Tuesday, September 27, 2011

An Easy Way to Magnify the Benefit of Aerobic Workouts

There are few free rides in the world of fitness, and fewer still which favor newbies. Here's one I've never seen mentioned before.

"Recovery time" is the time it takes for your heart rate to return to normal after exercise. Recovery time is much longer if you're not super fit, and that creates an opportunity. As your heart rate slowly returns to normal, you "ride" at least some aerobic benefit all the way down. You may get an extra four or five minutes of benefit, absolutely free (though, obviously, you won't get full benefit near the tail end of recovery).

Say you can manage a 15 minute aerobic workout. And say your recovery time is six minutes. That's 19 or 20 minutes of de facto workout. But here's the trick: play with that a bit. After your workout, you will be unable to jog (or cycle, etc) with much intensity, but you can surely walk swiftly on the treadmill, perhaps even at an incline. Ten minutes of this will delay your recovery, making light exercise yield a greatly magnified benefit.

You will find, in other words, that a brisk treadmill walk which normally would bring your heart rate only to, say, 90 bps may, after an intense workout, keep your rate at, say, 110 or 120 bps. While this non-peak heart rate won't yield maximum benefit, it's still within aerobic weight-loss range, and you're keeping yourself there with minimal discomfort, since, after all, you're only walking!

And "minimal discomfort" is essential, because for this to work, you must first push hard in your regular workout (i.e. maintaining 140, 160, 180 bps, depending on your age). Don't skimp on that! And don't take any break afterwards (you don't want to allow yourself to recover). Just immediately switch to walking, cycling, etc., near the top end of your easy comfort range, for as much time as is available. Sort of like a warm-down, only a little more vigorous and for a lot more time.

This wouldn't work for a an elite athlete, whose pulse quickly slows to a crawl in the absence of heavy exertion. It's a free ride exclusively for the rest of us!

Another tip: it's been shown that we continue to burn fat for some time after a workout. It's a good idea to wait 30-60 minutes before eating anything, because eating is thought to suspend this after-burn.

By combining these two tips, you can magnify a fairly short aerobic workout into a much more extended fat burning session with little additional discomfort.

Pass it on!


Richard Stanford said...

There's another good magnification benefit that you can get that I learned from Gilbert Tuhabonye, by favorite running coach:

After a long almost completely aerobic workout, such as a long run, do 10-15 short bursts (20-30 seconds each) of intense activity. If running, you can do stride-outs for example.

Your body will then respond muscularly more as if you'd had a long anerobic workout, more like a tempo run, but without the added stress.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks, for posting, Richard.

There's little doubt at this point that high intensity interval training is the best way to go. There are people who suggest combining with aerobic, as you say, while others suggest doing ONLY that. And the jury's still out.

But, either way, interval training is 1. not for beginners, and 2. neither "free" nor "easy" (in fact, if you do it right, by the end you're on the verge of vomiting!).

But there's an intermediary choice for advanced beginners, which is to crank up the intensity of your final minute or two of workout. This accomplishes three things:

1. it ensures a nice high heart rate to play with during recovery

2. it prepares you (psychologically and physiologically) for higher speed/intensity when you're ready to take on interval training (most of us aren't accustomed to running full out, and this gives us a "taste"), and

3. it keeps your body from settling into a "rut". It's important to keep workouts diverse so the body doesn't have a chance to find more efficient ways to accomplish tasks (i.e. works less hard).

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