Friday, March 27, 2009

Pain good, Agony bad

Proposed to be among "... the most influential works of psychiatric literature since Freud..." Viktor Frankl makes the case the case in Man's Search for Meaning that a significant part of life's meaning is your suffering through it. Indeed, your purpose is to shoulder your life's unique burdens in a way that only you can.

Allegedly, this is why Catholics sacrifice during lent. And why world class cyclists refer, quite literally, to "suffering" during race and training events. I'm quite sure that psychiatry and psychology schools have long studied the bizarre relationship between meaning, suffering, and happiness. And will continue to do so.

But just how does this apply to exercise? What's the relationship between pain and progress with regards to health and fitness? Well, as we all know, exercise introduces pain in a number of different ways. Unfortunately, not all exercise pain is created equal, and tricky part is recognizing the difference between good pain and bad pain.

Joint problems, muscle strains and over training fatique are all bad pains. Suffering, to the degree that you become faint or dizzy during cardio is also bad pain. These are to be avoided as they only deepen injuries and will retard recovery.

Good pain, however, does have it's role. It is, in fact, needed to push the body to adapt. And despite however wrong he might have been in guiding the state of California to near bankruptsy (which, in his defense has been done by several previous CA govenors throughout history), Arnold appeared to be onto something when he coined the phrase "No Pain No Gain" back in the 70s.

Indeed, only after you are physically pushed to your limits does your body adjust to the stress by becoming stronger, leaner, or more fit aerobically. With weight training, we push clients to exhaustion (and beyond) on a certain (managed) set of exercises to fully recruit muscle tissue.

Muscle fibers,
you see, are arranged in muscle fiber groups that are used to complete a physical movement. The problem is, muscle fiber groups behave in a way we call the "All or Nothing" principal: either all of the fibers within a group are working for you, or none of the fibers within the group are working for you.

To make matters worse, additional muscle fiber groups are recruited to assist with the movement only after the initially recruited groups have been exhausted. And that's why we push to exhaustion on a few sets ... suffering through the lactic acid pain that tells us to stop ... to simply get to a point where we can incorporate the additional muscle fiber groups.

When done within a managed program, this is the exact stress that is needed to adapt, and is one of the primary reasons why personal trainers exist at all: finding that fine line between good and bad pain.

So, no matter what the verdict is on Frankl, Schwarzenegger was right all along.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

You Only Get So Many Heart Beats Per Life

Health magazine reported this week that a recent study conducted by the Journal The Lancet shows that "Obesity shaves two to four years off the average lifespan, while being very obese can shorten your lifespan by 8 to 10 years..." on par with life expectancy reductions of a heavy smoker.

Wow! Why's that?

Well, not too surprisingly, it's because your heart has to do the work of a lifetime in a shorter period of time when you're overweight.

You see, we all inherit a finite number of heart beats per life from our parents. We can either use them conservatively, or use them quickly. And the quickest way to use them is to carry a lot of extra weight, requiring your heart to work hard to support all that extra tissue ... effectively using up your quota early!

Here's some quick math for proof:

Suppose your resting heart rate is 70 beats per minute (bpM). At 70 bpM your heart beats (70x60x24x365=) 36,792,000 beats per year (bpY). But suppose instead, we reduce your resting heart rate just two (2) bpM to 68. This, in turn reduces your bpY to (68x60x24x365=) 31,536,000 bpY.

That's a difference of 5,256,000 beats per year! Uh huh: Over 5 MILLION BEATS PER YEAR!

Now, if you really want to track to the nat's ass, go ahead and take out the three (3) 40 minute cardio exercise events per week (165x40x3x52=) 1,029,600 bpY it will take to get and keep you fit enough to maintain this bpM condition.

Over a one year period, you've still reduced the total number of times your heart beats by (5.36 bpY - 1.03 bpY = ) over 4 Million!!! Wow!

At 68 bpM (instead of 70), you're now banking almost 2 months of heart beats each year ... or an additional 4 years of heart beats over the the next 24. And if you started at 72 (which would be low for an obese person), that's 8 years!

So, while I regularly rant on the need for consistent resistance training to look and feel terrific, a complete fitness program also includes 60 to 120+ minutes of cardio work each week.

Because reducing your resting heart rate, my friends, is what it's all about. A lower resting heart rate reduces blood pressure, and can extend the life of your heart by years ... apparently up to 10!

Want more info about Reducing your resting heart rate and Living Stronger and Longer?
  1. Check out my Heart Rate Zone Training to Look and Feel Fantastic Report on our website; or
  2. Enroll in our new Targeted Heart Rate Training Program (email me for details)
  3. Attend our April 25th Getting to Know Your Heart Seminar, Downtown Minneapolis

Friday, March 6, 2009

Summer Look Training starts Today!

My good friends running bike and ski shops in the north woods of Wisconsin have a term called the 'brown zone.' It's that dead spot in the seasonal changes where it's just too cold and wet for a lot of us to enjoy cycling, and there isn't enough snow on the trails for good skiing. The trees are dormant and the ground is mostly brown.

While die-hards will bunny suit up to get into the saddle, or strap on the outback skis in search of snow-crust skiing, they're also missing out on the best time of the year to train indoors. And that, my friends, is right now!

For starters, now's the time to start working on that summer body. Work begins right now on muscular development becomes apparent when you loose those last few more pounds of body fat with increased Spring and Summer cardio effort.

And the best way to do that is with strict range of motion resistance training.

In fact, one of the more common mistakes I see in the gyms is incomplete range of motion exercise. People get too hung up on the volume of weights, and end up jerking and throwing the weight through a shortened range of motion. And, as a result, they do, in fact, develop shorter muscle fibers than the disciplined lifter who exercises good form by moving the resistance fluidly through it's complete range of motion.

It takes focus and some practice, but if you're looking for a long, lean and toned muscular look, focus on a complete range of motion, use smooth controlled muscle contractions, and be sure to keep good overall body posture throughout the exercise.

Then, when the weather finally does warm up, and you get get outside for extended periods of additional cardio to pull off a few more pounds, the emerging muscle tissue is beautifully developed and will emerge in good form.