By Lisa Ziegel
If you have been exercising for some time, good for you! You are probably enjoying the results of your hard work because you are feeling more energized, enjoying better sleep, and maybe you've also toned up, gained strength and lost inches and weight! You probably did not set out to be a record-setting athlete, lift huge amounts of weight, or run a marathon, so enhancing your "performance" was not a priority at the time. But however reluctant you are to accept it, you really are an athlete just for doing what you do every day. Whether it's caring for, playing and keeping up with young children, doing housework or yard work, moving furniture, or running to catch a bus, these are activities that require more than a passing level of fitness: They require you to be in your best "performance" condition. Much of what you already do is adequate for these purposes, but what if you want to feel even better, lose more weight, improve your strength and endurance, and continue to be strong and fit to continue your daily "performances" as you age? The answer may be in training a little harder (but not necessarily longer), lifting a bit heavier, increasing your walking pace to a run or jog, and investing in some injury-preventing movement screening and corrective exercise.
A study conducted in Wisconsin suggests that moderate-effort exercises burn fewer calories by as much as 170 per hour than vigorous-effort exercises. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), you are exercising vigorously if your heart rate is 70 to 90 of your maximum heart rate and at a moderate intensity if it is at 55 to 69 percent. Obviously, burning 170 more calories can have a positive effect on weight loss, if that is the goal. The drawback is that the perceived level of exertion of the exerciser comes into play, and not everyone finds reaching outside his or her comfort zone all that pleasant. This may be influenced somewhat by genetics and also by fear of the unknown. Those who possess these qualities may lack confidence that they can take their workouts into another level -- they are afraid to fail. However, change is essential to maintaining a healthy, progressive fitness program. After all, if someone has worked hard to achieve a base level of fitness, maximizing this and embracing his or her potential can only be more rewarding! Here are some steps you can take to start reaching a higher level of fitness and how to overcome common fears and apprehensions:
Consider stepping out of your comfort zone a little at a time. Use professional help and proven guidelines to make sure you stay safe and keep progressing or changing your program when it becomes too easy or fails to stimulate you (physically or mentally). When you lose the fear of trying something new, the potential for physical change is endless. You might be surprised to find you are stronger than you think. When you improve your physical performance, you are better prepared for the "athletic event" that is life!