Friday, February 27, 2009

Your Long Slow Cardio Event

Fitness Together is closed on Sundays. Every once in a while a client makes a case for opening for a few hours on Sunday. We've given it some serious thought over the years but have always come back to not. Instead, we encourage them to use the day to do something outside, specifically their long, slow cardio event.

Because if you're following our prescribed cardiovascular programming recommendations your weekly cardio efforts will include:
  1. One short duration, high intensity event (SDHI)
  2. Two moderate duration, moderate intensity events (MDMD)
  3. One long duration, low intensity event (LDLI)
And Sunday is a perfect day to get out and complete that Long Duration, Low Intensity (LDLI) event.

Last week I discussed the Fat Burning Zone and where that fits (or, more accurately doesn't fit) into your exercise regimen. And the week before that we went into Zone 5, or the hot zone.

Today, with your LDLI, we are in the middle, and just slightly more active than the Fat Burning Zone. Technically, this (just slightly more active than the Fat Burning Zone) Zone is the Cardio Zone. However, the FT MSP LDLI we recommend is actually Part Cardio Zone, Part Fat Burning Zone.

Reasons for this are many. First, we really want the event to be measured in hours, preferably closer to 2 or 3. And if you're completing the other two or three prescribed cardiovascular events, 2 hours of cardio zone effort would be over training for most of our clients. So we suggest mixing just a bit of cardio effort within a longer, fat burning activity.

Second, this gives you an opportunity to get out and pick up some Vitamin D! As was mentioned a while back, there is significant momentum in the medical universe around Vitamin D deficiency in the US ... particularly during northern state winter months when we're so often cloistered indoors.

Third, this really assists with recovery. Back in my bodybuilding days, we would call exercise like the LDLI active rest. The term still fits too. Your LDLI event should be just enough effort to keep your body moving, but easy enough to not feel like exercise.

But before you start thinking "... hey, I'll just do that daily then ..." , do recognize that this only has practical value within a comprehensive program that includes prescribed resistance training as well as more intense bouts of cardio work. It's part of the puzzle, but a lost puzzle piece by itself.

Physiologically, many things happen during your LDLI. You pick up your heart rate just a bit, but not so much that you're really challenging your circulatory or respiratory systems. The increased blood flow, however, does provide much needed nutrient rich blood to your muscles, bones, and joints. Under the stress of more intense exercise (resistance or cardio), muscle fibers, tendons, and ligaments all get damaged a bit.

This is by design, as the rebuilding/recovery that follows makes them stronger, longer, or leaner. We call that adaptation, and it's why we exercise at all ... in order to adapt!

Additionally, conversion of energy sources to energy produces a toxic waste product called lactic acid. The more intense you exercise, the more lactic acid you produce. This waste product is the primary reason why you may feel sore after resistance exercise: your body doesn't like the lactic acid hanging around muscle groups. Stretching can help help eliminate lactic acid buildup, but we mostly depend on the circulatory system to clear it.

The LDLI then, provides an important niche role in assisting with your recovery: upside nutrition for your recovering tissues, and increased blood flow to remove lactic acid waste product.

Additionally, it gets you out of your house, away from the refrigerator, and does, indeed burn a few calories.

Exactly what you do for your Weekly LDLI will depend enormously on your current fitness level, but here are a few suggestions.

Walk. One of the best urban options available is the loop from Franklin (or Lake) to the Stone Arch (and through campus/the River Flats on the East side). Or Franklin/Lake to Ford on the South side. The lakes are fine grounds too, but the river loop will add a couple of smallish hills that will get just a bit further into the cardio zone for a brief time period. I haven't been in Kenwood lately, but if the walks are clean, a trip through Kenwood and Loring Park would work well too.

Snowshoe. No skills are really needed, and this will get you out into the woods! Additionally, you can use the poles to work the upper body a bit. You can stick to the snowshoe trails, or do some boonie chomping in the deep stuff. Warning though: don't get too far off the trail, or too far from a roadway. Snowshoeing through deep snow is a lot of work and you'll need a bailout option. Plus, if you're in a rural area, you could get lost until Spring! There's actually a reasonably active culture of snow shoeing too, with plenty of organized events around bird watching and moonlighting (night hikes). Check out the Minneapolis Park & Recs Snowshoeing page for a few options. The Theodore Wirth Park Chalet rents equipment, as does REI.

Cross Country Ski. There are some skills required to ski (like knowing how to get up after you fall!), so I would strongly recommend a lesson if you're new to this activity. Not only do you add upper body effort to the mix, but there is a significant core/abdominal requirement as well. It is, without question, the best total body workout you can get! Because balance is part of the equation, your neurological system is taxed as well. While terrific exercise, you actually need to work very hard to NOT work too hard cross country skiing if this is your weekly LDLI: add just a couple of hills and you are quickly approaching aerobic zones. Your best LDLI options are the many local golf courses for fairly flat, rolling hill skiing.

Many city recreation programs offer beginner ski lessons, though I would strongly recommend true professionals in this area. Check either Finn Sisu in St. Paul, or Gear West in Long Lake. And when you're ready for the trails, check out for trails, trail reports, maps and more.

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