Bringing Wellness Full Circle

Posts tagged ‘Interval training’

About Walking–Short but Sweet

So you really don’t feel like working out but you know you should move. Or your shoulders are dead from yesterday’s workout and you are pretty sure you can’t make them work again today. Or you are on a business trip and forgot to pack your workout clothes… What to do?

Just. Walk.

walking 1

So simple, isn’t it? There are so many benefits of walking, one of which is that it’s an all-around aerobic exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere, and it requires no equipment—besides good shoes! Another great benefit is that it pretty much helps you clear your head, especially if you get to walk outside.

Here is my short but sweet list of tips to help you get the most of your walks:

~Walk fast enough to make your heart beat faster, but you should still be able to talk, even if it is laborious.

~ Walk heel down first, then toes down.  At first, it might take a lot of concentration to do so–I had to tell myself with each step, “Heel, toe. Heel. toe”–but after a while, it will become second nature.

~Good form includes your head erect, your stomach in and your arms freely swinging at your side.

~You can estimate your speed by counting the numbers of steps you take in 15 seconds; 15 steps is about 2 miles/hour, 23 is about 3 miles/hour, and 30 is about 4 miles/hour.

~Remember to wear reflective clothing on darker days

~Add some hills, sprints, jumps if you need to be challenged; interval training outside is one of the best!

walking 2That’t it!


The Alphabet of Health–I is for Intensity

I am a firm believer in exercise, period. Any kind of movement is great. You get off the couch and you are already a winner.

But just like with anything else in life, you need specific strategies for specific results. You don’t use a hammer to screw a screw into your wall, and you don’t use garlic to make a sweet dessert.  That’s just common sense.

Well, it’s the same with exercise. If you want to build muscle, you lift weights. If you are recovering from an injury, you walk and you start slow. If you are train for a marathon, you work on endurance. And if you are looking to burn some fat off of your body, you need to increase the intensity of your workouts. Why is that? Three reasons: (1)  you need to increase your caloric expenditure. (2) you need to build muscles in order to rev up your metabolism (3) you want to burn calories even after you are done working out.

Unless you have not worked out at all for a while, slow walking isn’t going to do the trick. So set your mind, research some higher intensity workouts, and go to it!

Six Ways to the Best Workouts

One magazine is all about cardio and how it’s your salvation, and the next one tells you that you won’t go anywhere without heavy weights. Exercise advice overload, I am telling you!  And then when you think you’ve got it all figured out, your body adapts to the program you’re on and it’s kind of time to start over again!

So… I’ve just made it simple here: six ways to safely get the best workouts ever. Period.

1. Dynamic Warm-Ups:

You’ve got to get your body ready to perform if you expect maximum results. Dynamic warm ups will raise the temperature in the muscles and start the flow of adrenaline, preparing muscles, joints and nerves for movement.

2. Interval Training

Studies have shown that about five minutes of high-intensity exercise, consisting of eight rounds of 20 seconds of exercise per round followed by 20 seconds off for recovery, is superior to 60 minutes of continuous cardio’; crasy, isn’t it? So never substitute duration for intensity. But don’t mess with your form!  You can adjust any program but working out less time or modify the work-to-rest ration.

3. Timed Workouts

This is a similar concept to interval training, except the “bursts” of exercise are longer and you’re doing only one particular exercise at a time, rather than performing a whole-body workout all at once. The purpose is basically the same: to maximize the benefits of a resistance training program by creating maximum metabolic disturbance. That means you burn body fat by keeping your heart rate constantly elevated while training. Your metabolism never reaches an equilibrium set-point due to the alteration in timing. Use a stopwatch to keep track of how long you take between sets of exercises and rest periods. Focusing on the stopwatch time keeps your intensity level from waning as the workout progresses.

4. Body-Weight Super-Set Training

I love this one! Intensify your weight training by adding “super sets” of body-weight training to truly engage your muscles. Talk about intensity and variety! Super-setting is a technique in which you take an exercise targeted for a specific muscle group and immediately perform a similar exercise with no rest. With this technique, you don’t use weights or machines for the second exercise. This is a time-efficient, intensive way to maximize strength and lean muscle development. Best of all, you can use this principle for any workout.

5. Recovery and Regeneration

Working out breaks your muscles down and in order for them to heal properly you must give your body adequate rest. Without recovery time you risk overtraining. Too much exercise limits your progress and your body becomes catabolic, meaning it begins to degenerate. Eventual loss of lean muscle mass and bone density occurs. How can your body thrive when you don’t allow proper healing? No amount of exercise will positively affect your body if you are in a state of overtraining.

