We have gym rats and adrenaline junkies, endurance pros and all of the 'ultimate's - ultimate fighting, ultimate skating, ultimate Parkour...
Next to them, marathon running sounds rather quaint, doesn't it?
Nobody will judge you if cage fighting isn't your thing. Indeed, if you're like the rest of us, you just want to tone up, maybe lose a bit of weight and make physical fitness a part of your healthy lifestyle.
You might even decide to make a career out of fitness - but, again, not as some sort of über-athlete. Perhaps you have your mind set on becoming a personal trainer or leading exercise classes.
If so, good on you. In fact, good on you for deciding on fitness as a way of life, whether you make a career out of it or not.
Either way you decide to go, Superprof has some pointers for you.
Defining Your Fitness Type
Before you can set yourself on your path to fitness, you need to know what your fitness type is. Granted, all fitness regimes lead to some sort of fitness - provided they are well executed and faithfully practised, but getting fit is the goal. Defining your fitness type will determine the path you take to get there.
Here are some different types of fitness and a few disciplines and activities that will get you started on your fitness goals.
Cardiovascular endurance is the type of fitness that allows the body to use oxygen efficiently for longer periods of work. Cardio is a way to boost energy by providing ample supplies of oxygen to your muscles so they don't get tired too soon.
If you're looking to build cardiorespiratory endurance, any aerobic exercise will lead you to your goal. These include dancing, running/jogging, cycling, swimming, skipping rope and calisthenics. On the higher end of the cardio workout spectrum is HIIT - high intensity interval training, elliptical machines and boxing are favoured disciplines.
Where cardio targets your heart and vascular system to deliver oxygen, muscular endurance builds your muscles' ability to perform extended workouts while minimising injury and soreness.
You can build muscular endurance with push-ups, pull-ups (chin-ups) and planking; kettlebell swings and what's known as the famer's walk/loaded carry, in which you walk while carrying some sort of weight - dumbbells, kettlebells, or even loaded suitcases.
Note that muscular endurance is different than muscular strength - a different type of fitness that increases the amount of force your muscles can produce. The most obvious work for this fitness type is weightlifting. But don't just focus on your upper body and core; your lower body's muscles need strength training, too.
Toning and Conditioning
As suggested in this article's introduction, the average person wants to tone their body and condition it towards healthy living; some want to lose weight on their way to getting fit. If any or all of these are your goals, there is a whole range of disciplines to help you achieve it.
You might consider non-combat martial arts such as Shotokan or Okinawan-style karate, judo and Tai Chi. Certain types of yoga would also be an excellent choice to tone and condition your body, as well as boosting your mental wellness and relieving stress.
Other disciplines, such as weightlifting and running can also tone and condition your body but, if you're resuming your fitness regimen after a long period of inactivity, it's best to start with low-impact activities. You can always diversify your fitness plan later.
Once you get past a certain age - or have dwelt at a stage of inactivity for awhile, your body's natural flexibility decreases, increasing the risk of injury. Admittedly, there is no magical workout routine that will turn you into a contortionist but there are plenty that will dramatically improve your range of motion and and ease of movement.
They include certain types of yoga, gymnastics and stretching. Tai Chi would also work well, but only to a certain extent. Dancing, especially the more expressive styles like modern dancing and hip-hop can also increase your flexibility. You might even give pole dancing a try!
Building Physical Intelligence
This is one of the least-discussed forms of intelligence. Physical intelligence means the degree to which you can use your body with precision, speed and agility. Simone Biles reigns supreme in the physical intelligence realm; she has cultivated every aspect of it.
You might think of physical intelligence as the ABCD of fitness because it stands for agility, balance, coordination and dexterity.
To build physical intelligence, consider adding sessions with a heavy bag and speed bag into your workout routine. Balance exercises would be good; yoga can help with that. Target-oriented sports such as archery, football and basketball, tennis and others can all help you build physical intelligence.
And, if you want to incorporate physical intelligence into your more extreme workout goals, consider participating in a fitness bootcamp. Running through their obstacles courses and tire mazes is a sure-fire way to boost your cardio and your precision!
Now, with an understanding of the different fitness types, let's look at where and how you can get started on your fitness goals.
The Best Gym Chains in the UK
After this past year, when we were all confined to our homes, probably the last thing we want to do is spend time at home, working out. Granted, it worked well during the lockdowns - you did continue your workouts, didn't you? - but getting back into the swing of things and re-joining society is much better for our mental health.
Besides, we need to get the economy going again.
If only there had been no pandemic, one of the UK's best gym chains, DW Sports, would still be in business. In what started out as a fine fitness venture, former footballer Dave Whelan bought 50 facilities from JJB Sports with a clear idea of how to grow the business.
The combination of gyms and shops seemed unbeatable. Indeed, what a great way to attract to build a clientele from both sides of the aisle - shoppers and fitness enthusiasts. And maybe matrons could even get their workout in before doing their bit of shopping?
The concept had nowhere to go but up. The idea was sound, the financing was in place and the owner knew just how to manage such a business. COVID didn't care.
The pandemic might have taken this gym chain down but there are plenty of others scattered across the UK.
Bannatyne Gyms are a fine example of such. Approaching the quarter-century mark - the first Bannatyne gym opened in 1997, they are still going strong today. That's because they are constantly evolving.
