Seasonal Challenge!

Aerobic In The City
Image by MR MARK BEK via Flickr

It’s easy to get complacent going into the holiday season. Distractions, food, family, friends, and parties all conspire to encourage us to put off making real fitness gains until the new year.

My challenge is this: let’s use the next 6 weeks to get into the best shape of our lives. Here’s my advice. First, if you need to lose weight, don’t focus on denial. Focus on content. Whatever you eat, enjoy. But only eat half of every meal. Only eat half of every desert. Only eat half of every snack. It’s not hard, at least it’s not if you believe you’re worth the effort it takes to pay attention to yourself.

Then follow these instructions regarding working out:

Identify your type:

US Navy 021101-N-5152P-003 Sailor trains aboar...
Image via Wikipedia

Are you an aeroboholic; someone who loves cardio to the virtual exclusion of other activities, even though you know you need weights too?

Are you an aerobophobic; someone who avoids cardiovascular exercise like the plague?

Now that you’ve identified your exercise personality type do this. Commit to 4 days a week minimum.

If you are a aeroboholic by nature, switch to 3 weight training workouts (not classes) and only do 1 cardio workout. If you can make it in more often, add 1 cardio, then 1 weight lifting. When you do your cardio, increase the intensity of your speed, elevation, and resistance, even if it decreases your duration a bit (keep 30 minutes as a bare minimum, however). When doing weight lifting, add an additional set to every exercise, and make that last set much more difficult than you are used too.

If you are a self identified aerobophobic you will, for the next 6 weeks, divide your workouts 50/50. Pick one aerobic activity that you dislike least (class or machine) and really push yourself hard. Continue to lift weights as normal twice/week. If you can add additional days, only add cardiovascular work, but don’t be afraid to do intense intervals. Sprinting can and will develop muscle.

In 6 weeks, both types will see dramatic improvement in terms of appearance and performance, when you eventually return to your normal routines.


11 thoughts on “Seasonal Challenge!

  1. I do have one serious question that comes from making this recent switch from a cardio routine toh one wit more weight lifting. How to handle the resulting sore muscles? I don’t mean aspirin or massages, but rather should one push through such sore muscles?

    I know the idea behind reps is to push to the point that the muscles fail and thus have to adapt. Well, when the muscles are sore, it would seem logical to assume that they would be quicker to need adapting than muscles that are rested.

    1. This is important. While you hit on a logical sounding point, it fails on the actual biology. The sore muscles are the result of microscopic tears in the the muscle fibers. These are the fibers that your body will always preference in with weight lifting activity. Because of this, you need to let these muscles recover, other wise all your doing is causing further microscopic tears without allowing the repair process to occur. Eventually , this leads to real injury, if you persist. This is a part of the intensity difference between weight training and cardio that is so difficult for most exercisers to conceptualize. Cardio can make your muscles sore, too, but the level of damage is so much lower that there is always more of those fibers available the next day.

      1. Is the soreness that comes from cardio mostly a lactic acid effect or are you saying that it too is muscle tears, but at a much more superficial level?

        How rested does one need to be before going back to weights on the same muscle group? Are there ways to recover more quickly, such as eat a lot of protein right after a workout?


      2. You need to be clear on the kind of soreness. The soreness that occurs during the class is lactic acid; a byproduct of the anaerobic energy system. It’s used to break down molecules into energy, in the absence of oxygen. The body completely re-absorbs lactic acid within 30 minutes or so, after the activity ceases. The muscular soreness that occurs the day (or 2) after a workout is what needs to be recovered from.

        The level of muscular damage that is caused by unfamiliar aerobic activity (an activity you haven’t done in awhile, or ever) is much more superficial (unless the participant is extremely de-conditioned in general). This can be ignored as far as the person can tolerate, because, as you ascertained, it is largely superficial compared to more intense weight training activity.

        The general rule of thumb for resting a muscle group is approximately 48 hours. Yes, protein will speed up recovery and results if from a high quality source. It is especially beneficial if taken within 30-60 minutes of a workout, when the body starts flooding its system with hgh and other protein uptake hormones allowing for greater protein absorption and utilization. Taking essential amino acids (the chemical building blocks of protein; all proteins are broken down into amino acids before absorption) is also thought to speed up recovery.

  2. Interesting! I would have assumed that the damage done for “unfamiliar” activities would be the deepest — i.e., least superficial — because the muscles are so unprepared.

    The 30 minute rule is something I need to keep in mind because I sometimes go for half an hour of cardio exercise after weight lifting. Would the cardio extend this protein window or is it eating up my 30 minute window of opportunity? BTW, do you have any rules of thumb of how much protein one should consume? I cannot remember the formula I’ve heard for the number of grams of protein per pound of body mass. If one were to drink some milk just before weightlifting, would that also be available for repair?

  3. It’s only superficial if the participant is in otherwise good condition, in general. Otherwise the pain should be treated just like that experienced after weight lifting. One other thing on this point that is important. The experience of post workout pain will dissipate over time, even if you continue to increase the intensity of your activity. This does not mean muscle damage is not occurring, however. A persons pain threshold is a trained response, as well. Eventually, the post exercise soreness will cease to register. You must stay aware that your workout are still intense (or make them so), and take your days off, regardless.

    The protein intake rule is 30-60 minutes, not a hard 30, and is generally read from when the workout ends. The formula is based on a persons level of weekly activity. It ranges from .5 gm – 2 gm /kilogram of body weight. For the moderately physically active person (1-2 serious workouts/activities/week) take between .5-1 gm per kilo you weigh. Serious weight lifters and athletes 1-1.5 gm/day per kilo. For true marathon runners, power lifters, and competitive strength athletes 2 gm of protein/kilo they weigh.

    Anything you drank immediately prior to working out would end up as mostly fuel for the workout and not be available for repair and recovery.

    1. I’ve asked you this before but I’ll ask again so that I can always have a reference to go back to. Is there a rule about the number of days off? I’m talking about a non-athlete trying to stay healthy. I know people who swear by working out on a daily basis. Is the work-rest ratio dependent on the level of intensity or other factors? It would be so convenient if there are definite guidelines on this point.

      1. With cardiovascular activity, there is no set number of days off. If you vary your intensity between light, moderate, vigorous, and extreme, you can pretty much do some aerobic activity every day. The caveat is if you feel especially drained on a given day for no good reason. That would indicate your body needs a break. If you have a good reason, like lack of sleep, or illness, you should absolutely take time off.

        Weight/resistance training is another matter entirely. Assuming your following the intensity guidelines I’ve posted previously , you should never workout the same muscle groups on consecutive days, with 48 hours as the general rule. If you work out you’re whole body at 7pm on monday, the earliest you should do it again is 7pm wednesday (not 2pm wednesday). When in date, wait an extra day. If your muscles are still extremely fatigued or sore, again take an extra day off.

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