There are many ways to get into better shape and there are many more reasons it is a good idea to do so. If you are thinking about starting a fitness program I would like offer you some perspective from 35 years of experience training and over 20 years of training others.
Let’s say you like running and you used to run an easy 5 km a week. You are recovering from an unfortunate brush with chronic disease and want to get back into shape. You follow your inspiration and begin with running 2 km every 3 days and then 3 km every 3 days and gradually work your way up to a challenging 5 km twice a week. Way to go champ!
This is what I would call training. You have a specific goal, you change your lifestyle, work your ass off (literally sometimes) and you reach your goal. Again, good job! Let’s say you continue to run 5 km every week for another 10 weeks. I would call that exercise. Exercise is defined by developing a skill, a level of strength or a level of endurance that eventually become an innate function of your body. That takes a minimum of 10 weeks, a phenomenon I address in the article “Why 10 Weeks of Treatments or Training?”
Once you can run 5 km a week consistently without any real strain on your body it has become movement. And movement is essential to health. It is less demanding on your body and may be the best place to start if you are just beginning to get back into shape. For most of us who are recovering our health a 5 km walk is big enough challenge. The point is to recognize if you are going from training, to exercise to movement or starting with movement (things you can do with little or no strain) and gradually getting into some appropriate exercise and when you are ready to commit, start training. Movement is easier on the body but can be less of a transformational influence when it comes to helping your body heal. It depends on where you are at.
When I work with people who have significant health challenges, which is mostly what I do, my first goal is to help them change their metabolism from “getting worse” to “getting better”. Once there is consistent positive momentum with most aspects of their physiology and symptoms my goal is to get them into movement and, as soon as it seems wise, I ask them to consider getting into some training. For most people, that includes a strict diet, scheduled and committed treatments, scheduled and committed sessions of resistance training (mild or intense, but consistent) and a commitment to exploring relaxation practices like Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga and meditation. For some of my patients I encourage a certain amount of Cardio. In my experience complete recovery from disease is essential before engaging in any serious Cardio like a marathon.
Being “in training” is, honestly, mostly about focusing one’s emotional energy into a sense of motivation and meaning. Imagine choosing a path of healthy eating, regular support and mentoring and challenging yourself to transforming your physiology, symptoms and physicality towards consistent better health. That path will require exercising your body, mind and emotional highs and lows until your life is full of a lot of positive movement and momentum.
I hope this has given some perspective on where to start at getting into better shape. As always I look forward to your comments and questions.
Cook Well, Eat Well and Be Well!