In countries like India that are growing, where people have greater opportunities to work, the spendable time seems to be more and more scarce. So, obviously fitness takes a back seat on their scale of priorities. Extremely conscious of my own state of fitness, I make a desperate attempt to tuck my extra flab under the belt and meet the Reebok Global Master Trainer, David Jack.
On a strict 8-days multi-city tour to India to introduce the concept of metabolic training to fitness coaches, David highlights the irony in my opening statement, “What else are we working for? If at 42 you have a heart attack and you are not here anymore, what does it matter how many hours you chased your work for, or how much money you earned? You will not be with your family to enjoy it.”
Just to put things into perspective, I am far from being 42 but the example still sounds scary. So, what’s the way to get that extra bounce for your ounce? I ask, now wary to pour the content of that open sugar sachet in my lemon tea. “As a backward rationale you need to realise that all you have is yourself, to enjoy this life. Still the reality is that people say they don’t have an hour to work out. So, we needed to harness a way to be able to give them an opportunity to get fitness in shorter amounts of time that actually was able to do something for them. Enter metabolic training as a potential solution.”
One should expect to get stronger, get more cardio-vascular fitness and burn body fat. It is not necessarily weight loss; weight loss is good but it’s body fat that we want to get rid of, and create more lean muscle. Because lean muscle is what provides our body more energy, protects our joints and bones, and gives us structural and postural health.
On further coaxing Davis spills that it is all about understanding how the human body functions in its most natural state. While doing the simplest exercises there are only certain muscles of the body that come under strain. So, instead of the traditional strength training, which he insists still has its place, you might rest for 30 seconds and then do an exercise for a different group of muscles. This way, your heart rate stays elevated because you’re working, say, your legs and your muscles burn. Your legs are tired, but the back is fresh, and you switch muscle groups. You are still metabolically working to perform, to create energy and to respond to stimulus. And most importantly you save time.
The Universe of Movement
There are infinite ways that a body can move by the way of different exercises and movements that a body can perform. David illustrates, “You can take a squat – just stand up and sit down. Now add dumbbells or bars or kettlebells or a sand bag when you do it. Next, you could reach to the left or to the right, up or down. Throw and catch a ball in between the squats. Slightly splitting out your feet, go down slow, come up fast, or go down fast and come up slow... We can manipulate that exercise in infinite patterns, and it’s still a squat.” So, you can stack two movements and geometrically double your exercise.
“Go find a hill and power-walk a hill, come down, do some push-ups, do some weight squats, again go power-walk the hill, come back and repeat all that. Set a clock for 15 minutes. 10 push-ups, 10 squats, up the hill, then down. See how many rounds you can manage. Don’t start the push-ups when you haven’t rested enough and are sure that you’re in good form, same thing with the squats. You need to choose what pace you walk with, when to rest and when you want to go again. It doesn’t matter what time you finish in, but that you finish it well. Next time you can try to beat it by doing it in 12 minutes, or by increasing the numbers of push-ups and squats.”
Risks and Gym Fixes
Sometimes common sense escapes us, because it’s exciting and everyone else is doing it... it’s called the gym fix. We get in there and we know we shouldn’t do a certain exercise, but the hormones inside, the energy around you, the camaraderie, the cheering, all combined make you change your mind. And the next thing you know is you go, “Oh Ya I can do that.” And maybe you can for a session or two. But ultimately what happens is you hit a threshold where your body can’t do it anymore.
Metabolic training is high on intensity and is fast paced. Because fatigue is alleviated, if you don’t own the movements and aren’t conscious about your form and quality when you’re tired, that’s when those exercises turn into something they were never designed to be. David warns that you shouldn’t have pain and injury, because these are the most common risks involved
“Fitness should always make you feel better, and in the end buy you vitality. You should feel better from where you started. It’s going to be challenging and you’re going to sweat. You should sweat and smile and should feel the burn because that’s where growth comes from, but ultimately it should be sustainable. And if you’re doing something today that you couldn’t do two or three years from now you’ve got be careful. Risks still need to be calculated.”
People need to be empowered to know what to look for in a metabolic training environment. How long has the coach been training? Do they have experience in metabolic training? Do they assess you? Do they ask you about your goals? Do they make you do an exercise that you’re uncomfortable doing?
Observe a class. And if you see there are people all over the place, everybody’s form looks different and it doesn’t look safe, then it’s probably not safe. The coach needs to take time to teach, educate, listen and ask questions. You must feel like you matter there and that the trainer cares.
Eat more one ingredient foods, like fish broccoli, eggs, carrots, and anything else that is one ingredient. You need to reduce the amount of liquid calories you drink. Any liquid you drink that has calories, especially one that doesn’t deliver a tonne of nutrition, needs to go. Fresh juices, like pineapple, carrot, apple, cucumber juice, fresh squeezed are healthy. But a glass of canned pineapple juice is not.
And of course, drink more water. You have to stay hydrated during your training, especially here in India because it’s hot and humid. That’s very important not only for the cellular mechanisms that happen to create energy, but also to help you recover.
By Siddharth Joshi