Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Intensity, Never Just Go Through The Motions

Intensity has always been a pretty major buzz word in fitness. The only problem is it is hard to define making it hard for people to know what it means to be intense. To some it means grunting loudly, nostrils flaring, veins popping. To others it means going as hard and as long as you can possibly go. I hope to cover something in the middle of those two examples.

For this purpose, intensity refers more to how hard you are pushing yourself, whether it be cardio or strength training. As the title states, more often it seems that people simply go through the motions. Oh, I was at the gym for 45 minutes I must have done something good. I just did 20 reps that must mean that I did it right. People simply go through the motions of working out. They hop in their car, drive to the gym, and spend their allotted time. Few people in the casual group of fitness really focus on what it is they are doing.

To get the most benefit out of your cardio workout, it isn't about going longer it is about going harder, or more intense. You will burn more calories running/biking going nine mph for 10 minutes as opposed to doing the same motion but only getting up to five mph. The point is to push yourself just hard enough to make sure you are focused on what you are doing. This means, put down your magazine, stop the chatter with your friends, and for 15 minutes focus on what you came to do in the first place.

I like the idea of interval training and there are many different types to do. The basic premise to all of them is, go hard and then ease up and repeat. I typically like to do a minute of as hard as I can go, followed by two minutes at about 70%. Other way's to do it are short 30 second sprint bursts followed by 10 seconds of a slower speed. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure you are present in your workout meaning your thoughts are on is this too easy or should I speed my pace up.

Lifting weights follows the same concept of cardio intensity. Looking back on how I started my lifting I can remember trying to lift too heavy of a weight and only getting in half repetitions. I thought I was doing something good since I was there and I was lifting a decent amount of weight. Now after all I have read on lifting I know that I was doing myself a disservice. I wasn't getting a full range of motion nor was I using good form in my lifts, I was just going through the motion. This is where intensity fits into the equation.

First for most guys, check your ego at the door, it doesn't belong in a gym. After that, for your lifts, find a weight that you can actually lift, all the way through your repetitions, and with good form. This is where being present will benefit you as well. Lift with intensity meaning thinking about good form, powering through your entire range of motion getting the most benefit from each movement that you do. Like with cardio, doing 10 solid reps with the proper weight and good from will be much more beneficial than doing 10 half reps with a weight you can not lift.

Intensity is what will get you through your plateaus. If you aren't happy with your weight loss then run harder, faster, you will see improvements. If you aren't getting stronger, lift with a purpose and you will see improvements.

Keep on going no matter what, good things are just a day away, 365 Fit will always be along for the ride. Good things.

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