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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Male Fitness: From Weekend Warrior to Weekday Strategist

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Explore options for getting exercise to work with your life

I used to exercise after work every day until I met a girl and got married. Going home, cooking and eating just seemed more attractive than going to the Y. Earlymorning workouts became the new norm –- until kids. Somehow being biologically fit (i.e., reproducing) seemed to negatively impact my personal fitness. Have you ever heard of the “dad bod”?

Many men find themselves in a similar situation. Men are taught, and rightfully so, to put their friends and family first and themselves last. But there’s a flip side to this age-old chivalry and a fine line we must tread. Self-sacrifice and self-care need to be in tandem. Otherwise, we sacrifice our well-being for our spouse, children, friends, etc. A secondary move we make is to further devote ourselves to our careers. Do better at the office, and you can provide more financially for your family, right? In short, we sacrifice our health and our time with our family … for our family.

Frustrated with declining personal fitness and the desire to “get back in shape,” many men resort to using weekends to catch up on exercise. Hence, the Weekend Warrior is born. This is a group that received relatively bad press in the past. Concerns about single-day over-training or acute injury is a valid concern but is avoidable for the most part. Research indicates that even when working out two days a week, cardiovascular fitness can improve with notable improvements in mortality.

However, current physical activity guidelines recommend that physical activity be spread throughout the week. Reasons for this include optimizing health benefits, ensuring all aspects of fitness can be targeted on varying days (e.g., strength-day, cardio-day, etc.), and avoiding training errors resulting from over-dosing on exercise intensity/volume in “catch-up” training sessions.

So, how can we transition from treating our fitness regimen like a shock-andawe experience into something more tactical? Ideally, men would transition to a more uniform schedule versus cramming everything into the weekend for their workouts. This can be difficult for those working long hours in the office and have kids’ activities after school. If you can wake up early in the morning and do not have a job where you need to be at work at an early hour, morning workouts may be the key.

Even 30 minutes of intense physical activity several times a week can ensure you meet the established recommendations for exercise. If you are lucky enough to have a job that will allow you to work out over your lunch break, a quick run to the gym and then a “working lunch” sitting at the computer once you get back may be the key. Here’s an example week:

• Weekday (early morning or lunch)

Leg resistance day  – 30 min.

– 15 min. walk, run or bike in the evening Arms resistance day - 30 min.

– 15 min. walk, run or bike in the evening Chest and back resistance day – 30 min.

– 15 min. walk, run or bike in the evening

• Weekend

You can add your more time-intensive, whole-body workouts, group classes or competitive events (5Ks, CrossFit classes, etc.).

– A whole-body resistance workout will get you the recommended second training day for each muscle group.

– Including aerobic activity will help contribute to the total minutes recommended per week (150 minutes).

– Resistance training has an aerobic component if you keep breaks short and/or superset.

This is just not possible for some, especially those in careers where the schedule is variable and the hours are long. If the previous recommendations are not workable for you, here are a few suggestions you should try and implement to start increasing your amount of physical activity throughout the week in addition to your more formal workouts during the weekend.

• Park as far away from your building as possible.

• Always take the stairs.

• Get up and go for a five- to 10-minute walk once an hour if you have a desk job.

• Buy a standing desk attachment.

• Bike to work if the distance allows and you have equipment storage.

• Limit time on your cell phone/social media and watching television.

You would be shocked how much time you can gain in a day if you avoid the television, cell phone and computer in the evening. You may go for a run just to find something to do. Check with your healthcare provider before initiating a new exercise regimen.

In short, health benefits are observed with an physcial activity. Do not get discouraged. Stay moving, stay active and remember that you can only be there for the ones you love if you make sure to take care of yourself.

Daniel Flowers, PT, DPT, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of physical therapy and program director of the Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Residency at LSU Health Shreveport.

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