Shorter More Intense Training



As I mentioned in my previous post, the bad air in large parts of California is persisting because of all the wildfires, and we are advised not to exercise strenuously outdoors.

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The August Complex Fire In the Mendocino area is now close to 900,000 acres (360,000 hectares) and 28% contained. This is the largest fire in California history.

Over two million acres (800,000+ hectares) are burning in various fires around the state, and there are many in fellow West coast states of Oregon and Washington as well. Lots of firefighters are doing there best to keep these away from populated areas, and a lot of homes are threatened. Our hearts go out to those affected. For the rest of us, it has caused over a month of bad air alert days in a row, another new record. These are not the kind of records we want to be setting.

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El Toro barely visible through the smoke

So I decided to make lemonade from lemons, and for the near future, adjust my training to lower volume (shorter) and emphasize intensity more. This is actually recommended by a lot of trainers, who think higher volumes of cardio are not beneficial if your primary goal is fat loss, health, or muscle strength, as it is for many people. One of my favorite sources of inspiration and training advice is Clarence Bass, and he sums it up “I walk, and I sprint. I don’t do anything in between”.

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High-intensity Training

For endurance athletes (including recreational ones like me), a higher volume of low intensity steady-state (LISS) can contribute to performance for your sport. But if your primary interest is health or body composition, it’s controversial whether it’s beneficial. I’ll go into the discussion about that in more detail in a future post. I’ve always thought the arguments against more cardio have been exaggerated so have dismissed them. There is at least a germ of them however, which I’ve been ignoring because outdoor activities at an enjoyable intensity level are my favorite.

I’ve always reasoned that the issue with excess lots of cardio, for those who enjoy it, is not the cardio itself. It’s that there’s only so many hours in a day, and it can cause you to neglect other important aspects like resistance training and high intensity training. As long as I’m a good boy and take my resistance training and high intensity training “medicine” first, it’s ok if I do more volume of LISS. The problem with this attitude is it can make you rush through the chore of resistance training, to get to the “fun part” of a bike ride or hike afterwards.

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Taking Resistance Training Seriously

But if it can’t be outdoors it changes for me. If I’m training in a gym or my house, I don’t want to grind away for a long time on a treadmill or an exercise bike. I enjoy a shorter more intense session better. So it’s time to get passionate about high intensity and resistance training instead of thinking of them as boxes to check off.

There are a couple of other factors for me. I’ve been stuck on a plateau for a few months, with a bit of excess abdominal fat to get rid of, the infamous “last ten pounds” worth. During that time my training volume has been creeping up, because I now have the time for it and have been enjoying my local adventures. In recent weeks I’ve been averaging a couple of hours a day or more. The advice for “plateau busting” is usually to change things up, so for me it makes sense to try going shorter but doing a better job on the intensity. I’ve already noticed I’m going a lot harder on my resistance training and it feels good.

The other factor is that, with this blog, I’m trying to inspire people to remain active and eat healthy as they age, because many of what are considered “inevitable” declines of aging are preventable. But how realistic of a role model am I if I’m exercising two hours a day, because I love my outdoor activities? That’s perhaps inspiration to for other people to find something they love, but an unrealistic time commitment for most. Workout out indoors is something up till now I could only get myself to do for around 30 minutes. This is probably much more inline with my “target audience”. So for the foreseeable future I’ll be working on making indoor exercise enjoyable, effective, and time efficient, as well as “plateau-busting”. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.