Fitness books or fitness DVD’s are likely to form a big part of your journey to a fitter you. Beginners tend to prefer these two options as they are more private than a fitness class, and of course cheaper than a personal trainer.
What are the Best Fitness Books?
The best fitness books are the ones that you make yourself. Here is a photo of one of my own fitness books:
It is just a cheap notebook with scribbled notes and some stick men to jog my memory about what certain moves look like. This is a really just an extension of exercise being a SKILL that you need to learn. When you learn anything new you don’t revise from the textbooks, you revise from your own notes (at least I did!). You can scribble, you can cross out, you can put asterisk’s next to your favourite exercises, you can jot down your repetitions. It’s OWNERSHIP.
Learning a NEW Exercise Routine is a SKILL!
We ALL make mistakes when we’re learning. Sometimes you’ll forget where to put your hands, or how many repetitions you’ve done. Sometimes your balance will be a little off, and you’ll get the muscle shakes. That’s all part of exercising. That’s all part of learning a new SKILL. And that’s what good exercise routines are; a SKILL you can take anywhere and do anywhere. Toddlers don’t give up trying to walk after repeated falls and stumbles, and we’re supposed to be slightly smarter!
Picking the Best Fitness Books
Most fitness books have an agenda. The biggest one of course is that they want you to buy the book – which is fine. What bothers me most about them however is the page space they then take up telling you why theirs is the best fitness book you ever will see (until they release an ‘update’ of course). The quality of a fitness book is something only YOU can decide AFTER you have done whatever the book is recommending. I have books that are several hundred pages long that have maybe TEN pages of exercises. If I don’t think a fitness routine is very good, or isn’t working for me, that isn’t MY fault. I haven’t FAILED.
I am not of course talking about the motivational side of fitness books, which is a subject in itself really, because I do think that some kind of ‘spur’ is important. By the time that fitness book is in your hands however you are as ready as you are going to get. What you don’t need is to read another 100 pages about how your current life is terrible and you’re lucky not to be dead already.
Are Fitness Videos Better to Learn From than Fitness Books?
In my opinion, for learning a new exercise, a GOOD fitness book is just as good as a GOOD fitness video. Personally, I prefer to learn from books, because I like to prop the book up then slowly try the move(s). Learning a new exercise from a video is dependent on the instructor being good enough to explain the move(s) properly, and YOU being able to listen, understand AND follow what is happening on screen AND keep control of what you are doing with your body (which is where I kinda fall down). A well illustrated fitness book can give you SO much more information to take away with you (rather than just hitting STOP and forgetting all about it).
Here is the source video for the Everyday Exercise Routine 1 workout program:
Fitness videos however are good for beginners, because you can literally COPY the moves. You don’t need to know WHY or WHAT or WHEN or HOW LONG, you just copy. If we look at exercise as merely a means to an end, then this is fine – it will get you there. I want you to know WHAT exercises you are doing, and WHY you are doing them. I want you to think about WHEN you are doing them, and taking note of HOW LONG you can do them for.
The reason there is no sound by the way is because it is all in Chinese and is kind of off-putting!
You know yourself better than anyone else. You know how you learn best. If it is from books – try books. If it is from videos – try videos. If you don’t know, try both and find out!
Fitness Videos as a Tool to Make Your Own Fitness Books
The notes in the photo from my notebook came from a fitness video. I sat and watched the video in comfort; I didn’t try and follow the moves. This particular one was already broken down into 5 minute segments, but if it hadn’t been I would have done this myself. I watched that 5 minute video a good 2 or 3 times THEN tried it myself with it playing in the background. I STILL didn’t give it 100% or do all the reps in the video, I just wanted to see what they felt like. Only then did I make notes. Only after ALL of that did I try the thing properly – with my notebook open and the video playing. As I went along I might pause the video and scribble an extra note or two, but generally this is how I went through the entire video. Now, no matter where I am, that routine is written in my OWN words in a language that I understand. It is MINE.