6. Integrative Training

You know how quickly I get bored… Well, it’s true that variety is the spice of life, even in maximizing workouts.  You need to shock your system into changing by integrating new fitness routines into your regimen; if you stick with the same old program, your body will adapt and stop making progress. When was the last time you ran a flight of stairs? Try visiting the track and running bleachers for 15 minutes.

BOTTOM LINE: You have to push yourself with intensity and passion to improve your body. Yes, it will be difficult and challenging at times, but that’s how we excel. You have the power to continually change your body for the better; all you have to do is go out and make it happen.



High Intensity Workouts

You hear it everywhere nowadays: High-intensity training is the best way to burn abdominal fat — the yucky (disgusting?) belly fat that we all loathe. For a lot of reasons, the body loves to store excess calories right there, and it happens to both men and women–yikes!

From a health perspective, there are two types of belly fat: the subcutaneous fat just below the skin surface, and the visceral fat, which is deeper and around the internal organs like the intestines, liver and kidneys. Visceral fat has the worst metabolic and health consequences, reducing good cholesterol and raising bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood. It is associated with metabolic syndrome, a condition with abnormal blood fats and glucose, high blood pressure and obesity. The trouble is, you can’t tell who has more visceral or subcutaneous fat by looking at a big belly!

Either way, it is clear that it would be great for all of us to lose that belly. And actually, both types of belly fat can be reduced successfully with a sensible diet (NEWAY all the way!) and workouts done at a higher intensity.

High-intensity exercise basically means you have to work at a higher heart rate. It does not mean only interval training (where you work really hard for 20 to 60 seconds, recover, than repeat the activity. It can also mean working out at such a pace that you have a hard time saying a whole sentence.

Circuit training is a combination of various exercises performed in progression from one to another. One way to include weight training in a high-intensity exercise program that burns a lot of calories is to use a weight training circuit in which you move quickly, or even jog between exercises, with little rest. This keeps the heart rate high, provides further intensity in the actual weight lifting exercise, and generally qualifies as high-intensity exercise if you keep on the move. By doing a combination of high-intensity aerobics and resistance training, you get a great workout and target fat loss, muscle building and heart-lung fitness. We do a lot of that in Barb’s Fit U FIO and EMM classes. An exercise “circuit” is one completion of all prescribed exercises in the program; the idea being that when one circuit is complete, you start at the first exercise again for another circuit. Traditionally, the time between exercises in circuit training is short, often with rapid movement to the next exercise. This is my favorite way to train, and I believe the most effective one.

Try it and tell me what you think!

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Smart Exercising, Part 2


The After-Burn

Another secret way the body burns calories is with Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), or what most of us refer to as after-burn. When we exercise, we throw the body into a form of chaos. Once the workout is over, our bodies expend calories to get the body back into its pre-exercise state.

Just how many calories we burn after exercise is tough to answer but a general range is about 30-120 calories for 30-60 minutes of cardio (including cycling and treadmill) at 70% of VO2 max ( about 70 % of your maximum heart rate). And, it isn’t just cardio that produces an after-burn. High intensity resistance training and circuit resistance training (discussed below) also produce an after-burn as well. Results can differ based on gender and the type of exercise but, in general, the tougher (and longer) the workout, the greater the after-burn.  Does that mean you should get out there and kill yourself with every workout? Of course not. Doing too many high intensity workouts can lead to burnout, overtraining or injury. But gradually incorporating more high intensity workouts can make a difference in how many calories you burn both during and after your workout.

 Interval Training 

Interval training is a great way to boost endurance, burn more calories and work harder without having to spend an entire workout at a high intensity. The idea is to work harder than you normally do for a short period of time to overload your body (overload is how you make progress). Then you fully recover with a rest interval so that you’re ready to do it all again.

Higher Intensity 

Another way to boost your workout is to try higher intensity workouts, or continuous training at about 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is right in your aerobic zone. In other words, you want to be out of your comfort zone, but not so far out that you can’t catch your breath.  You might try adding one higher intensity workout a week and start with 10-20 minutes at this level if you’re a beginner, gradually working your way up to 30-60 minutes.

Resistance Training 

Lifting weights and building muscle will make you look good and help you burn calories, but focusing on high intensity training can also increase your after-burn, though you should be an experienced exerciser before adding too much intensity.

