It’s easy to ‘get’ that exercise is good for us.
That our wellness, longevity and vitality is positively affected by exercise. But then it gets complicated when we start looking for what exercise we ‘ought’ to do. Which exercise suits our lifestyle and personality. And most importantly, finding something that we can motivate ourselves to actually do.
24/7 gyms work really really well for some people.
They are super affordable and generally well set up with weights machines and cardio equipment. Inbuilt in the easy access, low-cost model is user accountability and self-management. In other words, you make sure you show up and you manage your own training. Not surprisingly, the people who get the most out of these gyms have a history of training and an established exercise habit. If you grew up playing sport, doing weights or cardio training then these gyms work for you. You ‘get’ the habit of making time to train, and you can navigate the cables, plates, pulleys and platforms.
Interestingly it is not these self-reliant individuals that make the 24/7 gym business model work. The industry standard for the 24/7 gym model is 14% usage. Those folks that actually use their membership make up only 14% of all the people paying $10 per week. In fact, if 80% of membership holders showed up to use their membership, there wouldn’t be enough machines to go around. So that model works for people who know what to do and how to do it.
So what about the rest of the population. People who want to exercise but don’t know the how or what for themselves.
What about people who value the environment they workout in? Those that might prefer a space that pays attention to details of aesthetics as well as function. What about people who value the level of instruction they receive? The experience of their trainer, the conversation they can participate in while working out.
This is not a gender question, which was famously answered by Fernwood gyms providing a women’s only space. Fernwood was not essentially different to any other gym but for its female-only policy.
This is a question about a friendly, welcoming space that is at once pleasant to behold. Staffed with trainers that make the process of learning new movements feel safe, supported and achievable.
It might seem like we’re asking a bit much for a workout space to be at once staffed with experts, well resourced in equipment, safe and supportive culturally for all types of people and pleasant to behold.
The funny thing is that a lot of exercise facilities spend big on fit out. Flashy new machines, state of the art treadmills, redoing bathrooms and change areas and forget that the special sauce that binds groups of people together is the shared experience and endeavour. The ability of a well-trained educator to hold a group of people and help them all to learn new, empowering skills is a far more valuable investment than treadmills and televisions.
This truth is often lost in our aims to maximise our use of time. In other words, the home workout trap. Everyone seems time poor these days. Kids, jobs, family, friends. It makes so much sense to combine exercise space with home space. And then the treadmill, spin bike, ab cruncher, yoga mat is next years garage sale fodder.
Australians spend billions of dollars per year on home exercise equipment. Some of us do use what we buy. Most of us don’t.
The problem with home exercise is that it is usually part of a new habit, or perhaps proto-habit is the accurate term and as such, it is all too easily bumped aside by other more well-established habits. The habit we develop doing 30 minutes on the treadmill, three times a week when we’re on our Christmas break is steamrolled out of the way by the return to work schedule.
Habits don’t get a chance to form if they aren’t actively prioritised.
This can easily be achieved at home. It’s just that all too often we think we can fit in our new habit without having to adjust our existing ones. It is there that the effort taken to make a couple of classes in a new place can help. Booking into a class, even once a week, is a much greater predictor of new habit adherence over time. Much more so than the purchase of home exercise equipment. An interesting side note here is also that when measuring how effectively people create new exercise habits price is a big factor. The cheaper the exercise option, the less likely the habit is to hold. So it is well worth considering the cost/loss of a treadmill or 12 month 24/7 membership that is statistically unlikely to go the distance versus the outlay/benefit of a medium cost, trainer lead option.
This sounds like a sell, and frankly, it is.
We know from first-hand experience that what our members value is our level of expertise, the variety of sessions we offer and the environment we provide.
24/7 gyms and home exercise units work really well for a small number of users. They generally work really really well for the franchise companies that run them.
White Dog Studio and others like it work really, really well for people who value what we offer. A safe supportive and holistic space that welcomes all types of people, meets them with an appropriate challenge and keeps them challenged as they progress.
Global health organizations, governments, and scientists give remarkably consistent recommendations for health, the prevention of disease and general wellness.
