Day 14 – Try Going Harder

go the extra mile sign

OK, after showing you some ways and techniques to help you become a fan of doing exercises (or any other physical activity) yesterday, this day is dedicated to pushing boundaries and going harder!

So far we have insisted that you take things slowly and to do light walks and exercises – the reasons for that were many: your body wasn’t used to physical activity,  it was another set of habits that you needed to implement, there was a possibility that you were intimidated by getting into exercising, and, above all, it was the introduction to adjusting your mindset to the new “environment”; taking things slowly was a good way to help you jump over the potential obstacles to doing exercises that may have existed in your mind.

But now, you’re physically active for a while – your body is awaken and your mind got used to the idea (ideally you have already developed the affinity for exercise, in some degree at least). So now – we can get brutal! Kidding, of course, this course is meant to help you go through the changes as easily and effortlessly as possible, but it’s time to level up the game and to get more serious about exercising.

It’s Time to Exercise Harder

tough woman shadow boxing

When was the last time you really pushed yourself in exercise, when you kept moving even after you felt you have reached your limits? Well, today is the day! For all of you who were secretly complaining about the slow tempo that we suggested – today is especially for you; and for those of you who are enjoying taking it slowly – you didn’t really think it was going to last? 😉
This isn’t about torturing you; it’s about pointing you at the right direction. And the right direction now is exercising harder.

Some recent studies show that shorter bouts of exercise at a higher intensity are far more effective than working out at a moderate pace for longer periods of time. In one of them, which involved over 10,000 adults, people who walked slowly or slogged through hour-long sessions lost less weight than those who exercised at a moderate level for 30 minutes a day (walked briskly or jogged).

Another one, released more recently, based on data from the 2,202 women and 2,309 men ages 18 to 64 who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, shows that even the people who engaged in the higher-intensity short bouts experienced benefits to their body mass index.

That should be enough proof that the old mantra, “eat less, move more” – doesn’t count anymore. What actually influences your weight loss and the state of your health is:

1. not how much, but what you eat, and
2. not how long, but how intensely you exercise.

Of course, any activity is better than no activity; but, as you have already got past the stage of no activity, it would be a shame not to do even better, don’t you think?

You see, an intense training won’t burn a lot more calories than a “normal” training, but it will maintain lean body mass while fat is lost, and deplete muscle glycogen stores making more room in the muscles for incoming carbohydrate – which means that less of it will be converted to triglyceride and stored as fat. An intense training will also slightly raise metabolic rate.

OK, you won’t be getting these results from a single training, but including a five or ten minutes set of intensity exercises into your exercising routine will make you see better results faster. And today is the day to start.

How to Approach This New Habit

You may have or haven’t noticed, but our goal here isn’t to help you kill yourself. Raising the level of intensity of your workouts will indeed benefit you, but you need to level up the game gradually, as your body isn’t used to it yet. Just like you’ve been gradually changing your mindset over the past few weeks, now your body needs time to get accustomed to more challenging activities.

If you experience any of the symptoms below – you’re exercising too hard, and you should stop immediately:

  • Dizziness
  • Trouble breathing or maintaining a conversation
  • Disorientation, foggy mental processing
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Dehydration

In order to better determine how much harder you should exercise, you should first determine where you’re now in terms of exercise intensity. Think about your normal training, and see in which category you fit in:

Light intensity.

It feels easy, there are no noticeable changes in your breathing pattern, you don’t break a sweat, you can easily talk (or even sing) and your heart rate is 40 to 50 percent of your maximum heart rate (we’ll explain a bit later how you can calculate your maximum heart rate).

Moderate intensity.

It feels somewhat hard, your breathing quickens, but you’re not out of breath, you develop a light sweat after about 10 or 15 minutes of activity, you can carry on a conversation, but you can’t sing, and your heart rate is 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Vigorous intensity.

Activity of vigorous intensity is challenging and, although you probably aren’t on this level yet, you should know the signs so that you can recognize them: breathing is deep and rapid, you develop a sweat after a few minutes of activity, you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath and your heart rate is 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Calculating your maximum heart rate and your desired target heart rate zone

There are different calculators, many of them you can find online, but you can also do the math yourself – just subtract your age from 220. So, if your age is 40, your maximum heart rate is 180; if your age is 55, the maximum is 165.

After determining your maximum heart rate, you can easily determine the desired heart rate zone: if, for example, you’re aiming for a target heart rate of 50-70% (activities of moderate intensity), the math would go like this:

  • MaxHR * 0,5 = the lower end of your target heart rate zone.
  • MaxHR * 0,7 = the upper end of your target heart rate zone.

If your age is 40, then it would be like this:

  • Your MaxHR is 220-40=180
  • The lower end is 180*0,5=90 heart beats per minute.
  • The upper end is 180*0,7=126 heart beats per minute.

OK, if the math is clear, here’s how you can use it to determine the intensity of your future workouts: determine where you are now, and then work with more intensity, but just so you get to the next level. Ideally, you would go from the upper end of a lower level to the lower end of the upper level, and after a while, when you feel comfortable on the level you’re at, intensify the workouts so that you get to the upper end of the level you’re at.

To use the same example as above, if your current heart beats per minute are around 80-85 while you’re exercising (the upper end of light intensity exercises), then you can safely increase the intensity to get to 90-95 heart beats per minute (the lower end of moderate intensity exercises), and when you feel that it’s not an effort anymore, gradually increase the intensity to reach the upper end of this level, which, in this case, is 120-126 heart beats per minute.

To check your heart rate during exercise, you don’t need to stop for an entire minute while you’re exercising – you can stop and take your pulse for 15 seconds, and then multiply the number by 4.

CAUTION: Please understand that this calculator is only a guide – your own maximum heart rate can be higher or lower. For a more definitive range, especially if you have some physical conditions, or if you’re using any medications that you feel could significantly influence it, please consult your physician or an exercise physiologist.

Got a headache from all the numbers? 🙂 Well, you only need to do this once (this year) – right now would be a good time, it won’t take you more than a few minutes to calculate the upper and lower ends for each level of exercise intensity – and you’re free to go and apply it. Some physical activity will help you get rid of the headache too!

Tomorrow we start to work harder on your motivation – but before that, we have a special treat: a few exercise power tips waiting for you, right after you come back from your workout, which will, of course, be a bit more intense than usual 😉