• Journey to Fitness: What I Learned On the Way

    Monday, May 20th, 2024

    by Samuel Lam, M.D.

    Part Two: All About Exercise

    Before we talk about exercise, we should talk about sleep. You must get 7 hours of sleep or more even if you tell me you do not need it, your body does. When you don’t sleep enough you risk heart disease but even more importantly you will gain weight. People that do not sleep enough simply start to gain weight because that is what our body does when it is deprived of much needed sleep.

    Devices to Measure Your Body Weight

    Use three forms of body weight evaluations. I use a caliper that I bought for $5 (to measure body fat), a Myotape for $5 (that easily allows you to measure body circumferences), and also an Omron body scale that measures percent body fat, muscle, visceral fat, BMI, etc. Try to do the measurements at the same time of day and with the same relationship to food (that is before a meal preferably). Try not to urinate for 30 minutes if you are using the Omron scale. It can affect the results. Also, the bioimpedence (Omron) measurement can give you visceral fat levels, which should be below 5 ideally, and is a measure of your cardiovascular risk.

    Practice Dynamic Stretching

    dynamic-stretchingThere are three types of stretching: static, dynamic, and ballistic. We tend to do static stretches before a workout but they do not actually help minimize injury (they don’t increase injury risk either as some believe). However, they can actually compromise performance when dealing with sports that require power and speed, which would be most sports. Ballistic stretches are not that helpful either. They involve rapidly moving back and forth motions.

    Dynamic stretching, as advocated in the book Dynamic Stretching, involves movement activities like heel and toe walking, spiderman walking, air squats, high knee raises, etc., that can actually minimize injury and help with sports performance. The best thing to do is to find movements that would mimic your sports activity (read Dynamic Stretching for more information). However, static stretching after working out is great, and I do that after every workout for at least 5 minutes if not longer. I have always wondered why we do dynamic forms of stretching before each Crossfit workout. Now I know.

    Alternatives to Gym Workouts

    Quit going to the gym. What? Well, don’t quit going to the gym but as you will see in what I have to describe I believe that traditional gyms are not the best way to get healthy, as I will shortly explain. To build a Spartan body will take years not weeks or months. Many people get fooled by a before and after body that is seemingly a magical transformation. In the 6 months that you see of my photos, I am still not close to where I would like to be, but that is part of the fun. There is no end, just a journey like anything else in life. Make it fun and stay on track for a lifelong journey of improvement.

    300-workoutOnce you change your brain about exercise and diet, you can then take off. Don’t think negative and don’t be impatient for the body you want. Many people use quick fix remedies and try to lose all the weight quickly. That leads to disastrous yo-yoing and skin problems as well as metabolic issues. 

    Plan on losing weight and build muscle slowly. The joke is that the 300 workout will not give you a 300 body (a la the film). The 300 workout was done as a test but not as a regimen, and also the casting directors already picked buff guys that had developed those bodies over years. All they did was refine those bodies by adding harder workouts to get them even more refined for the movie.

    Incorporate “Muscle Confusion” Into Your Workouts

    Muscle confusion is what I learned from finishing the home program P90X. When our bodies get used to a certain program, we become very efficient at it. This leads to a stop in growth or a plateau. The more you change it up, the better. High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) is what I learned from completing the home program Insanity. (Do not do Insanity unless you are already totally fit or you will hurt yourself.) 

    If you perform very high intensity work with short breaks, you actually reset your metabolism higher so stop looking at how many calories you burn on the treadmill. It does not matter. You want to have a strong afterburn, i.e., how many calories you are burning in the next 2 days that follow your workout. In the book, The First 20 Minutes, they found empirically that only HIIT workouts lead to 190 extra calorie burn after the workout. Normal intensity work does not. For free workouts, go to bodyrock.tv. It is a great site for those who want a quick workout.

    Do not use traditional Nautilus machines since they work your body unnaturally. If you look at a powerlifter versus a sprinter, which body do you think looks more natural and attractive? The answer obviously is the sprinter. Doing compound exercises that require multiple muscles and balance create much leaner and more balanced looking muscles.

    Mark Lauren’s book, You are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, will help you understand how to use your body weight for exercises to get that body at home without needing a gym. I recommend however push-up bars (I have the power bars by Tony Horton) to limit wrist strain and a great pull up bar (I love my P90X one). I also have the Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells that are amazing because you can dial in any weight without needing a rack of weights at home – but be forewarned these dumbbells are expensive, costing about $400 for a pair. I also just bought the Tower 200 system mounted to a door that allows me to use cable systems which I really love for compound natural body movements.

    Morning is the Best Time for Workouts

    Work out in the morning. I realize that if I don’t get my workouts in in the morning I have a good chance of not getting the workout in at all. I try to workout 6 days a week if possible. You really need to work out almost every day to get fit. Those weekend warriors (which I was one of them) cannot get fit enough with working out twice a week. It just won’t happen. But as I mentioned above, start slow. Start with a couple times a week and build slowly to 5 to 6 times a week. Read the book, Younger Next Year, for more information on this idea.

    Crossfit- This is extreme again. I love Crossfit gyms. If you have never tried it and you are type A, you will love it. Crossfit is HIIT training that incorporates Olympic weightlifting, kettlebells, etc., in short bursts that are all timed to measure your fitness and intensity. It is truly max effort of 100% that really is the epitome of HIIT. Please consult a doctor before trying this (or anything I have recommended) and take care if you have body injuries, as Crossfit may worsen them if you are not careful. I discuss this further in Part 3 of this series.

    (published August 10, 2012)

    dr-samuel-lamSamuel M. Lam, M.D. is a double board-certified facial plastic surgeon and a board-certified hair restoration surgeon. The author of five major medical textbooks, Dr. Lam lectures monthly both nationally and internationally. He is the owner of the 27,000 square foot Willow Bend Wellness Center in Dallas, Texas, which supports meditation, revitalization, rejuvenation, relaxation and wellness. Dr. Lam has succeeded in recent years with his own physical transformation through a combination of proper diet and exercise, and would like to help others do the same.