By: Dria Spencer, CF-L1
In my senior year of college, I discovered late fees at the library when I checked out this book right before summer break. That’s right, I had every intention of reading it, but it was old and looked less exciting than working out in the sun during summer break. Little did I know, I would get hooked on it once I got into this old book of research studies done in the 1960’s. This book is called, “The Physiological Effects of Exercise Programs on Adults” written by Thomas Kirk Cureton in 1969. I’m not writing about the book, I’m writing about how excited I got from this book!
This book was research study after research study done over the course of almost thirty years on what kind of exercise programs work, and what exercise programs don’t work. The part that gets me the most excited is that physical fitness has not really changed and despite every new piece of equipment or exercise program, the same stuff that worked back then, still works today! No one had yet taken these exercises and put a company name on them and they weren’t being marketed to social media, they were simply using these exercise programs for what they are. They used different exercises to stimulate muscle growth, they used programs to see what gets our heart rates up, how to become more fit, and how to make our bodies the most efficient in daily life. No fads, no popular name brand workouts, just the plain basics of science and exercise with long term commitment to the programs. That’s the exercise that I love, the exercise that is backed up with in-depth research and quantifiable results.
Let’s talk about what works! What they found is that the most successful exercise program with the goal of increasing brain and organ function, overall fitness, and quality of life is through high intensity workouts! Your body is made up of close to 10 billion capillaries. Capillaries are these tiny micro-sized blood vessels that are webbed all throughout your body. These little vessels brings nutrients and oxygen to your tissues. The crazy thing about these capillaries is that not all of them are in use in every single person’s body. They actually have to be turned on, by you! The way that we turn on these capillaries is by forcing our body to adapt to exercise or to some kind of activity. That means creating enough of a stimulus through exercise to get our heart rate high and get to the point where we need more oxygen than what we are getting. When you begin to push your body to adapt, you are also pushing blood into possibly forming new capillaries. Even more so you are making use out of the ones that you already have but aren’t being used efficiently. Not every person is functioning off of the same amount of capillaries. The more fit you are, the more capillaries are being used. When more capillaries are being used, you are not only pumping blood to and from your heart and through your arteries more efficiently, but you are actually enabling nutrients and oxygen to get to the tissues of your body. This increases recovery, muscle build, fat loss, heart function, digestive regularity, brain function, and quality of life.
How do you know you’re hitting the point where you are becoming more fit? In a practical way of putting it, the moment that your body is sending you signals that it is not comfortable and thinks you should slow down, or quit, is actually the point where you are physiologically becoming more fit and a more efficient human being. This can be defined as heavy breathing, tired arms or legs, or bent over with hands on knees, etc. (Fun fact: It is a myth to put your hands on your head to catch your breath, putting your hands on your knees is a subconscious move you make because it opens up your lungs! Listen to your body!) However, not to the point of pain or injury (feeling shooting pains, or pain in your joint lines). There is a very fine line between the two, and that is why it is good to have an educated personal trainer or class instructor there for you to not only ask questions, but help you understand what you are feeling. The point where you aren’t just burning, but where you are failing. It’s not “feel the burn” it’s “overcome the fail.” Once you have begun to fail in exercise, you are not only getting fitter, you are getting used to the idea of growth.
My main goal with this article is to get you out of the mind of “fat-burning zone” and get you into the mindset of increasing overall fitness. Getting on a treadmill going a pace that is conversational or even slightly above conversational, is not doing the job. Yes, you’re burning calories, but if you have not pushed your heart rate into the zone that makes you suck air, you are not making your body more efficient. That’s how you continue to burn calories after high-intense workouts; you have pushed your body to adapt and work thus forcing your metabolic system to respond by becoming more efficient. Now, doing high-intensity some days and pairing it with some lower intensity cardio or weight lifting is recommended. What you have to do to get results isn’t always fun, but once you do the work that isn’t so fun, the results are far beyond worth it!
There are tons of ways to “burn fat,” but results are correlated with consistency. Consistently pushing yourself to the point where your body has to adapt and grow, is the recipe to looking great and feeling great. This isn’t to say do high-intensity every day, this is to say, it is a piece to either add into your workout regimen or to start with. Some may be able to start with 4 days a week of high-intensity but most should just start with two days a week. The main idea is to get you to push yourself on most days you workout. A great example of what a weekly layout looks like for two of my clients, one who is 26 and the other who is mid-40’s, looks like is..
Monday: High intensity class
Tuesday: Traditional weight train and 70- 80% heart rate cardio for 20 minutes
Wednesday: High intensity train with me
Friday: Weight train and 90% cardio for 10-15 minutes
Saturday: High intensity class
* There may be extra rest days in a week depending on work or how the client feels. If the client feels a little less recovered on a day where they should do high intensity, we may switch it to something a little less taxing. These days are subject to change but this is the original design layout.
As you can see, not everyday is high-intensity, but it is the basis to our programming. This is to give an idea on how a weekly program can look for someone who is able to work out multiple days. This format can be adjusted to workout less days but with a primary emphasis on high-intensity workouts.
In closing, don’t be afraid to get sweaty and fail on some reps or get way out of breath and have to stop. That means you rest and keep going. Don’t settle with being comfortable because your body will not grow as it should. Get help from someone or join a gym community if you aren’t sure how to get started. Exercise is a complex concept and that is why at Intelligent Fitness, we believe in being highly educated in not only the basics of human anatomy and physiology but being educated with experience and quantifiable and significant data through research. Our classes aren’t only designed to be high-intensity workouts, they are designed with well thought out movements and appropriate modifications to meet anyone’s fitness level. Don’t be afraid to walk in the doors of our gym and work hard, we applaud it, and we will help direct it for you to be the most efficient in your exercise for your goals.