During U.S. Marine Corps boot camp at Parris Island, SC, our Senior Drill Instructor used to make us do “bends & thrusts”, also known as squat thrusters. We would do these until we literally until we lost our lunches. Sorry, as I know that doesn’t paint a pretty picture, especially when it involves the majority of a 75 man USMC recruit platoon. He absolutely reveled in yelling at us in that raspy, throaty, guttural voice that only a United States Marine Corps Drill Instructor is allowed to own, “OK, you little worms, bends & thrusts until I GET TIRED…UNDERSTAND ME?…BEGIN!!!” (strong emphasis on the word “I” and “begin”). In unison we would reply “Sir, yes Sir!” Then, the enjoyment commenced. To do bends & thrusts, you start in a standing position, squat down into a frog stance on all fours, throw your legs behind you into a push-up position, bring your legs up and back into the frog stance then stand up. Doesn’t sound too difficult, huh? Try 10 or 15 of ‘em. Doing these for a mere 5 minutes seemed like we had been doing them for a week straight. When he was really angry with us for any one of a myriad of screw-ups that only a “scum of the earth” recruit could commit (that was just one of his pet names for us), he would add push-ups and jumps in the mix. He called them “fun and games.” All this occurred a little less than 40 years ago…and I still wake up in a cold sweat when I have nightmares about Parris Island.
All these “fun and games” taught me quite a valuable lesson though. No, not the one that I was insane for enlisting in the Marine Corps. It taught me the invaluable lesson of the trying to keep my body as fit as I can. I came home from boot camp a “lean, green, fighting machine”, ready to do the work that Uncle Sam had so painstakingly prepared me to do. Although today however, I may not be as lean and mean, but I still realize the importance of keeping in shape. In this season of holiday cookies, cakes, pastries and fatty carb loaded foods designed to put you into a semi-catatonic state of couch hibernation, lifting a weight or getting our heart rates up is usually relegated to 12 ounce curls or walking around the mall.
Before moving to Colorado, I worked in a large health club as a personal trainer in southern New Jersey and I know this is the time of year that folks start to think…”Yeah, starting January 1st, I’m gonna’ start exercising.” And, I also know that by Valentine’s Day, the majority of folks who even start an exercise regimen have long fallen off the fitness wagon. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. While I’m well aware that this is the veritable dead horse that has been so badly beaten, I know that with a little effort, we can achieve a decent level of fitness.
So, for the sake of keeping this essay relatively short, I’m going to start with the very basics of fitness and expound on intermediate and advanced fitness work in a later blog. Fitness involves two things, cardiovascular or “cardio” (heart) fitness and muscular/core fitness. Obviously nutrition is involved, but later for that too.
OK, let’s begin here, generally in this order:
1. If you haven’t exercised in a while or are unsure of your physical condition, see your doctor first before starting an exercise program (yeah, I guess that’s about as good a disclaimer as I can give).
2. Commit to setting aside a half hour to an hour of your day for exercising and GO SLOW AT FIRST! Yes, that’s right…a half hour to an hour. Take time from Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy and train your body!
3. If you are a beginner, that’s great! I suggest joining a gym and hiring a personal trainer. You’ll be glad you did so you can learn the proper techniques and not waste your time. No gym near you? Buy some dumbbells (5, 10 & 15 lbs. sets to start) and a good training book or two and begin training, (again, plenty of good info on the ‘net).
4. You’ll want to get your heart rate up, (again, slowly at first). The mantra is “heart rate up, heart rate down.” Start to take walks and allow your heart to adjust to the changes. Learn about your target heart rate during exercise. This is important. There are a ton of websites you can research, just google “target heart rate” and check them out. Work within your THR.
5. Weight training…critically important. If you don’t know how, then learn. If you do know how, then get back to it. Our bodies’ muscle mass greatly depletes over time if they’re not trained, but with some knowledge, initiative and work…you can slow that process down significantly.
6. Lastly, mindset. Don’t think of yourself as “working out”, think of yourself as “training”. I equate working out as using the gym for meeting people and socializing between sets and reps. What usually happens is that you work out for a few seconds and socialize for 10 minutes…then repeat. Training is much different. When you have a training mindset, you’re telling your body it’s time to get to work. You have a goal and nothing is going to stand in your way. It’s time to TRAIN!!!
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’d really love to hear your feedback.
You can also click on the Fitness link on the homepage and it’ll take you to a site called CrossFit, (www.crossfit.com). I have been “crossfitting” for over 7 years and it has changed the way I look at fitness. Once you become comfortable with your training regimen, I encourage you to check out CrossFit. Or, check it out anytime…just go to the left hand side of their site where it says “Start Here!.”
Now, let’s get off our duffs and get training, starting today!!! (Or, it’ll be bends & thrusts for you until I get tired!!!)