Innocent Choga Fitness
How can three teenage boys who are writing Ordinary Level examinations at the end of the year start on an effective weight training programme without spending too much time in the gym?
There are four levels of competency as far as weight training is concerned, beginner, intermediary, advanced and competitive. It will take a whole page to explain the differences between these levels so we will concentrate on the beginning phase. Most people do not take these differences into consideration. They start at the wrong level hence they fail to make good progress or they fail to cope with the demands of the higher levels and they end up quitting.
What makes people jump stages? Peer pressure, perceived ability to handle physically tough situations, eagerness to make rapid improvement and wrong instruction from coaches.
A beginner starting on an advanced level will find it hard to cope. It does not matter how tough you are in other sporting disciplines, when you join the gym and you meet friends of the same age with you, do not join them if they have had a head start and do not let them chide you into performing feats beyond your level.
That is, do not spend more than an hour in the gym; refrain from using heavier weights so soon, use appropriate pace and avoid isolation exercises where possible.
Train with peers who are on the same level with you; who are also new to the game. Even if you are strong, your level of competency is determined by the period and the frequency you have been working out for.
You cannot rule out the possibility that friends may pass their wrong methods of training on to you, so rely more on the gym instructors. Appropriate technique is very important at this stage. If you start the wrong way you may never get it right.
At the beginning stage your main concern is to get the right feel of the movements, improve the blood circulation, improve the body composition, feel better, learn to mentally focus on the muscles you are working on and get to a stage that will enable you to work harder.
We often hear of that weight training stunts the growth of the young. I think that is a myth. The truth is that it can assist in the correction of posture, but the same ills that weight training can correct, it can also cause if applied improperly.
As teenagers your bone frame and hormones are not yet at a level where you can develop very large muscles and the strength levels are not at peak. So a teenager should not go for too much weight, either in lifting or packing on the frame. Strength levels will reach maximum level when one reaches the twenties. Work to achieve perfect form during execution and strive for muscular endurance. Biomechanics are very important at this level.
If you are still in your growth stages and you use improper form, for example on squat, you can end up compromising on your posture. The back bone can gradually bend due to the regularly exerted pressure on the adopted bad posture whilst executing the exercise.
Individuals who naturally have posture challenges might have to stay away from such exercises and use safe alternatives like the leg press. Teenagers also need to incorporate aerobic cardiovascular endurance exercises. When the heart is in good shape and the blood is being pumped efficiently throughout the body it will make anaerobic weight training easier and produce better results.
There is also need to dress appropriately in the gym, wearing the wrong clothes will divert energy from workouts in order to keep you warm if you are underdressed when it is cold, or to cool your body when you are overdressed when it is hot.
The most important thing to do before you start is to get a medical check-up, go through some tests and measurements from which you can evaluate, devise a training programme and asses your progress at later stages.
Next week we will look at effective training methods that beginners can apply within a short period of time.
I promised myself that I would go back to the gym and so far I am training one day a week, Saturdays. One of the regular exercisers I see going through the paces at the gym is one young man who used to co-host the music programme Coca-Cola on the beat, Tichaona Maruziva. He spots an unmistakable trademark beard.
Maruziva says besides being a Television Host, he is a model and stylist too. He has modeled at Zim Fashion Week, HIFA, and at the National Arts Gallery last year for the Philippine designer John Ablaza when he came to Zimbabwe. He has also modelled for the Edgars Club Magazine as well as for several designers, photographers and for both local and international bloggers.
Maruziva says he has always been active and into sports since he was young. He played sports throughout school from primary up till high school, but it was only when he got to university that he started lifting weights.
He said: “I started lifting weights because of my roommate back in university Jay J who was a model. I saw the way women would fawn for him left, right and centre and to be honest I was a little envious.
“We moved around together, we had classes, went out and chilled together all the time but whenever the women came to us it seemed I was invisible. They never noticed me, so I started training because I had the fear of missing out.”
He added: “Well thankfully I no longer have the fear of missing out ,so my motivation has changed. Nowadays I train for a variety of reasons, apart from looking good on camera and thirst trapping women” he jokes “most of them are health related.
Training is therapeutic in the sense that it reduces stress, it builds discipline and lastly I work out because I have to keep up with my biggest motivator, my six year energetic nephew Anotida, who provides me with some cardio work whenever he comes to visit his Gogo. He likes to play and chase me around the house, and despite my years and experience on the track he always gives me a good run for my money”.
“I try go to the gym at least four times a week between Monday and Saturday, doing a variety of exercises targeting different muscle groups from my top, to mid and lower body. But I make it a point to work my entire body. I do my cardio exercises early in the mornings at home and this cardio workout is a combination of skipping, sprints, burpees and mountain climbers. In the afternoon I go to the gym to lift weights.’
“I wouldn’t say I have a specific diet programme but there are certain foods I won’t eat. For breakfast I generally have eggs or oats, followed by a fruit, and then around midday, I’ll have a snack usually nuts and dried fruit.
“Then my lunch, followed by another snack between 4-5 and dinner later in the evening. I stay away from fast food and greasy foods as much as possible.” Maruziva says he finds inspiration in the quote “Don’t wish for it, work for it.”
Innocent Choga is a six time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org