understand your goals we do need to understand muscles (or lack thereof). There are 3 kinds of muscles, rated by resistance to fatigues. There’s the red type, which is capable of strength but not very sustained strength release and the white type that is highly fatigue resistant but not capable of strength release as well as a mix of both which is the third type.
Jogging is the BEST ?
It is well understood that to create a leaner body, cardiovascular exercises should be employed. Among people who have basic knowledge of fitness or even people who have been training by themselves for years, they believe that the body would switch into fat burning mode very quickly. It is well known that the body switches to fat burning mode 20-30 minutes into an exercise.
During such exercises, 50-60% of the energy comes from fats with carbohydrates are used during the first 5-20 minutes of exercise. There is approximately a 7 fold increase of fat mobilization after 1 hour of exercise. So intuitively people use this as the main form of exercise they know and avoid resistance training or bodyweight training.
But jogging should not be the sole form of exercise in any way. Alot of people become hardcore in their belief that jogging is the best way to lose fat, wrong. Just as your muscles adapt to weight training initially by getting stronger, your body would adapt to a point when it becomes efficient and less muscles are recruited.
Same for cardio, when your body becomes an efficient fat burning machine after progressive of cardio training, so you will find that to burn the same amount of fat, you need to run longer distances. That’s when injury and giving up comes in. You dont want that.
So what next ? Hit the gym ?
No, but exercise with variety. An hour long jog is usually very refreshing but after a while it gets monotonous. I believe in selecting the best group of exercises that would help you achieve your goals. It is well known that intensity interval training is optimal, like crossfit and boot camps (see article here about the 24-48 hour metabolism boost after an intense workout). But a sure ticket to get injured and unmotivated is to try to go beyond your normal threshold of exercise. Ever felt the extreme muscle aches that occur after a long session of exercise that last for days? Its highly de-motivational and a sure way to give up by doing more than your body can take. So be sensible.
A good way to exercise is to build up form a low base and finish strong. We all want this to be a lifestyle we can keep up with not a pain we put up with. Variety is key, we need to match up exercises, alot of people are either only pro yoga or pro gym or pro cardio. Its often best that we learn from all disciplines so that we can string together a sensible workout.
A cardio program is good not only for the fat burn but for the benefits for the heart as well as in oxygenating your blood and keeping you alert. Muscles are the metabolic furnace that fat is burnt, and resistance training builds both muscles as well as strengthen ligaments tendons and bones. Flexibility helps in muscle recover and grace and dexterity (preventing you form being muscle bound) it also aids greatly in injury prevention.
You got to mix and match
A good idea is mixing in cardiovascular exercises with weight training exercises. Many people mistake the idea of cardiovascular exercises as an hour runs and weightlifting as heavy bench presses and alot of grunt work. Basically anything that you can’t do for more than one minute is resistance training, this includes bodyweight exercises and weight training exercises. Medium intensity would be something in the region of 1-5 minutes (i.e. moderate sprint) while cardio vascular would lie in the region of about 20 minutes (i.e. a long jog).
So a reasonable workout would be one that incorporates a good deal of all three while focusing on upper and lower body work. An example for someone starting out would be a 20 min brisk walk (which is good enough for cardio for some people), 3 sets of 20 push ups , incline pull ups and bodyweight squats as well as a 5 minute of hard swimming and stretching.
It could be anything, including a group exercise class with varying levels of intensity and stretches at the end or an interval run. This is so that your body would not be accustomed and would continuously adapt and improve to remain at a optimal level of health.
Exercise progressively with variety
This is a good way to keep motivated, progression is key in training, so if you see yourself make progress, make it sustainable in the long run. Always start slow, if a 20 minute jog leaves you half-dead and panting, it would be reasonable to use a brisk walk instead. There is no point going to the gym and stacking on weights if you can’t execute a proper pull up. So we need to learn a large variety of exercises and constantly find alternatives so that you can benchmark and make progressive improvements.
Most importantly, exercising is not just to look good, but the act of constantly improving some aspect of our lives makes pounding the pavement and hitting the gym more meaningful. To improve and to create a body that is healthy is a great reward in itself.
Here are some sites you might find useful , with my commentary
Bodybuilding.com – If you are looking for good advice with gym training as well as supplementation. This site has one of the largest forums available, with some serious experts around and some very good articles. Some articles can get underground with mention of anabolic steroids and blood doping. But there’s a trove of knowledge for those willing to sift through the excyclopedic information , be it for the newbie, creating a recreational physique or competing at the highest levels of muscularity.
Livestrong.com – Who else to advise you on cardio and dieting and good articles other than Mr Cardio, Lance Armstrong himself (Cycling, Ironman and Marathons). Sensible and inspirational advice with professional writers and a nice and easy to navigate layout.
Runners World – Another solid site on running tips and tricks. One of the most popular exercise since 10 000 BC .
Yogajournal.com – Easy to navigate site with a wealth of information. And a build it yourself, pose by pose yoga sequence builder. There’s alot of practical tips and newsletters and a live magazine. Comprehensive, though I would just go through the articles and poses which are a handful by itself.
Bodyrocktv.tv – Impossible fit people doing callisthenics (bombastic-ism for bodyweight exercises). Good repertoire of exercises which are relatively high in intensity.
Peanutbutterrunner.com – Not a real nutritionist site, but chokeful of ideas that you can prepare a healthy as well as nutritious and tasty meal on the run. Well taken pictures that will make you hungry to eat right as well as healthy (green) smoothie mixes.
hpb.gov.sg – A health promotion board chock-full of qualified and professional information, from the calories in your meals to various ailments and ways to lead a healthy life. (Check out the I Quit – campaign which is to encourage smokers to quite smoking).
- Remove the word fat from your life: Work out to lose your fat (stacyknows.com)
- My New Workout Routine (fitnessknowsnolimits.com)
- Does Flabbiness Come With Aging? (everydayhealth.com)
- Five Ways to Burn More Fat & Tone Muscle With Weight Training (bryantharper.wordpress.com)