Every exercise is limited in its design: Rujuta Diwekar
In the plethora of diet fads and fears, celeb nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar’s voice rings loud and clear, urging us to use our common sense and un-complicate the act of eating. Her two books have sold more than 5 lakh copies and have been translated in more than 5 languages.
Her 3rd and latest book on exercise “Don’t Lose Out, Work Out!” is currently one of the best-selling books in our country and is being talked about for the simple and effective tips and workout ideas it offers.She has also made a film “Indian food wisdom & the art of eating right” which is available on dvd.
Rujuta is the nutritionist and fitness guru to celebs like Anil Ambani, Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Konkona Sen Sharma.
Here is an excerpt from her latest book “Don’t Lose Out, Work Out!”. In this excerpt Rujuta talks about what would be the best exercise for an individual and what a well-rounded exercise plan should consist of. She also gives an insight into her take on whether cardio is preferable over other fitness routines.
The best exercise
I am often asked, ‘But according to you, what is the best exercise?’ Very simply, the best exercise is the one that gets done on a regular basis. If you are a lover of the breaststroke in an Olympic-size pool, then that’s the best exercise for you. If you love the treadmill, then it’s the treadmill for you. If squatting under a bar double your body weight does it for you, then it’s weight training for you, and if your head won’t function without the sirsasana / sarvangasana cycle, then it’s yoga for you. It’s like asking me who is the best person for you to marry, I won’t know that. But anyone you love and who holds your interest is a good bet; same goes for exercise.
However, it’s one thing for something to qualify as the best exercise but quite another for you to be the best at it. It’s like this, and we have all seen this way too often in life — you look and look and finally you find your dream man / woman, who hooks your interest, gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment and makes life worth living. You want to spend all your time waking, sleeping, dreaming with this person. Your friends complain that you don’t meet them that often, your cousin is upset that you won’t return her calls, you are distracted at work and the boss is going crazy but you couldn’t care less. You have found what you were looking for, you have found happiness! But in less than two months you are not quite sure if this is ‘happiness’; the man / woman of your dreams is giving you nightmares, you want to meet your cousin / friend and vent, but you have pushed them so far away that you feel alone in this painful situation. You find yourself keeping away from this person, avoiding calls, being distracted at dinner, etc., and feel that ending this relationship is the only solution. You probably do end it too, only to go into a repeat mode with another person; script, drama and ending, intact.
To live with that love forever means that you keep your interest in work, friends and cousins alive and active. After all, your dream man / woman doesn’t crack up at your jokes like your cousin does, doesn’t find the hairdresser super-sexy like you and your friend do, and doesn’t pay you like your boss does. So the only way to stay in love is to look after every other aspect of one’s life and relationships. Now just replace ‘person’ with running / tennis / yoga / gymming / Zumba / dancing, your love or choice of exercise and you will see what I am talking about. To stay with your ‘best’ exercise forever, you have to look after every fitness parameter. Every exercise is limited in its design and cannot look after the different components of fitness — endurance, strength, flexibility and cardio-respiratory — equally well. Invariably, it over-trains one of the components and under-trains the other. For example, running will improve stamina and endurance but does nothing to build strength or flexibility. Lack of strength and flexibility will come in the way of your running. Eventually a shin split may keep you off running for weeks and lead you to lose out on stamina too. Or you are really good at tennis, but your forehand may lose its power because of stiffness in your Achilles tendon, which prevents you from shifting your weight behind that racquet.
A well-rounded exercise plan employs all the energy systems in our body. As we will learn shortly, the human body consists of three different energy systems or types of metabolism, but broadly they are classified as the aerobic and the anaerobic systems. Depending on the task at hand, your body chooses which energy system should be employed. One of the main reasons why most people feel burnt out or risk an injury with their best exercise is because they don’t maintain a balance between the different energy systems. They build one at the cost of the other.
Cardio over others?
An extension of the ‘best exercise’ question is, ‘But isn’t cardio the best exercise?’ It is definitely the most recommended exercise by dieticians, physicians, nephrologists, cardiologists and the like who have over-simplified the effects and benefits of an endurance / cardio program. On the other hand, the benefits of an anaerobic program are not well known outside the exercise science and physiology world, and this leads to it not just being ‘not recommended’, but also actively discouraged by health professionals with a ‘marne ka hai kya’ or ‘back tod ne ka hai?’ I mean, they take the Kaikayee approach from Ramayana: ‘Bharat ko raaj, Ram ko vanvaas.’ Bharat ko raaj tak theek hai, why Ram ko vanvaas? Declaring and promoting ‘walking’ as the best exercise is ok and a forgivable indulgence, laughable even, but the active discouragement, clicking of the tongue, frowning of the forehead and disapproving shake of the head for activities like weight training, sprinting, forward-bending, inversions come out of the bias and fear of the unknown rather than any real threat or danger to your health.
By learning about the energy systems explained ahead in the chapter, you will understand that training the anaerobic pathways offers not just benefits to your strength and looks but also to your heart and lungs. You will also learn how some of the training adaptations to both aerobic and anaerobic programs will dramatically improve your heart health and how a basic knowhow of exercise can rid you from this ‘I am a blood report’ mentality.
Excerpted with permission from Rujuta Diwekar and Westland Books from Don’t Lose Out, Work Out! by Rujuta Diwekar, Westland Books, Price: 250 INR.
Images: Rujuta Diwekar