‘Getting in shape’ is one of those fitness terms which has been around for a number of years, similar to ‘burning the pounds’ and ‘pumping the iron’.
Despite standing the test of time only a small amount of people succeed with their quest to get in shape. Year after year people fall by the wayside and their venture is postponed for some time, this usually happens in February when the New Year buzz has calmed down.
The main reason for people deferring their mission to get in shape is because they don’t know how to succeed. A lack of results can cause a lot of people to quit.
Those who are determined enough to succeed are those who take the time to research the subject matter prior to commencing with their plan of action. Jumping in at the deep end isn’t necessarily the correct attitude to adopt as this article aims to prove.
This article aims to help you divide your ‘get in shape’ regime into three main sections, exercise, diet and attitude. Each section will include advice and tips as well as the relevant literature, well worth reading before devising your personal plan of action.
Exercise – how beneficial is your exercise plan? Does it suit your body shape and will the results be as expected? This section aims to answer both these questions by highlighting key cardiovascular and weight training principles for all male and female body shapes.
Diet – is my diet helping me get in shape? Does my diet compliment my exercise programme? Should I take more notice of calorie advice and portion sizes? This section will analyse diet advice for all body shapes and consequently answer the above questions in some detail. Information on both food and drink intake will be included to help provide accurate and concise diet information.
Attitude – this final section will look at how attitude can effect performance and the consequences it may have in relation to body shape. This section will look at how key motivation can be and provide tips on how to eliminate the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ attitude.
The First Step
Before designing your own seven day a week exercise regime and the diet plan Rosemary Connelly hasn’t even thought of it is important to identify and research one key area, your body type. There are three male body types and four female body types. Each has different exercise and diet requirements and it is therefore essential that you research this area before starting anything.
The body shape section of this website houses all the information you need to know about your figure, including a guide to identifying your body shape. However, below is a brief passage outlining the different body types. This information has been taken from other articles on this site.
Apple shaped body (female)- a woman with an apple shape figure will have a large bust, carry excess weight around the midriff just above the hips and a protruding belly that is visibly round.
Pear shaped body (female)- when the hip circumference is larger than the chest measurement the figure is known as a pear shaped body. Commonly, women have a small bust and narrow shoulders with large hips, thighs or bottom.
Hourglass shaped body (female)- when the hips and chest circumference are similar and the waist is slimmer this is said to be an hourglass body shape. Most hourglass bodies also have a large bust and a very distinctive curvy look it is the least common shape but often the most desired.
Ruler shaped body (female)– a rectangle or ruler shaped body will have hips which are similar if not identical to the circumference of the waist and chest. Rectangle body shapes are a slim figure like a modern fashion model this type is now considered by some to be the ideal look.
Mesomorph (male)- people with this body shape are usually described as having an athletic physique. They have a larger bone structure in comparison to ectomorphs and have a naturally muscular body.
Ectomorph (male)- most people with an ectomorph body shape have a narrow waist and hips, small shoulders and a flat chest. Ectomorphs can lose weight easily and tend to have low levels of body fat due to their high metabolism rate.
Endomorph (male)- males with this body shape tend to have bigger bones that the other body types. These men and usually have round faces with larger thighs and hips. They also have arms and legs that tend to be short and tapering, giving them a stocky appearance.
This sub section could quite easily have been titled ‘the first mistake’, simply because ignoring this first step is the main reason most people fail to get in shape.
Although some choose to focus solely on their diet, a regular and shape specific exercise programme can really catalyse your mission to ‘get in shape’. The combination of diet and exercise helps propel results in comparison to just one or the other.
Both cardiovascular and weight resistance exercise is advised but as you will have discovered when researching your body shape, some are required to focus more on cardiovascular training and less on weight training and some vice versa. The guidelines for your body shape are very specific and anyone who chooses to enrol on their own exercise regime may find that their results are not as desired.
This sub section includes five key weight training exercises which are designed to target specific muscle groups. The exercises will not be suitable to all body shapes and some more than others will benefit from doing larger sets and more repetitions.
For those who have access weight training can be conducted using weight resistance machines, these are usually found in gyms but can also be purchased for the home. However for those who do not have access weight training can also be conducted using free weights such as dumbbells and barbells. Exercises relevant to both forms of weight training have been included in the list below.