Some gyms provide a few free weights and resistance equipment. Some may have lots of equipment and offer classes while others might have gyms full of kit and personal trainers that show you how to use it and work with you to first establish fitness goals and then reach them.
And then, there's Bannatyne. Part gym, part spa and part social centre, these gyms are fitness for the body, mind and spirit. With more than 70 such facilities throughout the UK, there's bound to be one near you.
If not, you might need a longer list of gym chains to check out.
Working With a Personal Trainer
There's quite a bit of scorn heaped on gyms that are all too happy to get your signature on a year-long contract and collect their fees. But then, come time to get patrons familiar with their facility and making sure they know how to use the equipment safely and effectively, suddenly, that rapacious attention vanishes.
Really, that's not so bad if you're familiar with standard gym equipment and protocol. If you have your fitness goals firmly in mind and know what you're after, it might be fine to be turned loose in a cavernous room laden with potential danger.
However, if you only have the most basic idea of what you want out of a fitness regimen - and no idea of what that regimen should consist of, you will surely need some guidance. That's where a personal trainer comes in.
That title sounds rather pretentious - personal chauffeur, personal chef, personal assistant... you get the drift. But there's nothing pretentious about these professional fitness experts.
The best personal trainers follow the same steps:
- talk with you about fitness goals
- help you define what you want out of your fitness routine
- ask you questions about any health concerns and conditions you live with
- they also inquire about the state of your mental health
- complete a physical assessment - weight, BMI, strength and muscle tone, possibly even a cardio stress test
Once they've completed their intake questionnaire, they will likely make recommendations about your exercise regimen. They will also make nutritional suggestions; maybe even lay out an entire diet plan. As you'll discover later in this article, personal fitness trainers are qualified to make dietary recommendations.
If you and your personal trainer decide that the gym is, indeed, the best place for you to start your fitness journey, they will take you around the facility, introducing you to the equipment and other gym members/personnel along the way.
And then, you'll get to work. To find out exactly how that aspect of personal training goes, you'll need an entirely separate article.
What is a Pre-Workout?
As your personal trainer conducts their intake, listen closely for a mention of pre-workouts. They are vital to your fitness regimen and absolutely necessary to maximise your efforts in the gym.
A pre-workout is something you eat and/or drink about 45 minutes before you start your workout, to provide your body with the fuel it needs for the upcoming ordeal.
Fuel is the operative word in that sentence. We're not talking about just having something in your stomach but about a specific combination of ingredients that will give your muscles the necessary boost to undergo your whole workout routine without getting too tired.
Or too sore.
Ideally, your pre-workout will contain protein - food for your muscles, creatine to help grow muscle cells and caffeine to deliver the needed boost of energy. Pre-workouts deliver other healthful substances, too.
Now, for a word of warning. If you happen to be caffeine sensitive, be very selective in which pre-workout you choose. Some have mega-doses of caffeine; so much that you might end up with a bad case of the jitters and have trouble falling asleep, despite your vigorous workout.
Also, avoid the disturbing new trend of dry-scooping: eating protein powder straight, without mixing or diluting it.
If you're pressed for time and/or have no desire to read the ingredients list on a host of protein powder jugs, power bars or supplement labels, you could prepare your pre-workouts at home. Just remember that they should be carb- and protein-heavy. A stick of celery with peanut butter or cream cheese won't get the job done.
It might sound counterintuitive to load up on protein and carbs before a workout, especially when you're trying to lose weight. The idea is to power your workout, not put your body in a state of ketosis - a condition wherein fat provides the body's fuel.
If you're thinking "Yes! Yes! I want to burn fat!", you might need to give the whole idea of pre-workouts a deeper dive.
How to Become a Personal Trainer
If you're a fitness buff who has read this far into the article, you might feel frustrated that it seems we're talking only to gym novices. Considering the topics covered, that's warranted, don't you think?
But what about you, who have made it so far into your fitness journey that you are now ready and able to impart the wisdom of your experience to others?
Well, not so fast, my gym-loving friends. First, you have to attain a demonstrable level of competency, as required by the government. And what level would you like to park your hat on?
Level 2 means you can teach exercise and fitness classes in a gym; Level 3 indicates you've taken the extra steps needed to set yourself up in business as a personal trainer. Obviously, the latter classification goes far deeper into the principles of fitness and nutrition.
But the payoff is worth it. After undergoing this expanded, more intensive training, you will have the qualifications to set yourself up in business as a personal trainer. And from there, the sky's the limit.
You might forge an independent path, advertising through word of mouth or by posting flyers around town. You could set up a social media page for your fitness business and invite prospective clients to your training centre - or, if you don't yet have a training facility of your own, you could make house calls.
That's what many Superprof personal trainers do.
In fact, many Superprof personal trainers rely on the Superprof platform to bring clients to their door. All you need to do to join them is build a profile and upload your credentials. Once they're verified, your profile page will go live. Soon, you will have a host of fitness hopefuls asking how you could help them.
If you practise a specific discipline, maybe yoga or bodybuilding, be sure to list yourself as such a specialist. Also, you might expand your training delivery methods online so that, rather than meeting with your clients, you only need to log into your favourite video chat platform to conduct your sessions.
The possibilities for a career in personal training are endless and, just now, coming out of the pandemic, demand is high. Why not learn more about how you could make a life for yourself helping others get fit?
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