Flocking to the Fishbowl

If you’re like most university students, you probably spent the summer attempting to fund this necessity called education. Be it painting houses, cutting grass or serving tables at your neighborhood pub, the common focus of most students this summer was “da bling.”

However, with the new school term upon us and all the tasty new boys and girls saturating the hallways, the effects of the work/drink/work regime of summer has many thinking less about "da bling" and more about "da booty."

September, as well as January, sees an unusually large number of students making their way out of the locker rooms, past the creepy guys looming in Baron’s Court, and down the hall to the Fitness and Lifestyle Centre (AKA "the gym") to burn off some of that hard-earned summer, umm, fluffiness.

But do students know how to effectively work it off? Unfortunately, no.

Most seem stumped by one question that has polarized skinny, spandex-clad ironmen and women and buff, thick-necked "Gator’s Gym Gear" toting muscle heads alike: "weights or cardio?"

The Gauntlet asked Fitness and Lifestyle Facility and Personal Training Supervisor Carolyn Bedford to help us help you to get in, stay in or improve your shape by shedding some light on this question.

The following are some helpful answers to guide you to effectively balance the worlds of cardio and weights and assist in the process of making healthy living a part of your life.

Whoa, slow down
You’re eager to get started, but try to avoid the many mistakes resulting from inexperience, overzealousness and plain stupidity. According to Bedford, the three big mistakes of new gym goers are: going too hard, starving yourself, and not consulting a professional.

Going too hard. Beginners and those who haven’t worked out in a while should gradually build into a program suiting their personal goals. Don’t hop on a tread mill, jack it to 11 out of 10 and expect to gain anything other than a serious rug burn. It takes time and patience to learn proper technique and know your body’s limitations. Maintain a motivated and motivating workout by balancing the eagerness to progress with the common sense of what your body can and cannot do.

Starving yourself. Your body needs fuel, just like your 1984 Camry. It will fail if there is nothing in the tank before you pull onto Deerfoot.

Don’t eat a bran muffin and drink a gallon of water and expect your body to run a marathon and bench 300 lbs. You will hurt yourself. Eat enough healthy fuel to provide you with the energy you are going to use during your workout. Bedford suggests eating up to two hours prior to hitting the gym to allow your body to start digesting the fuel it requires before and throughout the workout.

The sooner you can replenish your energy systems after a workout by drinking and eating a balanced meal including carbs and protein, the quicker your body will begin to recover and the less you’ll hurt come next workout.

Not consulting a professional. Talk to someone who actually knows something. Even though your cousin/buddy/neighbour works out five times a day, has a lifetime subscription to Muscle ïœ| Fitness and can out-bench you by a thousand pounds, it doesn’t make him or her an expert. There are many helpful professionals who know what they’re talking about and are willing to help you–all you have to do is ask. Contact Carolyn Bedford at Personal Health and Fitness Services, 220-5189.

Everyone’s different
Depending on your goals–tightening those buns, getting rid of that gut or getting stacked like a Cowboys doorman–they will affect the proportion of weights and cardio you do.

Bedford explains a trimming, fat-loss regime with the goal of changing your body composition would include about five cardio workouts, roughly an hour long, and about three weight workouts per week. If mass and muscle are your goals, simply invert the formula.

"These are very general guidelines," adds Bedford. "Your program will change as your goals and fitness levels change. Students should talk to a trainer for specifics that are best for them."

A consultation with a trainer can add structure and knowledge to your program and increase your efficiency at the gym, not to mention improve your weightlifting technique and help set realistic goals.

Grunting and gasping
Believe it or not, your mental attitude while working out is as important as your physical exercise. Commitment to stretching before and after a workout, proper technique, nutrition and adequate levels of "giv’er" will help you reach your goals more effectively. If you workout half-assed, it will negatively affect your progress and motivation.

A proper workout is also influenced by when you hit the gym. Many schools of thought ponder timing, but generally your workout schedule should fit in with your personal schedule and personality. Earlier exercise times are better for those who need to make their workout a priority, but any time during the day should suffice, as long as you’re properly fueled. You should also allow for 24 to 48 hours of rest between specific weight and cardio workouts. Your off-day for weights should be your cardio day and vise-versa.

Whatever your workout may be, it requires work on more than a physical level. Being overzealous and "murdering the weight" can be just as detrimental (even more dangerous, as it often results in serious injury) as a "do I have to?" attitude. To put it plainly: use your head.

My machine can beat your machine
If you like to run, then the treadmill or running track is just fine. If you like the feeling of cross-country skiing in the comfort of shorts and a tank top, then the elliptical machine is your best bet. If neither suit your fancy, then climb to the top of an imaginary Calgary Tower on the stair-master, or race alongside Lance Armstrong in the recumbent or stationary bikes. Keep in mind that each has benefits and drawbacks and those with medical conditions (bad knees, bad backs, etc.) should choose appropriately and ask a trainer when in doubt.

Did you know?
"About the time we hit 20, our bodies start to age," says Bedford. "Exercise of any kind can help to reverse the effects of aging."

Weight training helps the body’s metabolism remain at a higher rate while keeping the muscle systems more functional. Cardio can help keep the heart and lungs in tip-top shape. A balanced program should include adequate amounts of both to achieve maximum results.

Good luck and happy fishing!

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