Practical Fitness for the Everyman
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. This article is only intended as entertainment. Consult with a medical professional before starting an exercise program to make sure it is right for you. I am a stranger on the internet. They are your doctor. Listen to them.
Fitness is important. Fitness helps you live longer. Fitness makes everyday tasks easier. It promotes a strong, flexible body, it helps with stress management, it controls your appetite, and it helps your clothes fit a little better.
But for many of us, it isn't fun. It isn't something we want to think about, and working out isn't something we particularly want to do. Life is busy. We barely find time to go to work, hang out with friends, cook, clean, run errands, solve problems, and sleep as it is. Working out can be exhausting. But it is very rewarding. Your muscles get stronger, your lungs are more efficient, your mind thinks better, and your limbs are more flexible.
Let’s be honest, you aren’t a Navy Seal, Delta Operator, or Marine Commando. If you were, you wouldn't be reading this. You would have a set workout routine. It would be part of your life. Lifting, running, eating the right macronutrients, proper recovery, all of these would be down to a science for you.
That leaves us with “The Everyman.” That ubiquitous (and non-gender specific) trope signifying the normal person. You go to *job* at *place* and live in *residence* where you spend your free time doing *hobby*. The thing is, you want to be better than “average.” Average isn't ready for contingencies. Average lives a boring life, and you want something a little more. Which brings us here, trying to figure out how to work fitness into our everyday lives so that we can be our best selves (for the time invested), and be ready for anything (within reason).
What to Look For
So now that we know what our goals are, let's talk about what we need to consider in a good everyman fitness program.
First, it needs to be simple. Complex workout regimens involving convoluted lifts that require specialized equipment are out. For starters, this is a great way to hurt yourself by lifting or moving in a way that you don’t have the experience to perform properly. Second, they require you to expend a ton of thought energy before you even get to the gym. This leads to exhaustion, burn out, confusion, and frustration. We want something easy: walk in, warm up, stretch, workout, and cool down. The less mental preparation you are required to do, the better.
Second, it needs to be repeatable. Part of this has to do with getting a workout in. If you can only do your workout every other week because your gym is 45 minutes away, it’s no good in this application. Your program needs to be something you can do regularly and reliably so you actually do it, and so you can track your progress.
Third, it has to be time efficient. You can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes of hard work. For longer workouts, combine the workout with something you enjoy (discussed further down). You are busy, and your time is valuable. Get the maximum return for the time you invest, and you won’t need workouts that last for hours.
For those without any real experience, this may be the hardest to get into. The simplest way to get stronger is moving heavy things. Typically this is done in the gym with dumbbells, barbells, and tension machines. If you have access to a gym or are willing to spend some money on a home gym, a simple set of barbells, dumbbells, a bench, and ideally a squat rack should cover the vast majority of your needs.
If you don't have access to weights, that's ok. There are plenty of bodyweight exercises that you can do at home with minimal equipment. I highly recommend a pullup bar you can set up in a doorway. Depending on your base level of fitness, or the level you achieve as you improve, you may need a weight vest. Personally, I have foregone the purpose built weight vest and used my Cannae Vakarian Plate Carrier. The carrier is incredibly comfortable, fits tightly, and the extra pouches can be used to hold more weights as needed. If you don't have plates, or don’t want to use them, the company Rogue Fitness makes weighted plate carrier inserts of various weights.
So now you have your equipment. What next? The easy, free option is just going to YouTube and searching for one. Look for “full body” workouts that work as many muscle groups as possible. If you don’t have weights, search for “body weight” routines. There are tons of videos of various lengths taught by different instructors. Either save a few favorites on a playlist for reference, or take bits and pieces of multiple videos and write out your own series of lifts and moves.
If you are willing to spend just a bit of money, I highly recommend the App “FitBod.” This app uses AI to develop workouts based on your level of experience, time, and equipment available. It even tracks your progress and suggests when you need to increase your weights. It really is a one stop solution!
AKA: Cardio. I think the best options here are running, rucking/hiking, and rowing.
Personally, I don't mind running. Other people hate it. If you are limited on time, work on speed for a 1-2 mile run, incorporating interval training and sprints. If you like podcasts or music, pop in your earbuds and hit the road for a long, slow run of 4+ miles. This is really up to you and very flexible. Whether you focus on speed, distance, or a combination of the two, work in some agility drills when you can. I do this sometimes in the Vakarian Plate Carrier. A quick Google search for agility drills will give you a ton of options.
The only difference I can find between a hike and a ruck is having a pack. Either option you choose, pick a trail with good elevation change and get after it. Obviously Cannae offers a wide variety of backpacks that you can weigh down to your heart's content before hitting the trail. For added challenge, pick a pace faster than you normally walk and try to maintain that pace through the hike. This is another good exercise for use with podcasts.
Rowing requires a specific machine, but it gives you the added benefit of upper body mobility, strength, and endurance. Since rowing uses your whole body, you get a more well-rounded workout for the time you spend. Rowing machines are not terribly expensive, and I have seen them kept reasonably well even in small apartments.
Stretching is important. It keeps your muscle fibers loose, and your body less prone to injury. While you should be stretching before and after your strength and endurance workouts, I regularly dedicate entire workouts to stretching and flexibility. Again, YouTube is your friend here. While you can search for stretching routines and find plenty of good options, I personally prefer yoga. Not only does yoga help with reach and flexibility, it improves balance and mental focus. On particularly stressful days where I can’t muster enough for a more traditional workout, I find yoga does the trick to get me moving.
Hopefully this article has helped you craft some ideas for how you can be safe, healthy, and prepared in today’s hectic world. Take the concepts above, and compile them into a routine that is simple and realistic. Don’t be too discouraged when you first start, or if you miss a workout. As others say, you just have to keep getting back on the horse. The most important thing is to get out and do something, even if you don't feel like it. Build habits that will last a lifetime, and you will be better for it. Always remember:
No matter how slow you go, you are lapping everyone on the couch.