Lack of time is the number one
reason people give for not exercising. And lack of results
once they do start exercising isn't far behind. Interval
training is a great solution for both of these common
Interval training involves alternating short bursts of
intense activity with what is called active recovery, which
is typically a less-intense form of the original activity.
The Swedes came up with a term for this type of training:
fartlek, which means speed play. Not only is it an efficient
training method, fartlek training can help you avoid
injuries that often accompany non-stop, repetitive activity,
and provides the opportunity to increase your intensity
without burning yourself out in a matter of minutes.
Unlike traditional interval training, fartlek training
does not involve specifically or accurately measured
intervals. Instead, intervals are based according to the
needs and perceptions of the participant. In other words,
how you feel determines the length and speed of each
The advantages of intervals
Interval training utilizes the body's two
energy-producing systems: the aerobic and the anaerobic. The
aerobic system is the one that allows you to walk or run for
several miles, that uses oxygen to convert carbohydrates
from various sources throughout the body into energy.
The anaerobic system, on the other hand, draws energy
from carbohydrates (in the form of glycogen) stored in the
muscles for short bursts of activity such as sprinting,
jumping or lifting heavy objects. This system does not
require oxygen, nor does it provide enough energy for more
than the briefest of activities. And its byproduct, lactic
acid, is responsible for that achy, burning sensation in
your muscles that you feel after, say, running up several
flights of stairs.
Interval training allows you to enjoy the benefits of
anaerobic activities without having to endure those burning
muscles. In its most basic form, interval or fartlek
training might involve walking for two minutes, running for
two, and alternating this pattern throughout the duration of
The intensity (or lack thereof) of each interval is up to
how you feel and what you are trying to achieve. The same is
true for the length of each interval. For example, if it is
your habit to walk two miles per day in 30 minutes, you can
easily increase the intensity of your walk (as well as up
its calorie-burning potential) by picking up the pace every
few minutes and then returning to your usual speed.
A great trick is to tell yourself that you'll run a
particular distance, from the blue car to the green house on
the corner, for example, and then walk from the green house
to the next telephone pole.
When you first start fartlek training, each interval can
be a negotiation with yourself depending on how strong or
energetic you happen to feel during that particular workout.
This helps to break up the boredom and drudgery that often
comes from doing the same thing day after day.
A more advanced approach
Despite its simplicity, it also is possible to take a
very scientific approach to interval training, timing both
the work and recovery intervals according to specific goals.
The box, lists the four variables to keep in mind when
designing an interval training program.
A personal trainer can help you design an
interval training program based on your particular goals. Consider the following four variables when designing an
interval training program:
- Intensity (speed) of work interval
- Duration (distance or time) of work interval
- Duration of rest or recovery interval
- Number of repetitions of each interval
Fat Loss is
I have mentioned the
importance of intensity before. Sure, you can realize benefits from
moderate exercise, but you can make greater strides in less time by
kicking it up a notch (within reason). This recent article does a
good job of qualifying this statement:
Most people trying to lose weight cut calories and sometimes exercise
moderately. Unfortunately, in most weight-loss studies, people lose
about 15 pounds in a year and gain it back quickly after that.
Losing fat and looking good requires intense training. Research has
found that adults who combined intense weight training and aerobics with
increased dietary protein (40 percent of total calories) lost more body
fat than subjects on a standard "food pyramid" diet who did moderate
aerobic exercise. Intense exercisers lost twice as much body fat and
abdominal fat as people who exercised moderately. The high-intensity
groups also had greater decreases in cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol)
and blood pressure. Intense weight training and aerobic exercise,
combined with increased protein intake, improves body composition and
reduces the risk of heart attack.
(International Journal Sports
Nutrition Exercise Metabolism 16:373-392, 2006)
(for more information see
Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!
Rowing exercises are great to work those back muscles as well
as your biceps. There are a variety of exercises that
target these muscles, but this is one of my favorite.
Although this one is best done off of a smith machine or power
rack, you can pretty much do the exercise from any stable
horizontal bar or surface. In the past, working with a
partner, I've taken turns doing this on a chin-up bar with my
ankles on my partner's shoulders. Here's another good
one to add to your "hotel room workout" providing there is a
sturdy table in the room. (please don't tell my wife I
was hanging on my dining room table!).
arms (rhomboids, latisimus dorsi, biceps brachii)
Description: Grasp a
bar or any stable, horizontal surface that you can get your
body under. Support your legs on a bench, a chair, or
the ground. The closer you get to horizontal, the more
difficult the exercise becomes. Maintain a straight,
planked body-line, and pull your chest up as far as possible
using only your arms. Lower yourself back to starting
position and repeat for the target number of repetitions.
Beginners can start with the bar relatively high (4 foot) with
feet on the ground until strength is increased.
Coke and A Smile
This was an
interesting article that my father found circulating around
the internet. It was just published last month by
Although there have been documented benefits of caffeine in
relation to sport performance, I thought it was worth some
What Happens If You Drink A Coke Right Now?
Have you ever wondered why
Coke comes with a smile? Itís because it gets you high. They
took the cocaine out almost a hundred years ago. You know
why? It was redundant.
First 10 minutes: 10 teaspoons
of sugar hit your system. (100% of your recommended daily
intake.) You donít immediately vomit from the overwhelming
sweetness because phosphoric acid cuts the flavor allowing
you to keep it down.
Your blood sugar spikes, causing an insulin burst. Your
liver responds to this by turning any sugar it can get its
hands on into fat. (Thereís
of that at this particular moment)
minutes: Caffeine absorption is
complete. Your pupils dialate, your blood pressure rises,
as a response your livers dumps
into your bloodstream. The adenosine receptors in your
brain are now blocked preventing drowsiness.
minutes: Your body ups your
dopamine production stimulating the pleasure centers of
your brain. This is physically the same way heroin works,
by the way.
minutes: The phosphoric acid
binds calcium, magnesium and zinc in your lower intestine,
providing a further boost in metabolism. This is
compounded by high doses of sugar and artificial
sweeteners also increasing the urinary excretion of
Minutes: The caffeineís
diuretic properties come into play. (It makes you have to
pee.) It is now assured that youíll evacuate the bonded
calcium, magnesium and zinc that was headed to your bones
as well as sodium, electrolyte and water.
minutes: As the rave inside of
you dies down youíll start to have a sugar crash. You may
become irritable and/or sluggish. Youíve also now,
literally, pissed away all the water that was in the Coke.
But not before infusing it with valuable nutrients your
body could have used for things like even having the
ability to hydrate your system or
build strong bones and teeth.
This will all be followed by a
caffeine crash in the next few hours. (As little as two if
youíre a smoker.) But, hey, have another Coke, itíll make
you feel better.
OK... you've had
enough time to finish those Christmas cookies, chocolates,
and leftovers. Whatever's left should be donated to a
worthy neighbor or thrown away! Unless you plan on
eating a lot of Valentine's day chocolates, you should be in
the clear until at least Easter! So we are going to limit the amount
of temptation in the house, try to make better food choices,
reduce our portion size, and get on a regular workout
If you started
of the new year right with a solid workout program, you should be
starting to get addicted to it right about now! That's the point
where you feel bad for missing a workout and cheating
yourself. This is a good thing as long as you use it
for motivation rather than to add stress to yourself.
As with other addictions, exercise makes you feel good,
which makes you want to keep doing it. Unlike other
addictions, exercise has the benefit of making you healthier
and having a positive impact on your body and quality of
life. It's a new year... time to get addicted!
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newsletter go to
"Nothing will work unless you do"