Do Your Cardio!
In my first ever post I claimed that, for many people, adding in some low intensity exercise may be of significant benefit to their current lifestyle. The benefits of higher intensity work are huge, and should not be overlooked or excluded from your exercise routine. It’s hard to beat workouts that include maximal sprints, heavy deadlifts and Watt bike sprints. But training in this style 100% of the time, at the exclusion of low intensity work, and you are missing out! So why should you include some form of low intensity work in your week?
1) Aerobic Capacity
Partaking in exercise where your heart rate stays in an aerobic zone will lower your resting heart rate, improve circulation and improve blood pressure. Getting a decent heart rate monitor will set you back £25 (make sure you get one with a chest strap), and lasts nearly-forever. Try to spend 20-30 minutes between 120-150bpm (beats per minute). The form of exercise you choose is not important; if a brisk walk is enough to get you up to 125bpm then use that. If you like cycling, jogging, rowing then go for that! The key is to find something you enjoy so that you look forward to your weekly jog/walk/bike ride (delete as appropriate).
As alluded to in a previous blog post, low intensity work can help speed up the recovery process. If you have the chance to walk to work (or at least part of your daily commute can be done on foot), I thoroughly recommend trying to take advantage of that. This is a good opportunity to get blood flowing to sore muscles, and to mobilise aching joints that have been static as you slept. It goes without saying that you should choose sensible footwear and clothing (take a change of clothes to work).
3) Zero Focus
Heavy squats, blistering-paced rowing intervals and max effort
biceps curls deadlifts all take an incredible amount of concentration and focus (disclaimer: this is not me issuing a challenge for you to not focus during your next set!). Whereas going for a short run or easy bike ride takes little no concentration. With podcasts and audio-books becoming hugely popular, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up on your weekly dose. Alternatively find a running route through a country park and get lost taking in the views and nature around you. Nothing kills your 20 minute run like watching a treadmill screen; give yourself something else to concentrate on.
Due to the ease of access to most low intensity forms of exercise, it can be very easy to get a few friends together to join you. Most towns and cities have weekend 5km running initiatives such as “park run” that cater for all levels and ages; and bikes can be easily rented for a day’s adventuring. Taking the time to exercise alongside friends and/or family members can be refreshing and engaging, and promotes a healthy lifestyle that the group can buy into. Be careful not to turn it into a competition too often, but once in a while really go for it!
In a world where everything is faster and more accessible, we can easily get caught up in wanting more and wanting it instantly. The fitness industry is saturated with speedy promises like “10 minute abs” and “8 minutes to shredded”, and the truth; that everything takes time, does not sell so well. It can be reassuring and a great reminder that getting a weekend hike in is not going to rob you of your sleeve-bursting biceps that you have worked so hard for. And that there is sometimes merit in slowing things down. Ditch the pre-workout for a day, take your coffee decaffeinated, pack some lunch and head out into a Wi-Fi free zone. Your body and your mind may just thank you for it!