Night has fallen, all the beautiful creatures of darkness have congregated to one central location, like moths to a moonflower. Tonight you will finally see the band you've been waiting so many years for. Immediately you take to the dance floor, weaving intricate webs of decadent delights, attracting the attention and flirty looks of other shadowed beauties. As the night wears on, however, your stamina begins to drain. Your lungs begin to heave, your heart begins to pound, you have to sit before long, and miss out on enjoying some of your favorite songs. You leave early, tired and forlorn. The following night you find yourself to be sore and feeling rather lethargic. This scenario is not so farfetched, and has most assuredly occurred. However never fear my spooky morsels, there is help on the way!
Why Talk About Fitness?
Whether goth or not, fitness is a fact of life, however it seems the goth community is fairly bereft of fitness discussion. While this may seem a strange article for a goth site, it may not be as strange as you think. While health and fitness is not a very goth subject, it is a part of the human condition, something all of us are infected with. When it comes to the philosophy of goth, there is a focus on the dark aspects of society, the things the mainstream try’s to sweep under the rug and plaster a big happy smile over. Goth is not content to sit idly by and allow our culture to delude themselves into thinking the world is a big happy, perfect place where no one ever dies and nothing bad ever happens. We exist as a reminder to those who have forgotten the truth. The human condition can be ugly, bloody, horrific, and ultimately ends in death. Though there is hope; by embracing the darkness, by accepting the bad, exposing the evil, we in turn, can live our lives to the fullest. We are all dying, some faster than others, and by facing the fear of death, accepting its inevitability, our lives, our human condition, can be one of peace and joy. While not all goths subscribe to the subculture as being a mental state and outlook on life, it does affect many of us in such a manner. So while talking fitness may not seem the gothest of things, it can certainly make the long walk to the grave a more enjoyable one.
While I am no nutritionist or personal fitness coach, the last several years I have conducted massive amounts of research, both online and through my own personal fitness. I will do my best to give simple instruction on how to begin and further your fitness and health. I am only going to cover the surface of the issue and leave out the physiology and science behind these methods as I don't wish to bore my readers! However if you find this article to pique your interest, I will provide several links to various resources that will help further your research. Here are my credentials:
Health and fitness are composed of two parts; exercise and diet. I have found diet to be of utmost importance to overall health, whether one is trying to lose weight or gain muscle. So let's tackle that issue first. If you're looking into healthy eating/dieting for the first time, the amount of information (and misinformation) can seem terribly daunting. Sadly extensive research and personal experimentation can often be the only means of discovering what works and what doesn’t. There are so many fad diets out there it can make your head spin. The most discouraging part is most of them are overpriced, don't work, and can even be just plain harmful. So here I will do my best to lay down some simple rules, tips, and even a diet plan to help you on your way.
When it comes to eating and staying healthy, portion control is key. Yes the types of food you eat, the quality of food, and the ingredients in the food are also important, but I will cover that later. First, if you are looking to lose weight, it's generally suggested you start around 1,500 calories a day and go down from there. However if you are really looking to narrow it down there is a formula called the Harris-Benedict principle which can help calculate how many calories you should consume per day. “Are you kidding?” you say, “This requires math AND tracking calories??!!” Sadly there is no magic pill, or formula for weight loss, everyone is unique and responds differently to various forms of diet and exercise. But as the saying goes, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…” Trust me, your health, your livelihood, and the people who depend upon you are worth it. However I digress, detailed information on how to use the Harris-Benedict principle can be found here: http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/harris-benedict-equation/
Now on the flip side, if you are trying to gain weight by building muscle, there is a different formula you should be using. For building muscle, one of the most important nutrients to consume is protein. It is generally recommended you consume 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. In addition to this, you will need to put yourself in a state of caloric excess. Instructions for calculating the amount of calories you should be taking in can be found here: http://www.wikihow.com/Gain-Weight Now that we have sorted that out, here are some tips for proper eating.
