In a time of lockdowns and remote working, people may find that they suddenly have more time and energy to spare. Yet within the confines of their homes, that combination can lead to restlessness. We all need an outlet, and for many, physical exercise provides the perfect opportunity to harness that extra energy. Interest in home workout routines has spiked during the pandemic. People are dusting off those seldom-used stationary bikes and treadmills and getting back on track to their fitness goals.
But what if you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any equipment? Just as with any skill, exercise has a learning curve. And it’s easier for someone to start working out if they have existing familiarity or a reasonable baseline of activity. Being so accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle can mean that you have to overcome a lot of inertia just to get going.
Here’s some good news. You can leverage your smarts to begin exercising effectively. A scientific approach to training will let you learn quickly and discover what sort of training works best for you.
Scientists can achieve predictable results in a controlled environment. They carry out chemical reactions at specific temperatures within a lab water bath. Failure to control a variable could not only ruin the outcome but invalidate any data being collected.
Before proceeding to train, you need to determine the variables involved. Some of these can’t be controlled – age, sex, genetics, or existing medical conditions. However, others are definitely within your control. These include nutrition, sleep, and stress.
It’s a good idea to improve these things along with your training. But remember that the scientific method wants to isolate and manipulate one variable, and control the rest. With that in mind, set a reasonable baseline for the other variables. Each day, commit to getting the same hours of sleep, consuming the same amount of calories, and avoiding the major stressors you can identify in your life. Later on, when you have established a baseline for effective exercise, you can control that and manipulate another variable (such as nutrition) instead.
The scientific method
If your career doesn’t involve science, the scientific method may be a forgotten lesson from your school years. For physical training, you can keep it simple and use this modified workflow.
Step one: Research. Use the internet to research beginner-level exercises. Make sure these are exercises you can carry out safely within your home. Coming from zero, you want to slowly gain momentum, not injure yourself.
Step two: Hypothesis. Flesh out your routine-the specific exercises you’ll do, how many sets and reps each, how much resting time you’ll allow, and what time of day you’ll be exercising.
Step three: Testing. Carry out your test; start exercising at the same time every day. Consistency is critical. Don’t do more reps if you feel energetic; push yourself to meet the standard if you feel lethargic.
Step four: Data collection and analysis. Log the results of your daily exercise. How did you feel before and after the workout, throughout the day, before going to bed, and after waking up? Include notes on appetite and weight loss.
The above example assumes that you will work on physical activity while controlling all other variables. This is based on the assumption that you’re just beginning on the road to physical fitness and thus don’t have a good idea of what sort of exercise will work best. If you want to push yourself further, you can design a new workout as the current exercises become too easy. You can also plan your workouts to target certain muscle groups more heavily or involve the whole body more frequently.
However, it’s vital to give your body time to adapt before making any changes. Physical trainers may use one of two models to understand how the body responds to stress: supercompensation and fitness-fatigue. Both models agree that there is a recovery interval during which the body responds to the stimulus of training. Only after this period will gains begin to manifest.
The same procedure should be followed when you make changes to the independent variable. For instance, you may have established a good exercise routine after a month. It makes you feel good each day, and you’re starting to see better muscle tone and fat loss. Instead of continuing to push on that front, you could experiment with nutrition – either reducing the number of calories consumed to lose more weight or increasing it to build more muscle. Give your body time to respond to the change and collect data before you decide whether or not it’s a good idea.
With a scientific approach to your fitness, you’ll be able to work smart and take control of your goals, following a path best suited to your traits and preferences.
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