What’s more terrifying than being financially audited by the tax office? Having your fitness regimen audited by a personal trainer.
The goal of an audit is to objectively and systematically determine whether you meet fitness requirements.
It means it’s the time to drop a truth bomb on your exercise habits.
And since we’re auditing, let me throw a few numbers at you.
Let’s start with Australia’s physical activity guidelines. These are evidence-based recommendations about how much physical activity you should get every week.
They make three broad suggestions:
- Move more — adults are encouraged to accumulate 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise, or 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity exercise per week, or a combination of both;
- Sit less — we’re told to break up extended periods of sitting;
- Get strong — do muscle strengthening activities (e.g. go to the gym, or do body weight exercises) at least two days per week.
All up, that’s a requirement of five hours of physical activity per week. In case you were wondering, there are 168 hours in a week.
So where are we as a nation right now?
According to the most recent Australian Health Survey, about 70 per cent of Australians don’t move nearly enough.
Less than one in five adults take 10,000 steps per day, which is the minimum amount we need just to function — not to be fit.
But enough numbers. It’s time to find out where you stand, and put a system in place to have you meeting the criteria.
Performing your fitness audit
First: what are you already doing?
It might be confronting to find out you’re not moving enough. But you might be moving more than you think.
Start with the big ticket items. So the group fitness classes, brisk walks, weekend runs with friends, laps at the pool or gym sessions.
Next, think about your incidental exercise, which is often unplanned. Don’t include walking up a single flight of stairs. But do count other activities you might not consider exercise — your bike ride to work, walking the kids to school, playing in the park on the weekend and even vigorous gardening (just be careful not to swing the mattock too hard!).
Next: keep tabs on how much you’re moving throughout the day, every day.
Most smart phones come with apps that will help you track your physical activity, so try using one for a week to get a better idea of what you’re really doing. Another option is to buy a cheap pedometer to track your steps.
Or go old school, and write everything down. If you walk to the shop for ten minutes to get the paper, add that in. Playing soccer in the park for 15 minutes when you get home from work — that also counts. And don’t forget, if you’re really huffing and puffing after you exercise, then you’re likely doing vigorous exercise and that counts for double. So a 10-minute run equals a 20-minute walk.
Then: tally up your minutes to find out what’s really going on.
If you’re nowhere near the mark, don’t panic. Now’s the time to get moving.
Like most things in fitness, I recommend gradually building up your exercise time, rather than trying to go from zero to 100 in one hit. Otherwise, you’ll likely feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel.
Chances are, once you get started and begin to experience the benefits of exercise, you’ll prioritise finding more time in your life for it.
Sometimes the process of doing an audit is enough to help us shift our thinking around activity, and suddenly we start to look for opportunities to move more.
Where is your spare time?
If you work out that you really need to do more, the next step is figuring out how. This will mean overcoming the classic barrier for not exercising — not having enough time.
The truth is, many of us have more time than we realise. So, again, this is going to require you to be honest with yourself.
Where in your day do you have time to do something active?
A simple way I help people find extra time in their day is to break their day into 30 minute blocks. You then look at what you are doing in each block.
Often people are surprised to find they have more time than they realised. There’s often at least one period of 30 minutes in their day where they’re not doing anything. I tell them to fill that time with something active.
Next, think carefully about all the time during your day when you’re ‘busy’. How many of those minutes are you actually just wasting time? Be totally honest here — remember, you’re being audited.
What you’re looking for are any times you might be able to fit in some exercise. All these sessions of 30 minutes add up, so over the course of the week, you’re getting close to what’s recommended in the guidelines.
What systems can you put in place to free up more time?
- Do Sunday meal preparation so you can exercise after work, instead of going home to cook dinner;
- Organise with the boss to take a slightly longer lunch break 2-3 times a week and either stay back later/start earlier, so you can exercise during the day;
- Record your favourite shows during the week and binge-watch them on the weekend;
- Wake up 30 minutes earlier every morning.
Finding your exercise
Once you’ve carved out your exercise minutes, it’s time to choose what to do. That’ll depend on your budget, location and schedule.
Also try and find things you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be running, it might be a dance class or Tai Chi.
Whatever your circumstance, there are plenty of options and going for variety can help stop boredom. The other advantage of doing a few different things is that you’re likely to be working different parts of your body and developing different types of fitness.
I also recommend going with the most convenient option. Give yourself as little wiggle room to make excuses as possible.
Sure, if you’ve got hours to kill, get in the car and drive to the gym. But if it’s early in the morning and you’ve only got 30 minutes, roll out of bed and go for a fast walk. If you allow your brain to get involved, all sorts of bad can happen.
Also let your time determine the form of exercise you do. For example, if you’ve only got 20-30 minutes, do something vigorous that really gets your heart rate up. Make your session short and sharp.
Do what you want, but always do these things
Walk. It’s a fantastic form of low-impact exercise. If you’re someone with a lot of injuries — especially hips and ankles — walking is a great way to get your heart rate up and get moving.
You also need to include two muscle-building activities each week. If you aren’t at a gym, bodyweight exercises are fantastic: squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and hip extensions.
Finally, lying on the couch is very important. Especially if you’re someone who’s quite into fitness, you need to give yourself a chance to recover.
Cassie White is a Sydney-based personal trainer, yoga coach and health journalist.
6 February 2017 | 4:36 am
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