Bicep curls- these are probably the most basic of all weight training exercises. As their title suggests, bicep curls target the bicep muscle located in the upper arm. This form of exercise is very popular because it can quite easily be performed at home as well as in a gym; it is a free weight exercise.
To perform a bicep curl you should start with your arms by the side of your body as you clutch the weight (dumbbell) of your choice. You may if you wish exercise only one bicep at a time; however you can exercise both together if you want. From this starting position you should then aim to move your lower arm towards your upper arm using the elbow as a hinge. Once your fist is touching or near to touching your shoulder than you have completed a single bicep curl.
Bench press- this exercise does in essence use free weights, however it can be difficult to perform bench press exercises anywhere but a gym because of the room and holding equipment which is required.
The bench press exercise uses a barbell in an attempt to work the pectoral (chest) muscles. When performing a bench press exercise you should be laid flat on your back with plenty of space either side of your body, the platform you are lay on should preferably be raised from the ground.
From here you lay your weighted barbell across your chest, in line with your nipples. You then grab the bar at either end (some bars have hand grips) with the knuckles of both hands facing downwards so you can see them. At this point your arms should be bent.
To finish the bench press exercise you then push the bar upwards, extending your arms into a straight locked position. You then unlock your arms at the elbow as you slowly lower the bar towards your body once more.
Bench press areas in gyms are likely to have safety bars on which you can rest the barbell before exercising as opposed to resting it on your chest. This can also be used to rest the barbell on mid- cycle if you feel you are unable to life the weight anymore.
Dumbbell Fly– these are another basic exercise which like the bench press target the pectoral muscles of the chest. However, the bench press is designed to increase the size of the pectoral muscles whereas the dumbbell flies are designed to add definition, particularly to the divide between the two pectoral muscles.
Dumbbell flies can be performed in three positions, an upright position, a slightly reclined upright position or a horizontal position (lay down). Whichever position you choose to adopt the action should stay the same although results may vary from one position to the next.
You should start off with a dumbbell weight in each hand. These are placed together above the centre of the chest, with a slight bend in the arms, as if you were hugging a barrel or the trunk of a tree. Trying to adopt a similar position throughout the whole of the exercise, you then pull the weights away from each other, moving them away from the centre of your body. You should find that you have naturally moved your arms backwards. Once you come to a position where your chest starts to pull, stop and move the weights together again over the centre of your chest.
Please be aware that performing this exercise in a reclined or horizontal position is much more difficult, the force of gravity has a greater effect when in this position. For this reason it is advised that you use slightly lighter weights for these positions, in comparison to the upright position.
Shoulder Press- as their title suggests, shoulder presses target the muscles of the shoulder, the deltoids. These presses can be performed in two ways, as a free weight using a barbell or on a specific shoulder press weight resistance machine.
To perform a shoulder press you must be seated, leaning against a solid surface, this will be part of the machine if you are using a shoulder press weight resistance machine. From this seated position the action of the repetition is very similar to that of the bench press except the bar is only lowered to the height of your shoulders rather than your chest.
Some like to increase the intensity of this exercise by reclining their seat. This is easily done for those using a machine but can be difficult when using the free weight technique. However the reclined position does make the exercise more difficult and can improve results, the deltoids are required to work against the force of gravity as well as the weight of the machine or the free weight.
Leg press- this weight training exercise would be named more appropriately if it was called the leg push. This exercise is unique as it is the only one in this list which works the lower body rather than the upper. The leg press exercise is performed on a weight resistance and targets the muscles of the upper leg (thigh) called the quadriceps.
Most gyms will have a leg press machine as these are very popular, particularly for those who want to get in shape. Also, if you are looking to build your own home gym then it may be advantageous to purchase one of these machines, they can be useful.
To perform a leg press you sit in the seat of the machine, with your knees bent and feet flat against the weight platform. This position is similar to one you may adopt if you were sat in a go kart. After selecting the weight you wish to work with you should then aim to straighten your legs, pushing away the weight platform in the process. To complete the repetition you should then let the weight spring back towards you body once more as your legs return to their bent position.
As with other exercises in this list, reclining the seat or raising the height of the weight platform can make this exercise very difficult with gravity taking effect once more. Controlling the weight platform is vital if the machine is inclined as it is just as difficult to push the platform away as it is to return it slowly.