The general guidelines for heavy resistance training include 8-10 exercises and 2-4 sets of 3-8 reps; use enough weight that you can ONLY complete the desired number of reps – you should lift to momentary failure.  Take 2-3 minutes of rest between sets

Circuit Resistance Training 

The guidelines for circuit resistance training are 6-10 exercises, 2-3 circuits, performing each exercise one after the other.  10-12 reps using a medium-heavy weight for each exercise.

Doing cardio and strength during the same workout won’t necessarily double your after-burn but splitting your workouts can. If your schedule allows for it (and you want to workout more than once a day), you can split your routine so that you’re doing cardio in the morning and strength later that day (or vice versa). You can even split your cardio into two or more high intensity workouts and the same goes for your strength training. Remember, you don’t have to split your workouts and you shouldn’t feel that you won’t get a good workout otherwise. Most of us would find it hard to workout more than once a day and you’ll still get results if you work hard. But, if you find some extra time now and then, splitting your routine is just one way to get a little more bang for your buck.

Stay Safe! 

It’s important to be safe when increasing intensity to avoid overtraining and injury.

~Add intensity gradually. If you’re a beginner or aren’t used to high intensity cardio workouts, gradually increase your pace or resistance/incline over time so you don’t overdo it.

~Limit high intensity workouts. Experts recommend you do no more than 1-2 interval or high intensity cardio workouts a week to avoid overtraining.

~Add more warm up time. Because high intensity workouts are hard on the body, it helps to give yourself plenty of time to warm up and get your body ready for hard work. Plan on spending a good 10 minutes gradually getting your heart rate up and your muscles warm.

~Be sure to cool down. Giving your body time to slow down and recover from high intensity workouts is important for staying safe and ending your workout on a good note. It’s also a great time to stretch.


Weight-Bearing Cardio Workouts

Another way to burn more calories is to participate in activities that are weight-bearing and involve more muscle fibers. Typical Weight-bearing activities include: Walking, running, stairclimbing, tennis, soccer, step-aerobics, kickboxing, dancing and hiking.  When you engage in weight-bearing exercises, gravity works against you which requires your body to work harder and, thus, expend more energy. Similarly, activities that involve the entire body (like cross-country skiing) will usually burn more calories than activities that use fewer muscle groups (like cycling or doing a bicep curl). You can also add hills or incline to your cardio workouts…walking or running up an incline will require your body to expend more energy than flat terrain.

Does this mean that non-weight-bearing exercises like swimming or cycling are useless? Not at all. While you’ll typically expend fewer calories during those types of activities, there are some benefits – not as much repetitive stress on the joints and longer workouts because your body can better tolerate that kind of training.

When choosing activities, don’t feel like you have to pick the hardest one. Instead, start with an activity you like and go from there. You can always add other cross-training activities over time, which is a great way to work the body in different ways and protect you from injuries. The best exercise is the one you enjoy the most…that’s the one you’ll do more often and work harder at.

 Don’t Overcompensate

This last secret weapon isn’t necessarily a function of the body so much as a function of what you do after your workout. It’s fairly common to overcompensate for exercise without even being aware of it, which can compromise your attempts to lose weight if you’re not paying attention. The most common ways we overcompensate include: Eating more calories. When you start exercising, you may eat more calories to offset that extra energy expenditure. Some people do it because they’re hungry and others because they feel they can reward themselves by eating what they want.

Resting more. Another way we overcompensate is by moving around less after the workout. Again, this is something you may do without even being aware of it. If you work hard for a 45-minute run and then reduce your usual activity after that, you reduce the effect of that workout on your weight loss goals.

To get the most out of your workouts, pay attention to what you do the rest of the day by (1) keeping a food journal—I love ueing Lose it!  It is a great, free app for your Smart Phone if you want, or you can just use it on your computer.  Tracking your meals and calories is a simple way to make sure you’re not eating more to offset your workouts. On the other hand, if you’re starving, you may need to add more calories to avoid being miserable (no one likes to go hungry all the time) and to make sure you’re getting enough fuel for your workouts.  (2) Keeping an exercise log. You can track your workouts and progress while maintaining an awareness of how active you are on the days you exercise. Do you tend to nap after a tough workout rather than doing normal activity? You may need that nap but, if so, be aware that you’re not burning quite as many calories as you would if you got up and moved around.  You can do that with Lose it! as well.

It’s easy to get in a rut with exercise and forget the many small things we can do each day that will add challenge and, sometimes, help burn more calories so we can accomplish weight loss goals. The key is to incorporate small changes on a regular basis and get the most we can out of our time and our workouts.



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