Ron Zalko Fitness

The 4 Pillars of Fitness – Ron Zalko Fitness & Yoga Vancouver

The 4 Pillars of Fitness

Most of the avid gym goers and fitness buffs out there know the importance of having a well-rounded and balanced fitness program.  Then there are those that will pick 1 activity and run with it (pardon the pun) While exercise in any form is great, and any activity is better than no activity at all, is just one fitness routine enough to help you achieve this balance?

At Ron Zalko Fitness & Yoga in Vancouver BC, we believe that there are 4 pillars of fitness and that an exercise regimen that incorporates all 4 will have the most benefit.

These pillars are:

1.      Cardio (Cardiovascular exercise)
2.      Strength/Weight Training
3.      Core – including Yoga and Pilates
4.      EATING WELL!

Now lets take a look at the benefits of each independently and the advantages of putting them all together.

Cardiovascular Exercise:  Or Cardio for short, aims to improve your cardiovascular health. Cardio is any form of exercise that causes the heart to beat faster and harder for a period of time.  Some examples are cycling, running, swimming, cardio oriented gym equipment such as treadmill, elliptical, stairclimber, stationary bike, or group exercise classes such as Zumba, indoor group cycling, the Ron Zalko Workout, step and more. You are also toning and firming your entire body.

There are many benefits to doing cardio.  Cardiovascular workouts will provide benefits for body and mind.  It improves the health of your heart and cardiovascular system, improves your mood and concentration through releasing endorphins, helps you to lose weight, can decrease both blood pressure, and will help you sleep better!

*side note to “runners” you can shave significant amounts off your time by strength training your upper body with weights.

Weight/Strength Training:  In addition to weight loss, definition and overall strength, weight training has other benefits. It will boost your stamina, and preserve muscle mass, (which begins to deteriorate with age) Functional strength training will also help you strengthen your body so you can perform day to day physical tasks better and improve your performance on the job. Examples of weight/strength training are exercises that use your own body weight (yoga, Pilates, pushups, squats, pull-ups and many group exercise classes) Other classic examples are free weights, weight machines, or resistance bands.

Combining strength training and Cardio will dramatically boost your metabolism and speed up fat loss as opposed to cardio alone.  The more lean, strong muscle you have, the more calories you will burn (even at rest).  So Ladies, pick up those weights! Trust me, you’re not going to “bulk up” what you will do is increase fat loss, reduce your risk of osteoporosis, and gain a toned and defined body.

*note to gym & fitness buffs who exclusively do weights and cardio (even if you stretch and do “abs”) these alone can’t always target the deep core muscles or allow opening and functionality of the joints. In fact it can put more pressure on them from overuse. That’s why we recommend supplementing your regular routine with yoga and Pilates to counteract these effects and give you balance while strengthening your core.

Yoga and Pilates

First of all, I’m reluctant to define yoga and Pilates in the words that most non-practitioners do, or people who have not experienced them and do not understand them.  They refer to yoga and Pilates as “stretching” or “good for balance” or worst of all “relaxing on the floor”
There is so much more to it than that!!  Yoga and Pilates have a wide range of benefits and are an excellent and necessary supplement to your strength/weight training and cardio routines.

Yoga and Pilates are exercises that stretch and lengthen the muscle groups and the body while providing balance improvement, core strength, better posture, flexibility, and helping to improve mental focus and well being through their practice and breathing exercises.  Not to overlook the multitude of crunches and ab exercises that will help you build those coveted ab muscles, but yoga and Pilates target the deep core muscles, not just “abs.”

These core muscles give strength to your whole body if you give them proper attention.  The core muscles are a combination of your abdominal muscles and the adjoining muscles around, and underneath them. Many of them are actually connected with your back internally, specifically the lower back. This can be one of the causes of lower back pain, weak core muscles.  If your core is weak it puts pressure on many other muscles connected to it, causing them to work harder than they need to, and this can result in lower back pain. The biggest load bearers in the case of weak core muscles are your back muscles, glutes, hamstrings and way too tight IT bands.  Ouch! May we recommend yoga, Pilates and a good old-fashioned pretzel stretch?

*note to yoga or Pilates exclusively people: While you are using your own body weight, improving core strength and flexibility, you are probably lacking in cardio and strength. Your heart rate isn’t elevated enough for long enough during these exercises and using your bodyweight only may not be enough.  Also, you know all those super fit and ripped yoga instructors you see?  I’ve seen almost every one of them doing weight training and cardio outside of their classes 😉

Last but most certainly not least… Eating Well!!

You can do every one of the activities I’ve just described religiously, but if you go home every night and eat a pizza, or a giant bowl of noodles and wash it down with a couple of beers and cheesecake then you’re in a world of trouble.  Eating well goes hand in hand with your exercise program and you can very well sabotage all the hard work you put in at the gym with bad dietary choices.

Here are some number one things to avoid; refined sugar, white bread, white rice, pop, alcohol, deserts and sweets, and anything processed or containing a lot of sodium or fat (chips, pretzels.) Better choices include fruits and vegetables such as kale, spinach, celery, melon, grapefruit or berries. Berries are low calories and high in fibre and melon is low calorie and high in water content. For protein, avoid red and or processed meats (high in fat and/or sodium) instead choose lean protein such as chicken breast, egg whites, fish, or tofu. Nuts are also great as a snack or in salads.
Dairy: (if you do dairy) try to avoid cheese as much as possible (again, high in fat and sodium) instead try skim milk or non-fat Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit and a few almonds.
Carbohydrates: Portion control is key with all meals but most importantly with this group of foods. This includes any sweets but also bread, pasta and rice. (There are many people who simply avoid wheat and gluten altogether due to sensitivities or allergies to gluten. It can cause weight gain, abdominal cramps and bloating)
Some better choices are quinoa, wild or brown rice, amaranth or whole grain oats.  Tropical fruits (such as mangoes, pineapples and even dates) are very high in sugar as are beets and bananas so eat these sparingly.

Also, the more foods you eat directly from nature the better. Foods that have the least amount of processing are always best.

Not to worry, the above spiel doesn’t mean you can never have your favorite foods again, just limit them to 2-3 servings (portion controlled please) a week instead of cutting them out altogether. If you go too extreme on the diet end, you will be left feeling deprived, so eating healthy most of the time and having a few “cheat meals” a week will go a long way towards keeping you on the right path.

Even if you think to yourself “Salad….for the love of God do I have to??” Try adding different veggies & a serving of protein to your salad and 1 tbsp of olive oil.  You will feel full afterward instead of tired and bloated like you would if you had reached for junk food.  4-6 weeks is all it takes to see the results of the positive changes you make in your lifestyle; you will see the difference in your body for yourself.

Yoga incorporates body weight exercises and improves flexibility.  Pilates focuses on core.  Zumba or spinning will give you great cardio. Weight and strength training will increase strength & definition. Healthy eating will improve your overall health and nutritional intake.  All these fitness tools combined will give you the best results. This combination (cardio, strength/weight training, yoga/Pilates, and eating well), you will achieve the best possible level of fitness, a beautiful body, and a much more positive outlook on life.  Taylor your workouts to encompass all 4 pillars of fitness to strengthen mind, body, and soul.


Produced by Ron Zalko

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