Immediately after cardiovascular training is mentioned most people’s minds turn towards running. However as this sub section aims to explain, there is more to cardiovascular training than running. Other aerobic exercises such as cycling and swimming also fit into this category.
This section will list five of the most advantageous cardiovascular exercises. Again these will not be suited to all body types and some may have to be disciple with times and distances, monitoring the intensity to suit their recommended exercise regime.
Exploring a range of cardiovascular exercises can help with boredom and motivation. For some, particularly endomorphs and those with an apple shaped body, this is likely to be the most testing part of their ‘get in shape’ programme. Adding a little variety can help make cardiovascular training a little easier as long as it fits in with the exercise suggested for your body shape.
Cycling- whether on an exercise bike or out on the roads cycling is a great cardiovascular calorie burning exercise. Cycling is best enjoyed with family or friends, this helps pass the time. This form of exercise can burn between 500 and 800 calories, depending on intensity. Inclined cycling will obviously encourage your muscles to work harder and at a higher intensity so is therefore a better calorie burner. Most people prefer cycling to running simply because it seems to take less effort.
Running- similar to cycling, as a calorie burning exercise you can run either on a treadmill or outdoors. The correct figures for calorie burning in regard to running very much depend on the speed you run at and how far you run. An eight mile run can burn in the region of 850 calories per hour. Although the stats are impressive not everyone likes running and it is for this reason that it was earlier suggested that cardiovascular exercise is divided in terms of time.
Rowing- stationary rowing on a rowing machine is a much simpler cardiovascular exercise in comparison to rowing on a lake or a river. Like all the exercises in this list the number of calories burned depends on the intensity of the exercise. On average rowing can burn in the region of 600 calories. This type of exercise is very popular and is ideal for a warm up activity. For example if you are expected to do one hour of cardiovascular exercise, why not do 10 minutes of rowing then 50 minutes of running or cycling?
Swimming- not everyone’s favourite activity but all the same a great calorie burner. If performed at a high intensity swimming can burn a staggering 680 calories. Even at a lower intensity it can burn in the region of 545 calories. Similar to rowing, swimming can be used as a cool down activity, literally. Not everyone will feel comfortable in the water so this is unlikely to suit everyone’s needs but why not divide your cardiovascular exercise time to include a session of light swimming at the end? Most people swim whilst on holiday and without knowing they actually burn a high amount of calories.
Boxing- everyone seems to view boxing exercise as really good calorie burners and they aren’t wrong. An intense boxing session can burn more than 800 calories, it is up there with cycling and running as one of the best calorie burning exercises. Even a moderate session could burn 615 calories, more than the average calorie burning total for a rowing session. More and more fitness clubs are now providing boxing sessions for both males and females. Many of these sessions are unopposed such as ‘boxercise’; these tend to focus more on the fitness value of the exercise rather than the actual contact nature of the sport.
Without researching your body shape and knowing what type of diet suits you best you could be forgiven for thinking the latest magic diet doing the rounds is going to see you shred the pounds in a fortnight. For some these types of ‘magazine’ diets will work, however they are not suited to all body types and some will not experience the same positive results as others.
As stressed previously it is vital that you identify your body shape before commencing with any new diet plan. The same as they have different exercise requirements, different body shapes also have different dietary requirements. Once you have identified your body shape and consequently gathered a vague idea of the type of diet plan you should be following there are four specific areas which you should look at, these are highlighted below.
Calories- calorie control is an integral part of shape transformation; this may be increasing your calorie intake or decreasing it, depending on your existing body shape. Experts suggest that your daily calorie intake should be 10 times your body weight in pounds. For example if your body weight is 130lbs then you should look to have a daily intake of 1300kcals.
For some this formula may be baffling, how can I get in shape by increasing my calorie intake? Combining your diet with your exercise plan will help with burning calories, the likelihood is that if you follow both parts correctly then you’ll be burning off more calories than you intake or needing the calories to fuel your body for exercises.
In addition, each body shape requires different amounts of the three main body nutrients, carbohydrate, protein and fat. For this reason it is key you know how to make up your calories. For example, it is easier to hit your calorie intake target by consuming products high in fat but it is unlikely that this is going to be beneficial to your body shape.
