Getting back into the fitness swing for spring


Michael Lancaster
Michael Lancaster

Whether finally owning up to a New Years resolution, pining to strut your stuff for spring or yearning for a healthier lifestyle, getting active after many months or years of inertia calls for taking a few precautions. Tipness Fitness Club's Michael Lancaster offers some expert insights on how to do it safely and successfully.

In addition to a B.S. in sports sciences and U.S.-based National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) certification, Lancaster sports 15 years of experience in the field. That includes working as a gym and aerobics instructor, running his own gym and testing elite athletes for the Australian Institute for Sports Sciences before moving from Canberra, Australia to Japan five years ago. He says shaking off a long spell of inactivity shouldn't start at the gym but with a doctor.

"First, get a doctors check up," Lancaster says. "It's the most important thing for two reasons; to ensure you're medically OK and to get confidence to workout harder." While he cautions against overdoing it, Lancaster says some people looking to end a long spate of inactivity will not push as much as they should owing to misgivings about their health. A medical check up can also remove such doubts.

Another indicator to start paying attention to is what you eat. While Lancaster does not endorse a particular diet, in part because there are so many effective programs out there, he does offer general rules of thumb: "I just have guidelines," he says. "More than 50 to 60 percent of your diet should be fruits and vegetables and before each meal have at least one glass of water." It's a habit he says that can help curb habitual overeating.

While there are many effective programs out there for the retiring couch potato and star athlete alike, Lancaster offers a basic easy-to-use formula called, "FITT." It stands for frequency, intensity, type of workout and time. "For the frequency of workouts, we're looking at about three or four times a week," he explains. "For intensity you must exercise enough to get what I call some huff and puff." To gauge the right amount, he says, just listen to yourself - literally: "If you exercise so hard that you can't talk then you're exercising too hard; it's called the talk test. If you can carryout an easy conversation you're not working out hard enough." The type of exercise, he adds, should be relatively low-impact aerobics such as walking, jogging, swimming or cycling. As for time, the newly active should shoot for no more than 15 to 20 minutes, including warm-ups.

Lancaster insists that not pushing yourself too hard is key to success when getting back into the swing of things. "They should not exercise very hard for a couple of reasons: Over a period of two or three weeks they might get injured. Also, if they work too hard they wont enjoy it. Enjoyment is very important." He says that's because excess without attention to one's enjoyment level can precede a burnout that trainers, gym instructors and perhaps a few would-be fitness freaks are all too familiar with. "Many people are very excited for the first two to three weeks but classically they dropout after four to six weeks," he says. "In the fitness industry (lasting the first) six weeks is considered the first hurdle."

Getting proper guidance is also essential. For example, weight training or abdominal workouts may be ideal for those fresh off the couch that have an aversion to aerobic exercise. But Lancaster only recommends doing so under the tutelage of someone who knows his or her stuff. And while there may be no shortage of qualified English-speaking personal trainers in Japan, relying on instructors of local gym programs is another story. He says without fluent Japanese ability it can be hard to get essential details on how to do exercises properly: "I think it's the biggest challenge," for non-bilingual English speakers in Japan. "Even if a person doesn't want to keep a personal trainer for the long-term, just getting instruction for the short-term will help their workouts a lot."

To learn more about the personal training that Michael Lancaster offers at Tipness Fitness Cub visit the Japanese-language Web site at:

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