Distractions Versus Intensity Workouts
By Don Otis –
The 30-something-year-old woman on the elliptical trainer next to me was reading a magazine. Just down the row, another woman was having a loud cell phone conversation with a friend. Still another was signing loudly to the song on her iPod. Fortunately, she had a beautiful voice but she was oblivious. The use of technology to divert our attention from the rigors of exercise, or to at least make it more palatable, is now fully entrenched. My informal survey tells me that better than half the people in the gym are listening to something. For women, perhaps it is a good way to keep men from hitting on them.
If you use music or books on tape to get you through an indoor workout, enjoy the diversion. If you exercise outside, I encourage you to leave the distractions at home. I don’t even take my cell phone unless I am going on a long run or ride. My observation is that people with distractions put in less effort than those who have none. It is about focus. You cannot get the full benefit of an aerobic workout and read a magazine at the same time. We are geared to multi-task, to extract the most benefit out of our scarce time, but it doesn’t work. I have tried.
I am for finding any creative way to motivate people. Yet in our fast-paced culture, try to see your exercise time as an opportunity to let go of the distractions. Think of it as a time where the Holy Spirit can speak to you. Think of it as a time to focus on your physical needs. Think of it as a time when the oxygen rich blood reaching your brain can result in a new idea or a creative thought.
In this column, I push the concept of high-intensity exercise. I have always been a believer in shorter but more intense workouts. It was only while training for a marathon that I had to revise my short and intense philosophy and adopt a long and slow approach. But if you aren’t training for a long-distance event, take the short and intense approach because the benefits of a vigorous thirty minute workout will outweigh that of a slow and methodical sixty minute session. In other words, more isn’t necessarily better; it’s just more. As we’ll see in a moment, rest is also a factor to our success.
Increasingly, those who study the benefits of serious exercise are finding there is a better way. While these principles are geared toward serious competitors, they apply equally to you and me. First, recognize that with age we change. Our heart rate declines (which impacts our aerobic capacity), muscles shrink (leading to more injury and soreness), and flexibility decreases (which has a direct bearing on connective tissue and extension).
Second, a unique training program established by a couple of brothers is proving to work well. It is a minimalist training regimen which combines intensity with rest. Yes, our Creator had a reason for suggesting a day of rest! The Hanson brothers encourage us to let the body recover without the mind losing confidence. In other words, don’t feel guilty for resting your weary body. They also say that we cannot “bank time.” Simply put, it’s better to start slow and end strong. Human nature and solid training make us want to do too much too early and this is a recipe for disaster. In fitness, as in life, pacing yourself is an essential ingredient in your success.
Don S. Otis (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a certified personal trainer, runner, climber, and author of five books. He runs Veritas Communications, a publicity agency based in Canon City, Colorado.