Approximately two years ago these young men purchased a membership and have been lifting weights ever since. They adhere to a strict exercise schedule, as well as a closely scrutinized diet of various nutritional supplements, vitamins, and healthy foods. Mark was 18 when he started working out and just turned 20 this month, while T.J. is 19.
Through internet research, body building publications, networking and experience, both have acquired a thorough understanding of fitness and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for their bodies and minds.
Our goal wasnt to become competitive bodybuilders, says Waggener, but to become bigger, stronger, more defined, and generally to get in shape. Before I started lifting I didnt have as much energy, and since Ive started I noticed that its a good way to deal with stress and frustrations. I think I weighed around 150 lbs. or so when I started, and now Im up to about 195 lbs.
In a society that seems to overindulge in fast food, fast times, and occasional unhealthy tendencies, these teens chose a different path and set some positive goals for themselves.
It is true that exercise and working out at the gym can be a great alternative for teens and adults alike. It can keep them active in a very positive way and help them to avoid the pitfalls of physical inactivity, smoking, drugs, and alcohol that some may be imperiled to.
It is a fact that 7 out of 10 American adults do not exercise regularly despite the proven health benefits. (National Center for Health Statistics)
Americans spend enormous amounts of money each year on diet pills, misrepresented health products and fancy exercise equipment, when in fact, a brisk walk and a good set of weights may be all you need to get in the best shape of your life.
The best way to get in shape and build muscle mass and strength is through free weight exercises which would include the use of dumbbells and barbells, says Wisniewski. Prior to lifting weights, it is always a good idea to include stretching and a warm-up in your routine to loosen up your muscles and to avoid injury.
Wisniewskis current routine consists of working each separate muscle group throughout the week, and resting on Saturdays. By working each muscle group once a week it allows my muscles enough recovery time to grow in strength and size, without overtraining them, he says.
An example of a muscle group would be the deltoids and trapezius muscles, which are part of the shoulder. Depending on how long and intense you train your muscles in a single session, they require at least a 24-72 hour recovery period until they are trained again.
Be careful not to over-train a muscle. Many amateur bodybuilders make this mistake and in turn gain nothing. This can actually be counter-productive. I learned this from personal experience during the first 5 months of serious lifting, Wisniewski says.
Marks exercise routine is similar to T.J.s. He generally lifts 5 to 6 days a week for approximately 90 minutes at a time with rest in between sets.
A set is a group of consecutive repetitions, and a repetition (one full range of motion) refers to how many times an exercise is repeated during one set. For example, doing 2 sets of 10 repetitions on a bench press means doing 10 bench presses for the first set, resting, then doing 10 more repetitions to complete the second set.
Once you have learned the technique and proper form of the exercise, you should find a weight that you can lift 8-12 times for around 3 sets. When repetitions are low (2-5 per set), strength development is primarily promoted. With higher repetitions (15-20 per set), muscle endurance and toning can be achieved. It all depends on your own personal preference. For most people however, working with a weight that can be done 8-12 times per set is most appropriate, because muscle growth, strength and endurance improve.
I prefer strength training over higher-rep workouts, says Waggener. But I switch my routine every 6-8 weeks to keep the muscles growing.
To accomplish this, sets, reps, and the exercises you do for each muscle should be switched to avoid stagnation. Stagnation is a term used to describe the plateau your muscles go through when they are trained in the same way for too long. Your exercise regimen should also be switched every few months to shock your muscles into growth. A certain routine should last for no longer than 8 weeks. Sets should always be done with a weight great enough to cause muscle failure by the last rep in each set.
As you progress, the weight should slowly be increased over time. You need to continually overload your muscles with more weight than they are used to or else they will never change.
Many of us have heard the old saying you are what you eat. There is a lot of truth behind that. Eat right, live right.
Food selection is just as important as exercise itself, according to both teens. Foods that are high in saturated fat should be avoided, especially if youre training for cardiovascular health. Try to reduce your consumption of refined sugar, salt, processed foods and most fast food meals, depending on what your goal is.
A good assortment of healthier food choices would include egg whites, whole grains (which contain complex, low-glycemic carbohydrates), traditional oatmeal, whole wheat breads and protein-rich food. Lean meats and fish are both good choices because of their high protein, and low fat content. Consume plenty of fresh vegetables in your diet and avoid those tempting sweets. Various fruits should be included in your diet as well because they are low in fat and contain essential nutrients. It is also very important to keep your body well hydrated and to rinse out toxins by drinking plenty of purified or distilled water. A gallon per day is recommended. Drinking skim milk and natural juices are beneficial and are better choices than whole milk and soda pop.
Depending on what you are training for, whether it is mass, strength, or just fat loss, your diet should be altered, Waggener says. For example, if you are training for muscle mass, you want to consume as many calories as possible, especially a lot of carbohydrates. On the flip side, training for fat loss would consist of a low daily-caloric intake with a smaller portion of carbohydrates, but a fairly high protein intake in both diets.
It would be a good idea to make a habit of paying close attention to nutritional value in the foods you eat. Once you initiate this habit, you will discover how easy it is to recognize the nutritional facts located on the label of all food that you purchase and consume.
Vitamins & Supplements
Another important aspect of weight training and overall fitness is getting enough vitamins in your diet. Vitamins are vital to your growth and are preferably obtained from the food you eat. Since it is quite difficult to obtain the numerous vitamins needed from food alone, daily multi-vitamins are necessary. There are also many supplements available on the market, which are very helpful in achieving your goals. Check with your doctor before taking vitamins and supplements.
If your goal is to gain muscular strength or size, creatine is one of the single best supplements available. Other great supplements include protein powders, weight gainers, amino acids (especially glutamine), and nitric-oxide inhibitors, which basically contain a form of arginine. Arginine is an amino acid which improves the circulation of blood, allowing more nutrients to be transported into the muscles. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and protein is the building block of all living cells.
Overall well being
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not only important from a physical standpoint but it is equally important for the mind. Through intense physical training and exercise, endorphins are released from your brain, as are other hormones, which promotes the runners high as it is called. This sensation is very stimulating when it is achieved.
Working out, maintaining a well balanced diet, and keeping in shape makes you feel good about yourself. You begin to look better and feel better while building self esteem and self worth. It gives you strength and endurance, improves flexibility, can promote relaxation, helps you sleep and relieves stress. It also increases lung capacity and keeps the heart muscle strong, as well as leaving you less prone to injury and disease.
If the gym is not for you or a rigorous training routine, there are some creative ways to incorporate physical activities into your daily lives. A walk in the park, riding your bike to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or simply mowing your lawn with a push mower can make a difference. Whatever your choice may be, exercise will allow you to enjoy a longer, healthier, happier life.