Exercise & Brain Power – getting started

Posted on July 28, 2009 by


Getting started – often the first step is the most difficult.   It’s also the most important step.   I remember listening to John “The Penguin” Ingram, contributing editor for Runner’s World and self effacing ‘slow runner’, share at the prerace dinner for the Tulsa Marathon in 2003 that the “miracle wasn’t that I finished, the miracle was that I had the courage to start”.  At the time he began running he was considerably overweight and had a myriad of health issues.  So that first step was a good leap for mankind (giant leap belongs nobly to Neil Armstrong).  http://thepenguin.runnersworld.com/

I’m not presuming that running is the only exercise to begin with.   It is a lower cost and simple way to begin – go out and run.  There are other equally effective ways.  There’s also some good advice from the Mayo Clinic on what to consider for any exercise program

  1. Assess current fitness level
  2. Design your program
  3. Assemble your equipment
  4. Get started (Penguin’s miracle)
  5. Monitor your progress

for our Six Sigma fans this resembles the DMAIC process a bit… but I digress http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/hQ00171

A good program should include both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

Here’s a quick list of lower cost entry aerobic exercises to begin with:

  1. Walking
  2. Running
  3. Cycling
  4. Swimming
  5. Dancing (ah, not slow, you need to move)
  6. Others – may require some investment
    1. Skiing – downhill or cross country
    2. Indoor passions – elliptical, stair climber, treadmill – at a local club, Y or home
    3. Soccer
    4. Roller Blading

Anaerobic exercises includes

  1. Circuit training (health club)
  2. Free weights (can be done at home)
  3. the “ups” – push, pull, chin and modified sit ups.

How often should you do it each week?  The traditional wisdom is 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes to begin.  My observation and one shared by the “Younger Next Year” authors Chris Cowley and Dr. Harry Lodge http://www.youngernextyear.comis more than that – at least 4 aerobic sessions for 45 minutes each week and 2 to 3 anaerobic / strength training programs.  Why?  Am I harsh?  Old School?  Grumpy? 

Maybe, but the deeper reason is our bodies were made for movement every single day and not just 2 or 3 days a week.  While 3 days a week for 20 minutes is a start, your body actually craves a bit more .  As we share more on heart rates and endorphins, 45 minutes is when you begin receiving the “thank you” from your body.

Now that 45 minutes is NOT at break neck pace.  If your goal is to run, then begin with a walk/jog combination – a 50/50 mix over those 45 minutes.  If cycling, then a mix of 8-12 mph with occasional bursts to 15.  The idea is to extend your session, reasonable.   How long should you stay at this “introduction” phase – the simple answer, as long as it takes for you to feel comfortable to add time to each session or increase intensity or both.  That may mean weeks or months or even a year. 

Next up are blogs on Anaerobic exercises, “Pain”, Extending your Performance and psychological benefits from exercise.  For now venture out and make the exercise stuff happen!