When it comes to diet, it’s all about portion control. The proper way to consume food throughout the day, for most of us, is to eat 5-6 meals a day. These meals consist of the 3 large meals, and 2 smaller, snack sized meals. The reason for this is to keep you metabolism burning hot and your body working throughout the day. Try this: eat your 3 big meals, at a table with silverware, without watching TV. The reason for this is psychology based, by focusing on your meal and taking your time, you are less likely to mindlessly overeat. When it comes to snacks, you can carry around some dried fruit, nuts, or health bars for the sake of convenience. As for the size of the meals, a good rule of thumb is to “Eat like a king, then a prince, then a pauper.” This meaning start big, and scale down towards the end of the day. What you eat in the morning will be what kick starts your body and metabolism, there are a plethora of studies showing breakfast to be the most important meal affecting your entire day, varying from energy levels, to mental health, to stress levels and so on. You want to eat the least amount of food for dinner, since this is the closest meal to when you sleep, and since our bodily functions slow down during rest, eating too much food can contribute to weight gain.
Cutting down on the amount of calories you consume is a good first step, however if you want to keep yourself in the best of health, consuming food that is good for you is the obvious answer. While multivitamins may seem a convenient shortcut, multivitamins can’t be completely absorbed by your body, since you are dumping so many nutrients into it at the same time, and some studies have shown they may even be harmful. The ideal way to get vitamins and minerals is to consume them over the course of your day to create a constant stream of digestion and absorption. Many people are afraid of “healthy” food because they find it tasteless. Part of this thinking is due to how we have been conditioned as a culture. Our food is so saturated with sugars, fats, and chemical substances, that eating something natural or home grown can at first seem bland. There is some truth to this though, if you are no good in the kitchen, it can be difficult to spice up a meal. I am a terrible cook, which is why I condone cheat meals once a week when on a diet. Don’t let me discourage you however, there are ways to eat healthy and flavorful foods, I am simply incapable of teaching them.
What I do suggest is basic, simple and effective. Grilled chicken, fried rice, broccoli, cottage cheese, eggs in moderation, and obviously fruits and vegetables are what you want to create a healthy base to your diet. While I will be laying out a diet plan for you, I’m assuming most people are not content to eat the same thing every day, and some have trouble sticking to their diet all the time. In lieu of this, I’m going to share with you how to read a food label, and what key elements you should be looking for whether it be all natural or processed. (hint: if you can, go for the all-natural)
Before reading labels, you need to know what your goals are. If you are looking to build muscle you will be focusing on how many servings you need, to acquire the amount of protein you want. If you are trying to lose weight, you will be focusing more on the fat to calorie ratio. Have this in the back of your mind so you know what key ingredients to pay attention too. When reading labels, the very first item you should check would be the serving size. If an entire can of food is 4 servings, it can be easy to miscalculate your calorie consumption if you assume the whole can is only 1 serving. The next item to check would be 'fat calories' located beneath the total number of calories. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain more than 10% of their calories as fat. Even if a food label says 99% fat free, still check the fat calories. Food companies calculate their fat by volume which allows them to skew the numbers to sound healthier. Also, don't be fooled by low fat or reduced fat labels. These don't matter much as the food in question can still be filled with sugars and processed carbs (such as enriched bleach flour) which only add calories and no nutrients. What you want to look for are labels that say 'non-fat'.
Next, check the fiber percentage. Food that is high in fiber is great to eat when on a diet because fiber will fill you up much faster which will help to avoid overeating. Next we come to sodium, personally I recommend you choose foods with as little sodium as possible. Almost everything we eat is covered in salt these days, and avoiding it will help you avoid health problems in the future. Finally, you will notice at the top of the label, fat is broken down into different categories. Ignore them. Saturated fat and trans fat are both bad for you, all you need to concern yourself with is the total fat percentage. These are just the basics of label reading, but you'll begin to notice some very interesting things once you become experienced. Before we move on to the fitness section, I've outlined a basic diet to help you get started.
1 whole egg, 5 egg whites. 1 slice of bread. 1 cup of oats (add ½ cup of strawberry’s if you like). 1 cup of coffee. (You can also add 1 cup of yogurt or peanut butter depending on your goals)
Almonds & blueberry’s.
1 grilled chicken breast. 1.5 cups of brown rice. A large serving of vegetables. Add cottage cheese for flavor.
Meal 4 (Pre Workout):
Cashews. 1 apple. Coffee.
Meal 5 (Post Workout):
Whey protein. 1 banana.
1 portion lean beef, fish, or turkey. 1 potato. Small portion of veggies.
2-4 teaspoons of peanut butter.
