The word exercise means something different to all of us and covers a whole range of activities. Anything from a quick jog around the park to a ‘beasting’ of a workout, to a swim at the local pool to a 15 mile race round the scenic Yorkshire countryside to cycling to work.
What we’ve come to realise is that no one kind of exercise suits everyone. Whatever you do has to be sustainable to see the results you’re after, so you may as well enjoy it. If you love freedom, fresh air and hearing the birds sing then working out in a gym three days a week is going to be tough going. If you like a quick 45 minute workout that gets all the right bits feeling like they’ve moved, without having to think too much, then a gym class is probably going to work really well for you.
In reality we’ve found that often a mixture of activities is what works best. At the end of the day it’s thinking about what you want to achieve and how you want your body to look versus what activities you can sustainably do.
To that end I did a quick analysis of our favourite ways to exercise and what’s interesting is how that translates into how our bodies look.
Kieran has reached the perfect weekly balance for him; a couple of heavy lifting sessions in the gym when no-one’s around, and a physically challenging (ergo exhausting) hike/scramble in some mountains at the weekend – also on his own. There’s some serious games of tennis too when the weather allows. He doesn’t do anything by halves.
As a result of all this activity, with an emphasis on endurance, Kieran is muscular and very lean, he’ll likely not build much size/bulk through his strength training as he burns so many calories doing the cardio intensive mountaineering every weekend. Plus he walks to the gym and back twice a day totalling about 4 miles.
Kieran eats a phenomenal amount of food to fuel all this exercise (last calculated as between 4,000-4,500 calories per day). He needs to pack in the energy to keep him going for a few hours at a time and so eats plenty of nutrient and calorie dense proteins, carbs, veggies and good fats. All wholefoods, all made from scratch. Unlike me, he eats what he needs to and is less bothered about conventional matching of ingredients into recipes – he assembles a collection of foods that do the job and that constitutes the meal.
Kieran is someone who likes to exercise alone, mostly outdoors in the fresh air. He’s totally motivated to get on with it and doesn’t need any social support – in fact actively avoids it! The types and level of activities along with the foods he eats all go towards shaping his physique.
Dan has a muscular athletic build but think gymnast rather than a body-builder. A pronounced triangular shape with defined arms and shoulders. Not surprising really as Dan used to be a pretty serious amateur diver i.e. he’s been training hard since he was a kid, and it shows. So much so in fact that he’s apparently having trouble finding jeans that he can get on over his thighs (I remember having that problem but for whole different reasons to too much muscle) ;0)
Dan is studying ‘Strength and Conditioning’ at university so again not surprisingly, he’s into lifting weights – serious weights. He wants to build muscle size and strength. Now Dan is younger than everyone else (by some considerable years) so whilst he does need to eat a lot to maintain and grow muscle mass, he doesn’t need to be quite as rigid with what he eats as the rest of us. He can ‘get away’ with more. Life sucks that way sometimes!
Dan seems to be pretty easy come, easy go with who’s around when he’s training. The important thing to him is getting the work done, and beating his previous session’s numbers. He’s most often seen training with a spreadsheet for company (it has his target reps and weights mapped out and tracked in it). If his mates are around, great, if he’s on his own great. And if Kieran and Danny are training at the same time, let me tell you there’s a fair amount of bicep flexing going on in the gym, all to a pretty serious Hip Hop soundtrack.
Dan seems to be most serious about his gym workouts as they’re going to give him the body shape he’s after but he also plays golf and cycles – he’s generally pretty active.
Some of you may have seen Danny in the gym, he’s a one-to-one personal trainer and whilst he’s not technically a member of team DF he’s very much made himself at home with us.
You may also have noticed that Danny is pretty well built and whilst a similar shape to Dan, his physique looks more gym-gained than sports gained.
Danny got to be the size he is through a dedicated eating and training programme. He eats a lot and often, just like Kieran, but the key difference is that Danny is a dedicated strength trainer and concentrates on building muscle strength and size. He doesn’t do any of the intense cardio activities that Kieran does, so all his efforts go in to bulking up, hence he’s very muscular.
Danny seems to like training best with other people. In fact he seems to thrive in the company of others – a very social animal indeed. It’s amazing how training with someone else being present can eek out an extra few reps, or help you go for it with a heavier weight. A word of encouragement at just the right moment works wonders for confidence and performance.
That’s not to say Danny doesn’t train alone, he does. He does whatever is necessary to get him to his goal – he just prefers a bit of company along the way.
And so to me, I’m a fully-fledged gym bunny. I used to walk a lot, and played all kinds of sports at school but I don’t anymore. I love the gym.
If you’d asked me a few months ago what I did for training I would’ve said small group training three times a week. It’s great because you don’t have to think what to do, just concentrate on the exercises you’re doing at the time and it’s social – you get to have a chat with the girls. It lasts 45 mins and is done and dusted. But I got injured and that really knocked me, I got very disheartened with having to have alternative exercises to do all the time and I couldn’t deadlift or squat – my favourite exercises of all.
Soooo rather than give up on something important to me, I had a word with Danny and started some one-to-one personal training sessions with him. I have a couple of goals he’s helping me with; to deadlift 100kgs and to do three unassisted pull-ups. I enlisted Danny’s help because due to the injury I need intense supervision for each rep of exercise I do, to make sure my technique is spot-on. He’s also taking me through a specific strength training programme to get to my goals.
I also now have a supervised session with Kieran each week too, so I’m well looked after and my exercise programme is tailored exactly to my goals and abilities.
Just like the guys, my body shape is a result of how I exercise and eat. In a nutshell, eating clean, little and often. Wholefoods made up of a balance of protein, veggies and good fats plus carbs only eaten after exercise… if then.
Left to its own devices my body is a pronounced pair-shape but through exercise and eating how I do, I’ve managed to sculpt it into more of a lean hourglass… and to get some muscular definition. It’s not for everyone but I’m a fan of athletic physiques so I’m very happy.
So my conclusion: what you eat and how you exercise will determine how your body looks. You really are what you eat …and drink and how you move.