one of several pervasive beliefs of our culture is that we can have it all, without effort, smiling all the while. words such as fun, easy, and quick shroud reality. and with, get this, promises of, say, four minute fat burning workouts we’re not encouraged to think differently. we’re enticed to consume. and we do, to little avail. fitness products are commodities, but after consumption, the truism, “there is no free lunch,” returns to haunt us. one way or another, we pay. again, back at square one, we wonder, so, just how does exercise fit into the mix? most won’t like the idea. fewer will follow through, but, here it is.
there’s nothing quick and easy about fitness. to get results, you either go long, go hard, or both. period. of course, my less is more programs follow suit by successfully managing quantity and quality — frequency, duration, and intensity — and, something often overlooked, recovery (as integral to fitness as effort), too. of these components, intensity — the level of effort — is most often misused, and misunderstood.
no pain, no gain, and go heavy or go home are valid. that said, so is long, slow distance. problem is, exercisers, by and large, train in between these two zones. it’s the goldilocks conundrum: poppa bear’s porridge is too hot; momma bear’s is too cold; and, baby bear’s is just right. well, just right is luke warm. tepid. the benefit of high intensity is forfeited. effort a little above low intensity is wasted, yet requires additional recovery. for our purposes, just right indicates precise hot and cool points specific to our goals, which sounds reasonable, even easy doesn’t it? of course. but, determining training zones is not the biggest challenge, it’s following the plan.
a three hour run, at a heartrate of 140 bpm (beats per minute), with a warmup & cooldown of 15 minutes at 130 bpm, and a cadence (foot turnover) of 90 to 100 spm (steps per minute), regardless of terrain should be just that because it best conditions the aerobic & neural systems. but that’s boring, so athletes often jog through a 3:30 long run at a heartrate that starts out at 145, vacillates quite a bit depending on terrain, and ultimately increases over the duration even as pace and cadence decrease. likewise, leading an athlete through a heaving, fitness peaking set of progressively intense hill repeats or sprints, on the velotron cycle ergometer, while maintaining tempo and technique is quite a feat for the coach, as well as the athlete because it hurts!
it’s not so much that the physical effort is hard, though it may well be. rather, it’s how we mentally process the duress of exercise. it’s so much more fun, easy, and (seemingly) quick to just mindlessly workout than it is to pay attention, to really concentrate on what you’re doing, and to do it right. simply, your body follows your mind.
never thought you’d feel a muscle burn between your ears, didja?