Fitness class Whole Musician Retreat Toronto


Staying On Track With Your Fitness

Just like playing the flute

January 24 2015


There's a particular time of year that the gyms become more crowded and that would be January through February. This is the time when many among us dedicate ourselves to that New Year's Resolution to get into shape, whatever that may mean to each of us. Then comes March, and the numbers fade away from the gym. This is about the length of time it takes for many people to see no change and decide to quit.

Affecting change in one's fitness level is slightly more complicated than simply going to the gym and getting on a treadmill. But only slightly. The good part is those who have never seriously exercised before stand to see the greatest results first!

Have a plan. Know what you want to achieve, know where you are now (those fitness assessments are a good thing) and know how you are going to achieve it. If your goal is weight loss, know how much and break it down into smaller intervals. Six weeks from now, 12 weeks from now etc. Know how you are going to achieve it; cardio alone is not usually the best strategy. If your goal is to gain strength, know how strong you are now and what you are going to do to become stronger. Going into the gym without this knowledge only leads to many hours of wasted exertion and no gains. Who would want to keep going when they see no gains?

To my mind, becoming and staying fit is a lot like flute playing. Would we really practise as much as we do if we didn't improve? Most of us practise because we love it, but we do see results. Realise that you didn't get to be such a good player right at the beginning and likewise, you wouldn't expect to go from zero to hero in the gym right out of the gate. The upside is that it won't take nearly as much time to realise your initial fitness goals as it does to perfect your flute playing yet similarly, you should accept that it becomes a lifelong activity. Depending on your fitness goals, three hours a week of practise (working out) can be sufficient. If you're really efficient, it can be less.

Set short term goals. A beginner will likely see a greater change than someone who is reasonably fit to begin with. I focus on strength training (resistance training) and one can usually expect to see first results within six weeks or so. From there, one is encouraged at the changes and continues to develop their fitness or maintain it. As a trainer I usually hear grand goals such as “I want to have more defined muscles”, “less body fat”, “lose 50 lbs” etc. These are fine goals to have but we need to break them into manageable time frames. Some goals may safely take a year to achieve and some, longer. If you're a beginner flutist, you could say you would like to play the Rodrigo Concerto; but we would acknowledge that this would be a long term goal.

Another reason many give up is when they see themselves “sliding backward” in their fitness. If weight loss is your goal, realise that you may actually gain weight. If you constantly weigh yourself you will find the numbers going up instead of down. This though, can be a good thing. Here you need to know what your ratio of fat tissue to muscle tissue is. Muscle weighs more than fat and as you gain muscle you will increase in weight; but it's a good weight increase. With my clients I advise them to basically throw away the scale. It's pretty useless at telling you anything. If you must weigh yourself, find somewhere that uses a tanita scale which is far more revealing.

If you're training to gain muscle, remember that you cannot work the muscles too much! About 48 hours rest is suggested between working the same muscle. This is to allow the muscle time to grow and heal itself from the beating you gave it at the last training session. Your body is a marvelous machine, but be kind to it.

In my fitness workshops at the Whole Musician retreats, I cover the basics of fitness, workout regimes one can do anywhere, and lots of tips to keep your workouts working for you. But here are some hints to keep you motivated. Strength training in many individuals is more beneficial to losing weight (fat) than cardio. Choose smaller goals such as increasing the weight by 5 lbs on a particular exercise each week, or add one more rep. Don't ignore cardio, but limit it to no more than 25 minutes at a time. More than that and you start working against your body if your goal is to gain muscle and lose fat. You can lose more fat from just strength training for just 45 minutes three times per week than doing hours of cardio. If you are going to do cardio, do it AFTER strength training. Celebrate the small changes, they are important. There is no better motivation than seeing our efforts pay off, and, like flute playing, they always do if done right!