We don’t have to hike for hours every day. But even going a few miles at a sturdy pace two or three days per week can have a tremendous impact on your health.
You’re getting your heart rate up and lifting your body weight as you trek up and down hills, making hiking the perfect cardio and load-bearing activity, all in one. Plus, you’re exercising the largest muscles in your body— namely your gluteus muscles and quads in your legs—which therefore has the most effect on your metabolism. And you’re strengthening your core, too. When you’re hiking over uneven terrain, you’re also exercising your smaller, stabilizer muscles—lots of little muscles that all add up. There’s a lot you can cover by just walking up and down hills.
Popular ways that people try to replicate this kind of physical activity are in the gym via stationary bikes or treadmills. These are obviously much better alternatives than not exercising at all. But when doing only the same repetitive motion that’s offered by stationary bikes or treadmills, you can’t really get the same kind of workout provided by hiking and navigating hills. Essentially, all of those stabilizer muscles aren’t working so hard. And, you’re not getting outside which is always the place I prefer to do at least a portion of my exercise. Do you live somewhere flat? No worries.
A brisk walk, followed by doing a few sets of squats while holding a dumbbell to your chest, qualifies as an awesome workout.
As for load-bearing exercise, remember that the gluteus muscles and quads should be your highest priority for enhancing your metabolism and building your overall strength. The seldom-done squats and deadlifts are hands down the best gym exercises you can do because of the emphasis on these bigger muscles as well as your core strength. Deadlifts have an undeserved negative reputation (the name doesn’t help—better would be “life-force lifts” or “anti-death lifts”!) that comes from too many people doing them inappropriately, with too much weight and with the wrong form. Just like hiking, bending over or squatting to pick up heavy objects is an ancient exercise; thus our bodies are well adapted to do them. But don’t risk an injury. Do them right. Your best bet?
Work with the theme “less weight, more reps.” Also these lifting exercises don’t necessarily need to be committed to with a bar. Using dumbbells or kettle-bells is a great, low-risk way to get started. And why not work with a trainer? I do, and I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Remember to maintain stretching as a part of your physical activity. Maintaining elasticity of muscles is vital for a whole host of reasons, the most important of which is prevention of injury, inflammation, and those everyday aches and pains. It’s important for maintaining good posture, too. A full body stretch doesn’t need to take more than a few minutes. Actually, a common mistake can be over-stretching, which can make muscles weaker. Of course muscles can be re-strengthened, but why put your body through unnecessary stress? If you choose a yoga practice, the idea is to hold the stretching poses for only seconds. It’s the strengthening poses that can be held for longer. There is some reasoning however for holding the stretching poses longer, and it’s for the releasing of deeper tension. So in a sense there can be a benefit to this.
My suggestion if you do the longer stretching poses is to do them only on an occasional basis, especially if building strength is what you’re going for.
As mentioned, I highly recommend working with a fitness trainer. What you learned in PE class just isn’t going to cut it if a deeper power for the sake of your longevity and life-force is what you’re going for. And going to the gym on your own and doing the same routine day in and day out only does so much. It’s much more effective and time better spent to shake things up. The variety of fitness activities is endless, and changing up the exercises you’re doing on a regular basis will make you stronger faster. A trainer knows best how to do this, and it needn’t be time-consuming. With the right kind of intensive exercise, you can get a lot out of a single hour, or even less.
Believe me, I’ve seen the results firsthand through trainers I have worked with, and by my own experience as a trainer at the Ashram. I’ve witnessed incredible transformations in people of all body types and starting out at all different levels of fitness.
Find the trainer who believes in sticking with the free weights. Free weights have exponentially more impact than machines. Remember that core and lower-body exercises are the most important since, as we discussed above, they’re the biggest muscles. Men especially tend to get preoccupied with upper body workouts, partly because they’re easier overall since the upper body muscles are smaller relative to the muscles in the legs. It’s a matter of balance between lower and upper-body exercises, but placing more of an emphasis on lower-body is the way to go. And of course we’re not talking body-building here. Again, we’re talking about ‘power-building’.
Keep in mind you don’t have to work with a trainer every day. Why not start with just two days a week? Of course a good trainer will teach you how to work out on your own, too. I’m confident you’ll be very impressed with what you get out of it.
The other days of the week? Hike or go for power walks! I am very much a believer in fast-paced walking. Too easy for you? Try carrying three to ten pound dumbbells (or water bottles) and pump your arms like you mean it. Now we’re talking. Or maybe you’ve got other athletic pursuits—sports that you like to play. Being physically active should be enjoyable, something you look forward to. Yoga, soccer, pottery (well maybe something a little more strenuous), swimming, and biking—they’re all good. Need I share my opinion of the contact sports like football that invite injury and wear and tear on the body?
Get creative. Join a softball team. Take up tennis. Play ultimate frisbee. Dance! (This one is among my favorites.)
Exercise is certainly neck and neck with diet, in terms of importance for overall health. They’re both critical links in the chain of well-being. On the note of diet, I recommend a sturdy dose of easy-to-digest protein following your workout. Naturally, and for the sake of purity and potency, I’m a fan of my post-workout smoothie with Infinity Protein, which is a blend of organic hemp and brown rice protein infused with muscle-enhancing herbs. And of course the Infinity Protein Bars too, which are hands down, the best bars in terms of both pure ingredients and flavor. Remember that when we neglect our diets, we lose the energy and enthusiasm we need to be physically active. It becomes hard to exercise even if we want to. So create the right chemistry with your diet and then pump the handle with exercise, with the restorative nutrition to follow.
As a motivating factor, it’s always helpful to remember your physiological health is intimately connected with your mental health – that’s your peace and happiness. No question a strong body is one of the foundational elements for a strong mind, only to make us more fit to better navigate through the world of modern-day stressors and still maintain a general sense of wellbeing.
It’s the strong mind and body together that build true power, and there’s no moment like the precious present to jump onboard. I say we go for it.
Over the last seventeen years the Infinity Superfoods have become a powerful force, enhancing the lives of many thousands of people, and it is an honor to have you as part of the team.
This article was written by Billy Merritt.