How To Be Fitter Faster

I was fit early in my life. Then, not fit for many years. And now, back fit again. When I returned to fitness, I also became passionate about the importance of leaders creating an environment for health and wellness in the workplace.

The first step to doing that, however, is to become fit yourself. If you need help with that, there's a terrific new book, published this month, that will help you achieve your fitness goals. It's called, Fitter Faster; authored by health journalist and runner Robert J. Davis and personal trainer Brad Kolowich, Jr.

If you are already fit, this book is also good for you. That's because the authors answer the most asked questions by even experienced athletes and fitness buffs.

Overall, within the book's four parts, you'll learn:
  • How to motivate yourself to exercise
  • What you need to know about aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching
  • What to eat and how to prevent pain
  • The workouts to help you get fit fast

Robert J. Davis

Today, author Davis answered the following questions for me:

Question: Why do so many people find it so difficult to exercise? What are some of the biggest barriers?

Davis: For most people, the biggest barrier is too little time. The official fitness recommendations are at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week for aerobic exercise plus two or three days a week for strength training plus two or three days for stretching exercises — all of which require more time than most of us have. In Fitter Faster, we help readers overcome this barrier with exercise routines that take as little as 15 minutes a day and have benefits that are equal to, or even greater than, those from much longer workouts.

Another barrier is that many of us don’t like to exercise. But there are a number of ways to make it more enjoyable, which we discuss in the book. For starters, there’s no need to force yourself to run on a treadmill (or run at all), for example, if that’s not your thing. Instead, choose activities you enjoy, whether hiking, dancing, tennis, yoga, or something else. Exercising outdoors whenever possible can increase enjoyment. Ditto for using fitness apps that turn exercise into a game, or listening to music while you work out. And exercising with a buddy or joining a fitness group or class can make the experience more fun.

A third barrier is boredom— getting sick of doing the same exercises. Mixing things up with a different routine every day, which we do in Fitter Faster, can greatly reduce the drudgery. Plus you get greater benefits when you vary the types of exercise (e.g aerobic, strength, plyometric or jumping exercises) as we do.

Finally, there's intimidation. Not knowing what exercises to do or how to do them can keep people from exercising. In Fitter Faster, we have easy-to-follow routines for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels, with descriptions and photos for each exercise. In addition, some people find gyms intimidating. Our workouts can be done at home or outdoors and require little or no equipment.

Question: What are some additional benefits of exercise that people might find surprising?

Davis: Among the many benefits are these five:
  1.  Sleep more soundly. Studies show that regular exercise is comparable to sleep medication in improving the ability to fall asleep, as well as sleep duration and quality.
  2. Catch fewer colds. Regular exercisers are less likely to catch colds than non-exercisers. And when they do get sick, they tend to have fewer and less severe symptoms.
  3. Avoid back pain. Research shows that all types of exercise (whether aerobic, strength, or flexibility) are more effective at preventing back pain than common measures such as back belts or shoe insoles. Exercise also reduces the number of missed work days due to the condition.
  4. Preserve your eyesight. People who are physically active have a lower risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss.
  5. Protect your hearing. Those who work out regularly have a lower risk of hearing loss.  Research has also linked higher fitness levels with better hearing. (Just be sure not to blast music too loudly on your iPod when you work out, which can have the opposite effect.)

Question: Would you offer an example of how the Fitter Faster plan can be adapted to different personal preferences, as well as for people of different fitness levels?

Davis: Our plan includes high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, in which you go hard, then easy, hard, then easy, and so on (rather than exercising at the same moderate intensity for, say, 30 minutes). The interval lengths vary depending on your fitness level. For example, if you’re a beginner, you might walk as quickly as you can for 15 seconds and then walk at a moderate pace for 45 seconds.  And then repeat the cycle. If, however, you’re an advanced exerciser, you might sprint for 60 seconds and then jog at a moderate pace for 30 seconds. If you don’t like to walk or jog, you can do a number of different activities such as rowing, stair climbing, or riding a stationary bike, with the interval lengths and intensities varying according to your fitness level.

Question: What are some of the best ways a leader in a business can create a culture of health and wellness within his/her workplace?

Davis: In Fitter Faster, we talk about the power of rewards, especially financial ones.  Research shows that offering workers money as a reward makes them more likely to exercise and stick with it. The incentive appears to be especially effective if the funds are put into an account and then taken away if the person fails to achieve his or her goal. This is based on a principle known as loss aversion: As much as we love receiving money, we hate losing it even more. The money can be put up by the company or the employee (or a combination). In one study, workers at a large company who made fitness commitments backed by their own funds went to the gym 50 percent more often than those who didn’t have this incentive.

Brad Kolowich, Jr.

Thank you to the book's publisher for sending me an advance copy of the book.


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