Depending on what Facebook puts in your ad feed, you might be forgiven for thinking that working out for 4 minutes a day so hard you barf your brekkie back up is what you need for a long life. Or alternatively, that some quality time with yourself and thoughts of your pelvic floor will get you as fit and flexible as an Instagram yogini. So what is exercise?
There are ever more (seemingly) varied ways of exercising, in ever more time effective ways.
200+ minutes per week of moderate cardiovascular exercise and 2 strength training sessions.
So what exactly does that mean? Let’s break it down….
200+ Minutes per week of cardio…
The differences between moderate and intense cardio are clearly explained here.
In short, moderate cardio is when you are slightly out of breath until you have trouble finishing a normal sentence. This is called ventilators threshold 1 (VT1).
Intense or ‘High-intensity cardio’ begins when you are having marked trouble completing a sentence, and continues until you can’t speak at all. This is called ventilators threshold 2 (VT2).
The great news about this is that the more ‘intense’ our cardio the more ‘heart health value’ it has. So if you run at a higher level of VT 1, i.e. you have more trouble completing a normal sentence, then that is worth ‘more’ minute for cardio than more moderate intensity.
So a game of indoor soccer, a game of Aussie rule or Hockey or Netball. Boom goes the timer. Join a judo club with your kids. Boom, again. Swing a kettlebell for some short sharp sessions per week and the ‘heart numbers’ start going through the roof
Activities that are at once demanding on our cardiovascular system and our strength system are the most effective training modes for heart health.
Two Strength Training sessions…
The 2x per week allows for the approximately 72 hours our bodies need to recover from a session working to fatigue, and to come back stronger aka the ‘training effect’. The 72 hours depends on age, gender, diet, sleep, alcohol consumption and other variables.
There are other approaches to strength building – notably gymnastic training protocols – but science tends to focus on approaches that are applicable to a broader, busier population and which have more measurable, concise time blocks.
Strength is defined as the amount of weight one can move from point A – B. Lifting things that you find heavy makes the skeletal muscles stronger – you can lift heavier things next time. It also makes our non- skeletal muscles aka our heart stronger. A stronger heart = less heart disease. It increases bone density. Denser bones = less osteoporosis.
If this exercise prescription brings to mind dull and mind-numbing images of hours on a treadmill or hanging around in gyms surrounded by beefy blokes and/scantily clad nubiles, despair not...
No consideration is given to power training(strength x speed is defined as power) in the recommendations for exercise. For the newbie, this is a good thing. Lifting heavy things quickly requires some practise and time for muscles and connective tissues to become ready. However, once you have got a bit of practise under your belt combining strength and endurance is a whiz-bang way to kill two birds with one stone.
There are other ways to get your cardio and strength dose!
Firstly, the more intense your cardio the more minutes it is worth. Cool, huh? So if you swing a kettlebell and get yourself gassed, you can get big chunks of your cardio minutes ticked off in a few short sharp sessions.
Cardio can be running and riding. It can also be crawling, cartwheels, dancing, skipping, wheelbarrow races and leapfrog.
Similarly, the mention of strength work usually solicits images of smelly gyms, big guys, big gals, big mirrors and a very ‘us/them’ feel for newcomers. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Worse still, a lot of people have had bad experiences lifting weights with inexperienced instructors, programming too much weight too soon.
A really important thing to know about strength is that it is not the same as size. Training for strength is really quick. Our classes have it done and out of the way in less than half an hour. Remember if size equalled strength, bodybuilders would win weightlifting events at the Olympics. As it is, they don’t even make the team.
At White Dog Studio, we have designed a strength and fitness class for people that hate cardio and gyms. We call it Bar+Bell.
We have a great group of people, from all walks of life, shapes and sizes. Each session incorporates:
- Bodyweight exercises for cardio, flexibility and coordination
- Carefully scaled and varied warm-ups that prepare you for the workout you’ll do
- Safe, simple and scientifically proven approaches to strength training that don’t produce bulky muscles. Just strong lean ones
- Constantly varied cardio blasts that keep you on your toes, fit and curious
- We finish with a stretch that makes sure you recover quickly and leave feeling great
If you're interested in getting healthy, preventing disease and increasing your general wellness, try a few White Dog Bar+Bell classes.
