If you’re already somewhat fit—that is to say, not sedentary and not clinically obese—you can push your body to get in great athletic shape fast. In six weeks, you can gain muscle and lose fat, while honing both speed and endurance.
Basics about this program: One–It won’t be easy. You can’t miss a workout or rest day. You have to stick to a schedule. However, if you’re overtraining, you WILL have to take time off (See RHR below) Two: Because this routine pushes your body hard, Don’t do this six week ‘rush’ workout more than twice a year.
Start by measuring your resting heart rate (RHR) for four days BEFORE beginning this workout. Keep a stopwatch and notebook beside your bed. Measure your RHR with the stopwatch before you get up each morning, while your heart is still in a resting state. Use the pulse beside your windpipe, where your lower jaw meets your neck. Count heartbeats for ten seconds and multiply times six. Write down and date the measurement.
This gives you a baseline to measure both fitness gains and potential overtraining. ‘Overtraining’ is an actual condition. It occurs when you push yourself past an easy recovery from workouts, so that your body has to go into your system’s cellular reserves. Overtraining saps energy, motivation and gains.
To simplify, if your RHR goes down, it shows you’re getting more fit. If it goes up more than three or four beats per minute, that indicates overtraining. If it’s up seven or more beats per minute, you’ll need to take at least a week off from strenuous activity to recover. Don’t resume the ‘rush’ workout until your RHR is back to normal.
Now for the workout routine. While a one hour workout is good, two separate 40-minute sessions are better. Stretch after every session. Begin with an easier level, don’t go all out the first week. Increase intensity slowly, week by week. Do three days on, followed by two rest days. The older you are, the more recovery time you need. Those over 50 may need more than six weeks to complete the program.
The first workout is an aerobic day. Choose an activity; a bike ride, a run or even a class. The following day is for plyometrics. Unless you’re already trained to some degree in these joint-stressing rebounding exercises, keep it simple: jump rope for a minute, then rest until your heart stops pounding. Then, using an aerobic step, jump up on it and off it, turn around and repeat for a minute or so. Add a second step in the second week. Hopping, jumping and absorbing are the basics of plyometrics; ask a trainer to recommend a routine for your age and condition
The third day is resistance. Do a circuit that works every major muscle group. Include muscle antagonists as well. For example, do a set of biceps curls, then a set of triceps pull downs. Work your lats and chest and shoulder, your spnal erectors and abs, obliques and glutes and hip flexors, quads and hamstrings and calves. Repeat this circuit three to five times, using light weights at first and increasing the resistance slightly each week.
The three days of workouts should be followed by two days of active rest. A brisk walk, a bike ride with no hills or sprints, a few low key body-weight exercises will work on rest days. Remember to keep track of how your training is going by looking at changes in your RHR. A slowly elevating rate also indicates overtraining, and requires that you back off.
After the six weeks of increasing intensity, go back to your regular training routine. You’ll be a much better athlete, and your results will show it.