Thursday, November 24, 2011

Foundations - Exercise II

As I mentioned in the previous article, moving around a lot and working hard physically are the foundations for an active body.  There are many different ways to accomplish these things, and many ways to make them so much harder than they need to be.

My Sprints yesterday.  Yeah, it was cold.
Here is my story:
I currently do a few short, intense bouts of exercise a week, along with some walking and lots of moving around ( I'm on my feet all day at work).  I do mostly body weight exercises and sprints.  But this has not always been the case.

From the time I was 18 until a few years ago, I was a chronic cardio athlete.  Cycling and running were my passions.  In my early 20's I put in a fair share of miles and raced now and then, but I wouldn't say I was over the top.  Then I moved to Aspen.  People's idea of exercise here is not normal.  I see that now, but I quickly fell into the trap and became one of 'them'.  What most would consider an 'Epic' would be just a routine outing for locals here.  Seriously, it's pretty nuts.  But who can blame us with the incredible mountain scenery and beautiful Colorado weather?  Maybe it's the lack of oxygen at 8000', but for years and years I defined myself by what cardio training I was doing.  I would be chomping at the bit to get out of work and go exercise.  It was an addiction.  An addiction that required lots of fuel from food to sustain.  And like most athletes, my food choices were not exactly made with health first in mind.

When I finally convinced myself that I needed to make some nutritional changes, I knew I had to change my activity level as well.  Turns out what I needed the most was to just drop the excessive cardio miles.  With a light manual labor job and a weekly weightlifting session in addition to the cardio, I was just flat out doing too much activity.  This slow beat down of my body was coming to an end.  I now only run or ride when I really feel like it (maybe 15 times this summer) and instead concentrate on working out in a much more efficient, effective, and safe manner.

Lifting.  I've been lifting weights at gyms for over 15 years, having tried all kinds of different protocols and splits.  Two years ago I gave up my expensive gym membership and started hitting the local playgrounds for my workouts.  Using my body weight, and sometimes adding a backpack full of weights, I've found that these places are a goldmine for fun and fitness.  I mainly do pull ups, chin ups, push ups, dips and presses, but there is so much to explore and play with if you just set your imagination free.  This video is exactly what I'm talking about.
After finishing my workout one day I was just looking at those bars and decided to 'swing' across them and see what I felt.  Turns out it's quite a bicep and back burner.  Especially if you add some weights.  I'll post more on my playground workouts in the future, but as the cold has set in here, I'm currently lifting inside my apartment.  Below are a few pics from my workout today.  As you can see, I have a pull up bar that breaks down when not in use (I'll do a review of this piece of equipment sometime).  I only had it at half height today and used the Grid roller to assist with super slow movements.  It's just something I came up with.  I'll probably do a post more specifically on my indoor workouts too.  Geesh  ... lots of promises for future posts. 

Sprints.  Right now I do running sprints twice a week.  If you're not into running fast, you could certainly try swimming or cycling sprints.  I sprint all out for 15 to 20 seconds, 6 times, with a couple of minutes to recover between each burst.  Some people prefer to do 30 second intervals with less recovery time.  And still others like to mix and match intensity and duration.  Whatever floats your boat.

Indoor workout
Sprinting hard, but not necessarily at 100% maximum effort, is essential.  The reason for this is that you want  to 'drain your tank'.  Your glycogen tank that is.  Working very hard for short durations accomplishes this wonderfully.  You do not completely deplete the glycogen stores in your muscles, but the goal is to get your body to draw down on these reserves occasionally.  In this regard, sprinting offers an incredible bang for your buck.

I would caution people to slowly increase the intensity level with their sprinting.  If you pay close attention to your body, you can build up to sprinting very hard while at the same time minimizing your injury potential.
This is getting a little long and I still have more to add.  I suppose I should just do an in depth article on sprinting sometime too.

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