Increasing Your Workout Intensity
By Don Otis –
There is a row of fifty running machines and as many elliptical trainers upstairs at the local L.A. Fitness Club. Below, one can see the dabblers, yawners, flirters, talkers and serious fitness junkies. It can be an entertaining glimpse into human nature seeing a handful of the 20 and 30-somethings talking on their cell phones or texting. Others come in for their five-minute fix on a machine and then quickly disappear, presumably content they have done their “workout.” Still others look like they are in a slow motion movie or in one of those dreams where you just can’t run fast when you need to.
There are as many reasons people go to a fitness club or gym as there are reasons to attend church. I am glad to see people active regardless of their pace, style, or body type but not all activity has equal value. When I do a workout, I don’t want to spend more time than is necessary (though 5 minutes is a bit short!). For me, this means increasing the intensity and shortening the duration. Most of us tend to increase the duration but forget the importance of intensity. This means that three miles at a faster pace is better than four miles walking. The same is true for weight training. The less time between sets, the better training effect you will gain from the effort.
If you are busy, spending an hour doing exercise is a big commitment. Unless you are training for a long distance event, think in terms of quality, not just quantity with your workouts. What does this mean? It means leaving your cell phone behind and focusing on your workout. It means adding hills or increasing the speed of your workout – bike, run/walk, elliptical, recumbent, and swimming. It doesn’t matter what you do, even a weight-training routine with time between sets can be shortened. This is my challenge to you this month. Put 100 percent into your workouts, reduce the time you spend, and see if it doesn’t make a difference while also saving you time.
Americans are a paradox. Earlier generations built this county on the strong ethics of our Puritan ancestors. That work ethic is still evident in some people, families, and even people groups. Yet, as technology has made life easier, we yearn for positive results with less effort. We try to avoid discomfort or pain. By increasing the intensity of your workout, as I am suggesting this month, you can expect your level of discomfort to go up. This may include shortness of breath, sore muscles, and slower recovery – but this is what training is about.
When you push yourself harder, your body will eventually adapt to the workload. You will find yourself adjusting to the discomfort. For example, for the past eight weeks, I have been training for a half marathon. During training, I see how far I can push myself at a certain pace. As my body adapts to the workload, I can slowly increase my pace. If I push the pace too hard, I feel myself breathing harder and then have to adjust my pace accordingly by slowing down.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself during exercise. Remember the adage, “quality over quantity.”
Don S. Otis is the author of Staying Fit After Forty and a personal trainer living in Canon City, Colorado. He can be reached at Don@veritasincorporated.com © 2010