That is how all of my books started. Take the Everyday Exercise 1 for example. Take a look at the first 10 seconds of the video above. You can copy that really easily right? Of course you can (it wasn’t a trick question), but here is the text from the book that came out of my notes:
Walking on the spot / Walking in place
Let’s get one thing cleared up straight away: walking on the spot IS exercise. OK, now we can continue…
The first exercise is literally a warm up exercise: Walking on the spot (I know some people call it walking in place, but it is all the same thing!) – NATURAL exercise.
When we are waiting in the cold, our natural reaction is to warm ourselves up by stamping our feet and waving our arms around. Sometimes we even say we are ‘getting the blood moving’ as we are doing it. In a way, that is exactly what you are doing. After a prolonged period in a standing or a sitting position it is a good idea to move your arms and legs and get the blood flowing to your extremities.
Walking on the spot is an exercise to wake you up, get the blood flowing and get fresh oxygen to your brain and upper body!
The variation to be performed here is a very brief version. If you have longer to spend on your daily exercise, you could work up to performing this for 3 minutes, increasing the speed and the height you raise your knees as your endurance increases.
Instructions for walking on the spot properly:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent (soft). Arms are down by your sides with the fists lightly clenched. Starting with the left leg, lift your knee, then your ankle, then your heel, then your toes. Lifting the toes 2-3 inches from the floor is sufficient – do not raise the knee more than waist height.
At the same time, swing the right arm forward, and the left arm backward. The arm does not go straight forward, it goes forward and inward slightly, so it lines up with the center of the body. Keep the upper body straight and keep control of the arms. The easiest way to keep the upper body straight is to engage the abdominal muscles, and keep the spine stretched out to its fullest: no slouching! Furthermore, don’t twist your body to get your arms to go higher, and don’t let them swing above neck height. 45 degrees from the body front and back is sufficient – but the overall aim is simply to have the arms swing an equal distance from the body in both directions.
Now reverse the process by bringing the toe, ankle, and knee back to the ground and the arms back to the sides, fists still lightly clenched. Without pausing, repeat the moves by lifting the right leg and swinging the left arm forward so you are marching on the spot.
Raise both legs 8 times each.
Fig. 2: Walking on the Spot.
*Tip: Count 1 every time you swing your right arm forward – when you reach 8, you’re done!
Benefits of walking on the spot:
Walking on the spot is a good, simple cardiovascular exercise – good for keeping the heart and lungs healthy and active. It is going to work your calves and legs, open up the chest, tone the arms and strengthen the abdominals. It is a whole-body exercise, in that it activates all of the major body parts. Regularly walking on the spot, even for the few steps in this first movement, will realign your body, and by activating the abdominals, will help to prevent lower back pain caused by sitting at a desk all day.
As with all of the exercises I discuss, I recommend LOOKING at yourself when you are doing them. Not for the sake of vanity, but to SEE what is moving. When you are moving your arms you will see for yourself that it is not just the arms that are moving, it is the chest too. When your arms and legs are moving in different directions, you will feel a slight pull around your stomach muscles. It is ALL good exercise!
This is a brisk march aimed at waking you up and activating your arms and your legs for what is coming next. Be careful not to just loosely swing your arms like you are a bored child – keep the arms straight, feel the energy flowing down them, and swing them with controlled force!
Another way of performing this exercise would be to come up on the balls of the feet rather than lifting the feet. The arm movements are exactly the same, but when you swing your arms you are simply coming up on to the ball of the other foot. This is more difficult than it sounds and it is especially important to make sure you don’t start to lean forward.
OK, how was that? Would you have thought as much about the simple action of walking on the spot if you had just watched the video?
Start Your Own Fitness Journal
A bit like a wedding scrapbook, a fitness journal can be just a collection of things you read and see. The only thing I will say is, try and get a spiral bound notebook like the one I have above. Can you guess why? Yep – it’s so it can lie flat when you are trying to exercise!