Fitness Wherever You Go
Now we come to the exercise portion of our program. Just as with dieting, there are myriads of home workout dvds, online workout programs, and gyms vying for your attention. Here I will share with you the basics. Both a gym membership and home exercise have their merits and their disadvantages. A gym will have tons of great equipment and personal trainers that are vital to developing a peak physique. Obviously going to a gym requires a commute and a monthly fee, but the biggest issue I find is the fear of being ostracized. Goths, and especially first timers who may have lower self-esteem, may fear they will become overwhelmed, be judged, and appear out of place. Let me ease some of those fears. While there is the occasional douche bag, on the whole, gym goers are respectful and even helpful. If you happen to be the non-sociable solo type like myself, bring a pair of earphones, have a workout already planned, and focus on what you came to do. 99% of the time you will be left alone to do your work. Here's my wife and I at the gym:
Home workouts, on the other hand, provide an unparalleled level of privacy and comfort with no commute time, you don’t even have to wear clothing! There is cost associated with home workouts though. At the very least you need equipment, while you can get creative with types of exercise and apparatus’, some equipment just has to be bought, and it can be very expensive. While there are oodles of workout plans online, some people just prefer to watch a dvd and follow along, and those can cost upwards of $100. In my opinion, a gym is the way to go, but if you do your research, have a game plan, and depending on your goals, home workout can be just as effective.
The Art of Exercise
There are two umbrellas that all types of exercise fall under, aerobic and anaerobic, meaning with and without oxygen (referring to the blood cells consumption of, or lack of oxygen.) Cardiovascular activity such as running is aerobic, weight lifting such as a bench press, is anaerobic. Different goals call for different types of exercise; if you are looking specifically to lose weight you'll want to focus on more cardio intensive types of work, and vice versa for building muscle. It is however beneficial to incorporate both types into a routine.
Muscle building is beneficial to weight loss. Muscles burn calories, the more muscle you have the more calories you will burn. Not only that, but a good hard weight lifting workout will increase your body’s metabolism for the next day or 2. It’s a good idea to incorporate strength training into your health plan 2-3 days a week. Beginning with 20-30 minute workouts, and increasing to 30-60 minutes. Always stretch and do some light aerobics before your workout, this will warm up your body and help you to avoid injuries. Also be sure to allow 2-3 days between strength training workouts to rest. Muscle is not built in the gym but while you are sleeping. Finally, you may gain weight from exercised muscles, this is okay. It is excess fat that is a potential health hazard. Gaining muscle and losing fat also helps body reshaping – even if the scales don’t show it.
While losing weight is a daily event, you should also include 3-4 days of aerobic activity a week. For this you will not need to go to a gym, though you can if you prefer. Again, be sure to stretch before performing any activity. Go for walks or jogs, ride a bike, take a swim, walk up and down stairs, or do something more difficult like air squats, lunges, and jump rope. Wherever you start always try to push yourself. If you can walk a mile, try to jog a mile, if you can do stairs for 10 minutes, try 20 minutes. Only by pushing the boundaries of what you can do will let you see continued weight loss and muscle growth. With these tips in mind, I’ve outlined a simple workout routine bellow that will help you get started.
Monday (Back and Chest):*
Pull Ups/Assisted Pull Ups – 3 sets until failure
Deadlifts – 1 warmup, 3 working sets
Barbell Rows – 3 sets
Flat Bench – 1 warmup 3
Incline Dumbbell Press – 2 working sets
Finish with Flys or Machine Press – 2 sets (drop sets for increased intensity)
Thursday (Arms & Abs):*
Barbell Curls – 3 sets
Hammer Curls – 3 sets
Close Grip Bench Press – 3 sets
Rope Pull Downs – 3 sets
Hanging Leg Raises – 2 sets
Incline or Flat Situps – 4 sets
Squats – 1 warmup, 3 working sets
Leg Press – 2 sets
Quad Curls – 3 sets
Hamstring Curls – 3 sets
Calf Raises – 3 sets
*Feel free to either pyramid up or down for each set, or incorporate drop sets, giant sets, or super sets as needed.
I hope to have set forth a plan that will be simple to follow and be the first step in ones journey to a healthy, fit lifestyle. If you follow the steps I have laid out, I guarantee, you will begin to lose weight, gain muscle, and look better than you ever have. As I previously stated, everyone, no matter class, race, or creed, can enjoy an improved lifestyle with a little self-discipline and the right information. Hopefully I have encouraged some of you to step into uncharted territory and shift focus to personal health, after all, improving yourself can only benefit you in the long run. For those of you who have had your interests piqued, and wish to explore a bit more, I have included several resources bellow as good starting points for your own personal research.