As many people are beginning their transition to a fitness lifestyle, I think a brief discussion on the basics of exercise may help those that may be unsure on how to start. First understand that we can often try to turn simple things into complicated ones. The human body is a rather efficient machine with the primary purpose of protecting itself. In fact, almost everything it does is done with this purpose.
While we hate the fact that we put on fat, we should all understand that the body views fat as an energy source which is stored for times of upcoming famine. It holds fat to protect itself. The same can be said about the amount of muscle each of us holds. The body wants to keep as much muscle as it needs to accomplish what it sees as it’s daily duties, but no more. This is because the body is always in safety mode, so added muscle is essentially frowned upon. This is due to the fact that muscle burns calories while fat doesn’t. Again, it is concerned with an upcoming famine.
So, knowing this, it is important to “trick” the body into believing it needs to continue to improve. For instance, if we start to jog and get tired, but continue to push, our body will want to protect itself. Therefore, our cardiovascular system gets more efficient. The same is true when building muscle. When the body is used to curling 8 pound dumbbells, and you suddenly push yourself and curl 10’s the body views the new work as a threat. The heavier weights cause micro-trauma to the muscle in the form of slight tears. The body, again protecting itself, then rebuilds what was damaged and then allows itself to grow a little so that the 10 lb dumbbells are the new norm.
This is a generalized explanation of how exercise allows us to grow stronger. Knowing this, you can see why simply doing the same routine over and over eventually will stop producing gains. Your body has simply adjusted to this new norm so it has no reason to improve. Push yourself to new growth. As you train, add techniques that make things harder. Slower reps, or heavier weights are simple ways to make things more difficult. Changing from steady state cardio to intervals can force new growth. Change is good, and necessary!
While this explanation may be over simplified, I hope it shows how important it is to push yourself. New muscle means a revved up metabolism, and pushing yourself during cardio means more calories burned. Coupled with a slight restriction in diet, this means that some of the fuel required for all the added exercise will require the use of stored body fat.
While a wonderfully complicated machine, the body does respond in predictable ways. Knowing how to manipulate it, however, will yield results. Now, go ahead and “trick” yourself into being lean and mean!