For some the calorie formula may suggest that they decrease their calorie intake, especially if you have one of the larger body shapes. This advice is not to be dismissed and should be taken seriously. It is during these circumstances that the nutritional intake information should be analysed thoroughly, this will help with exercising, providing the body with the necessary fuel to perform to the desired standard. Fuelling your body with calories worth of carbohydrates will not do you any good if your exercise plan is based around weight resistance training.
Portion size- this links to meal frequency in terms of it isn’t always a case of looking at what you eat but often a case of looking at how much and how often you eat. Portion size is obviously only relevant if you are eating the right foods anyway. However the ideal portion, when on a plate or in a bowl, should be between the size of your clenched fist and outstretched hand. For some this may seem like very little, however if your body is being fuelled with the nutrients it needs and in the right amounts then these portions sizes will be adequate.
Cooking meals to suit your portion size can be quite difficult to measure and in some case will produce a lot of waste. It is therefore suggested that instead of cooking individual meals at a time you in fact cook larger meals and divide them when cooked. These can then be divided into portion sizes and put in the freezer to be used at a later date.
Meal frequency- meal frequency can be vital for those looking to get in shape, particularly those looking to lose excess body weight. Providing your body with a constant supply of energy helps increase metabolism, encouraging your body to burn calories at a higher rate. Ideally you should be looking to consume in the region of five to six meals a day, bearing in mind the portion size guidelines above.
By eating five to six meals throughout the day you will struggle to overload your body with energy, something which can happen with diet plans which involve large meals and long breaks. You should look to break up your nutritional intake so it is spread across all five or six meals. This means dividing your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake across the whole day, again providing your body with a constant supply of energy.
Hydration-it goes without saying that hydration is important before during and after exercise. Your body loses a lot of fluid during this time and it is important to keep your body’s water levels as well stocked as you can. A lack of hydration can cause problems with body temperature, blood pressure, dizziness, muscle function, blood flow as well as urine issues and thirst.
Hydration should be a constant feature of your diet with a particular focus on water rather than fizzy drinks and flavoured juices. You should aim to include an intake of water with every meal as well as a larger intake before during and after exercise, this will help your body prepare for and recover from losing a lot of water (sweat) during exercise.
Motivation-possibly the biggest attitude component which needs to be altered is motivation. Having the desire and determination to get in shape is one thing but having the motivation to act on them two things is another.
Motivation can be provided by friends or family by either providing support or attempting to get in shape alongside you. A lot of people who successfully get in shape put their triumph down to the encouragement provided by others, sometimes training buddies or personal trainers. Others suggest their motivation to get in shape was helped by goal setting, giving them something to work towards, a holiday or a wedding for example.
For those who struggle with motivation and can’t seem to get themselves moving via goal setting or getting in shape with others, role models can help. Looking at the shape of others, be it celebrities or others you admire, can help trigger your own motivation, acting upon your desire to be like this individual.
These are just snippets of information regarding motivation and for a thorough analysis of motivation and professional techniques it is suggested you research the area in some detail. However the information provided can act as a guide and using the tips it outlines may be the kick start you need.
Remember, motivation and determination provide the key to success.
Time Management- managing your time can be strongly linked very strongly to motivation, the more likely you are to abandon your get in shape regime and start something new. Time management can be the pivotal part of your programme, although the diet and exercise ideas will be the catalysts, without the time to fit them in your progress will be stalled.
Time management doesn’t necessarily mean drawing up large timetables which must be followed religiously, it means finding the time to do what you need to do, provided you have the motivation to do it.
For many the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ attitude is the order of the day and this is what lets the majority down. There are so many things which can be done tomorrow and exercise and dieting don’t always have to be put on the back burner.
Making time via putting other things off to the following day is the way forward. This could mean getting up an hour earlier on a morning, putting off a trip to the pub to go to the gym or cancelling your meal out because you have to stay at home and make a salad for your tea.
Initially these kinds of things will not feel natural and you may cave in on the odd occasion. However, once you find the solution to your motivation downfalls, add some relative order to your lifestyle and begin to see the changes to your body then you’ll realize that determination, desire, motivation and time management are vital if you want to get in shape.