I love this thread! Fitness has to be one of the most important parts of being prepared and one of the most difficult to maintain. A few things I have learned that have always been fairly common knowledge, but didn't really learn
1. The most important thing is to realize that you need
to exercise and you need
to control your diet. There are supplements that can help you achieve goals at a faster rate, but there is no way around the fact that exercise and diet are not optional. You can't do more of one to offset not doing another. That will not work.
2. Changing Body Composition, bodyfat %, is a common goal across the board. It has more to do with controlling your diet than specific exercises. Same goes for getting more muscular, you need to eat a lot more, but it needs to be the right food at the right times. The food you eat, what kind of calories and when you eat them are as important as how much cardio you do. Also, cardio is another necessary evil, in one form or another.
3. Fitness, your cardiovascular health, is not just about running/cycling/swimming. Any activity that increases your heart rate is cardio. You push your heart rate to as high a rate as you feel you can maintain and try to keep it going. If your goal is crazy cardio fitness, you are going to have to push your heart rate hard for extended periods of time, and you are going to sweat.
4. You need less calories than you think. It sucks. If you eat proper kinds of foods, you shouldn't feel hungry too much. There are many methods to getting the amount of calories your specific body/metabolism needs while controlling your hunger. Nutritionists can help out a lot, but so can a little trial and error, if you've got the patience for it.
Do you have concrete goals? (eg shed 50lbs in weight, run 5k etc)
Absolutely, everybody should. I want to complete a Tough Mudder, I want to summit Mt. Rainier, and I want to run a half marathon (I don't think I'm near ready for a full marathon). Specific fitness goals should be minor, like being able to do a muscle up, then five muscle ups, then ten muscle ups. I did that with jumping rope. I started as a basic beginner and worked at it until I could do double-unders, then cross-overs, and eventually cross-over-double-unders (mainly because Marky Mark does them in the movie The Fighter and I feel like I should be able to do anything he can
Oh, and my ultimate un-achievable goal is to make Mt. Midoriyama my bitch.
What exercises are you focusing on?
Currently, I am running more, alternating between long slower runs, incline runs, and speed intervals. I supplement that with elliptical and jumping rope, just so I don't get shin splints. I also like working a heavy bag. As far as lifting goes, I am not a power lifter. I do one of the big three (bench, deadlift, squat) and then continue working major/minors along those lines. So if I do bench, I warm up, go heavy and work down in weight, and then start my major/minor chest/tricep workout. Deadlift is back/bicep and Squats is legs/shoulders. I love doing shoulders, so it gives me a reason to get through legs.
What questions do you have for the more experienced people here?
Anybody who has run a Tough Mudder or half marathon who has any tips or things that they wish they knew before their first race, I would love to hear them.
What have you had success with?
I mix things up all the time. What I'm doing, when I'm doing it. If I get up and don't feel like doing cardio right away, I can give myself a morning off. I don't beat myself up about it. You have to be able to let something go, but when you do get to the gym, know that it is time to work. I cannot stand the socializing gym goers, it bothers me.
Where are your weaknesses?
I am terrified of hurting myself and I don't work out with a partner, so I don't ever go very heavy. 225 bench usually, and up to 250 for deadlifts and squats. That's as far as I go. I just do more sets and reps.
What are you doing to fix them?
Honestly, I'm comfortable where I'm at. It works well for what I'm trying to do, which is increase my muscular endurance for races and such.