Our eyes are bigger than our tummies. Our intentions are bigger than our schedule. And our ‘shoulds’ are bigger than our ‘musts’.
There are lots of things we should change. Our income, our relationship, our jeans size. It’s only when a should gets bumped to a must that we change our habits.
If your goal is based on ‘should’ you can forget about it.
You can forget about it because there is a must just waiting to kick its half-hearted ass off the schedule.
- A catch up with friends.
- Getting the kids to ballet
- Helping your partner out with something
- Whatever it is this week at work
‘Shoulds’ just don’t stand a chance.
Our habits have grown out of behaviors that met a particular need at a particular time.
When a few extra kilos have crept onto the hips. When we find ourselves drinking red wine more nights than not. When we have unhealthy communication patterns with our loved ones.
We tend to overcompensate with our plans for new habits… and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
So, where an extra couple of sessions of cardio a week would strip the unwanted kilos, we promise ourselves we’ll hit the gym 6 days per week (and take out a new 24/7 gym subscription because all those hours of available access mean we can train any time of the day or night, right?).
Where we could schedule three alcohol-free days per week we declare that we’ll have 12 months of the turps…
We aren’t helped in this by the media.
We’re force-fed compulsive behaviours like sugar saturated junk food or sanctioned binge drinking.
Alternatively, we are pitched short-term sales driven lifestyle improvements like 12-week churn and burn ‘transformations’, gym memberships that 85% of people will never use, cleanse diets that create a false (nutrient-deprived) sense of wellbeing.
At both ends of the spectrum, common sense is lost.
So at the beginning of the new year – notorious for the false, but well-intentioned, promises we make to ourselves – here are three things you can do build a new habit that will last i.e. a habit that will become a habit, not a memory we look back on at Easter with a pinch of remorse and self-flagellation.
- get some advice
- start small and build slow
- make yourself accountable
I recently decided it was time to have a break from alcohol.
I knew I didn’t rate as a heavy drinker, but I suspected (and my research immediately confirmed) that I did count as a binge drinker – 5 drinks in a 4 hour period.
First, I got some advice – I googled ‘health effects of alcohol’. Sobering reading.
Then I printed out a blank one month calendar and pinned it to the fridge. Every morning when I woke I put an X on the calendar. I set myself the initial goal of 7 days. I told my daughter that I was going to stop drinking for a while, starting with 1 week, and showed her my calendar so she can see and understand the growing chain of X’s.
Every day that I haven’t had a drink, I get to put an X on the calendar.
I did the week, and then the month and now I’ve set myself another goal. It’s a little longer, requires a separate achievement and I’ve told my kid about it to keep myself accountable.
I did the same thing when I wanted to get back into shape after being seriously ill a few years ago. I wrote out on a piece of paper “minimum 10 minutes” and for every day I did a minimum of 10 minutes of constant exercise, I earned an X. After a month I changed the heading to “minimum 15” and so on until the habit was embedded and I could switch it to 4 sessions exercise with three days off. When I completed the week I would X the week past.
I’ve used the “Don’t Break The Chain” method made famous by Jerry Seinfeld to build and break a number of habits. You can Download my template here for a weekly, monthly or yearly calendar to get you started.
I love those three rules – getting advice, starting small and making yourself accountable. They bullsh*t-proof my intended change. If I catch myself aiming for big changes in short periods, these three little chestnuts put a reality torch on it.
Scientists, governments and health bodies all over the world increasingly agree that the majority of preventable diseases and causes of death (including cancer, heart disease and obesity) can be avoided.
The means to this is remarkably consistent.
- minimal alcohol consumption
- don’t smoke
- eat a plant rich, high fibre diet
- exercise regularly (200+ mins of cardio per week and 2x strength sessions are the gold standard)
(Next blog we talk about the last point and really drill down into what the term ‘exercise’ really means)
If you would like realistic, no bulls**t help to create healthy new habits, take 30 seconds and complete our quiz, come in and see us, bring your pals and build yourselves some new chains.