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Finding Your Balance - Exercise

Updated on September 7, 2018

I believe that finding your balance in life is very important. You cannot lean completely towards one thing or another, as everything has its pros and cons.

Being Chinese, I grew up knowing the theory of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are the balances in the Chinese philosophy.


Let me briefly go through the theory of Yin and Yang.

Yin-Yang

Yin and Yang are the two basic energy system in life. They resist and restrict each other. However, they also rely on and support each other. Thus, both Yin and Yang maintain a balance and harmony by which life germinates, grows, develops and matures. You are known to be healthy when Yin and Yang are in harmony. To make an analogy, since Yin symbolizes water and Yang represents sunlight, only when there is enough water and sunlight, and both are in balance, can life thrive. Too much of either would cause a drought or flood which can destroy life. Similarly, excess heat scorches life while low temperature freeze life.


In life there are many things that needs you to keep a stable balance.


Balance in exercise

In exercise you will need to have a balance of Cardio exercises, Resistance Training, Rest and Recovery.

Most of the time when we talk about losing weight or exercising in general, the first thing that comes in mind is cardio. Even thou cardio is very important, time spent on resistance training, rest and recovery are just as important. If you have the right balance in your workout program it will be much more effective.


Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardio exercises are not just good for weight loss but it is also very beneficial to your health.

A suggested 30-45 minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise a day, 4-5 days a week, or a vigorous cardio 15-20 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week. The days and duration will differ depending on your goals and targets.

Moderate intensity

For moderate intensity cardio, a person's target heart rate should be between 50 to 70% of his or her maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate is based on the person's age. To get your estimate maximum heart rate subtract your age from 220. For example, I am 28 years old, my estimated maximum heart rate would be calculated as 220 - 28 years = 192 beats per minute (bpm).

The 50% and 70% levels would be:

  • 50% level: 192 x 0.50 = 96 bpm, and
  • 70% level: 192 x 0.70 = 135 bpm

Thus, moderate intensity cardio for me will require my heart rate to remain between 96 and 135 bpm during physical activity.

Vigorous Intensity

For vigorous intensity cardio, a person's target heart rate should be between 70 to 85% of his or her maximum heart rate. To calculate this range, follow the same formula as used above, but instead of "50 and 70%" change it to "70 and 85%".

The 70% and 85% levels would be:

  • 70% level: 192 x 0.70 = 135 bpm, and
  • 85% level: 192 x 0.85 = 163 bpm

Thus, vigorous intensity cardio for me will require my heart rate to remain between 135 and 163 bpm during physical activity.


Resistance Training

Resistance training is not only for building muscle and toning your body, it is also good for weight loss.

A suggested 45-60 minutes workout, 4 to 5 days a week. Just like cardio, this will differ depending on your goals and targets.

There are two main resistance training methods, weight training and calisthenics. I suggest that you incorporate both methods into your workout program, I will also go through the pros and cons of each.


Weight training

When it comes to weight training you can use either free weights or weight machines, depending on your goals and your training environment.

Pros: Weights allows you to intensify or decrease the resistance to your strength level. It also allows you to target specific muscle groups that you want to focus on.

Cons: You will be obligated to sign a gym contract or you will be restricted by the equipment you got. Even if you only use small dumbbells, it would be an inconvenience to carry them around while traveling. And if you don’t have a personal trainer or training partner you might end up with a bad posture and higher risk of injury.


Calisthenics

Calisthenics are body weight based exercises with little to no equipment required.

Pros: Calisthenics can be done easily anywhere at anytime as you do not require any equipment. You do not need a training partner if you prefer to train alone and there is a low risk in injury.

Cons: It does not build muscle as quickly as weighted training and even though you can modify some moves to increase the resistance, but you are mostly limited to your own body weight. It is also hard to isolate and target a specific muscle group with calisthenics.

When exercising it is important for you to train your strength as well as endurance.

For weighted strength training you will be doing less repetitions with heavier weights. While weighted endurance training it will be more repetitions with lighter weights. First find a weight range that suits your strength level, then adjust from there.

Cardio strength training similarly to weighted strength training it would use a boost of energy for short periods of time, for instance short sprints.

While cardio endurance training would be things like long distance running.


The reason to train both is that we need them in our everyday life. We need muscle strength to move or carry heavy stuff, and for muscle endurance on a personal note, I need it to hold my kids in my arms while walking around with them at the zoo.

Rest & Recovery

Many of us tend to over-train and we feel guilty when we take a day off. With good rest and proper recovery the body repairs and strengthens itself, while over training and exhausting our body can weaken our performance.


Rest: Rest is the time spent sleeping and days that you do not train or exercise. You can literally do anything you like on those days, as long as it don’t involve training or exercising. The aim is to keep your heart rate down, but this don’t mean you need to sit on the couch all day and binge on your favourite T.V series.


Recovery: Recovery helps relieve muscle soreness and restore energy levels.

Here are some ideas to help with recovery:

  • Cool down (stretching, yoga or light exercises) - Cool down relives muscle soreness and it also improves your flexibility and mobility.
  • Hydration - Like I always say,”drink more water”. Water is necessary for our body to function, it is also important for recovery. Dehydration can cause muscle injuries.
  • Nutrition - You are what you eat, therefore nutrition is vital for recovery. Stay away from junk and processed foods as they contain many harmful substances to the body. It is also important to find a balance in nutrition that suits your body type.
  • Post workout supplement - The most efficient time period to recover or rebuild what you depleted during workout is within the first 45 minutes after the workout. Supplements are easier to prepare and easily portable. You can get supplements that suit your needs, and supplements in general gets absorbed quicker by our body.
  • Good Night Sleep - Sleep is the most important time to recover. The quality of sleep is also important. Sleep benefits your mental health, hormonal balance, and muscular recovery. A 7 to 9 hours of sleep is recommended a day.


Keep in mind that this are only guideline to help you. You will still need to find your own balance that suits your goal and lifestyle.

Find your balance, live your life!

© 2018 Mike Gao

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