Because Your Heart Matters
Written by: Meg Sharp, Wellbeing Consultant, Cambridge Group of Clubs
We write a lot of about the importance of resistance training. How powerful it is to visit and strengthen your end ranges. How this makes you more mobile, comfortable, capable. How lifting weights improves your stamina, joint health, overall performance, and makes you feel like a superhero.
We feel so passionately about this – I hope you don’t think we don’t care about your hearts?! Because we absolutely do. And, indeed, training your heart carries with it very similar, equally powerful benefits.
Our heart and lungs work together in concert to supply our brain, organs, and muscles with oxygen and nutrients. A stronger cardiorespiratory system improves our stamina, our ability to perform everyday tasks like walking up the stairs, helps us manage stress, and reduces risk of may diseases. Training our hearts makes life better.
Training your cardiorespiratory system can be as simple as going for a short hike, walking some extra blocks to the streetcar, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or getting up and moving around for 90 seconds every hour during the workday.
Just like resistance training – there are additional, really powerful benefits when we take our cardiovascular training out of our comfort zone. In simple terms, this means pushing a little harder or going a little faster.
One powerful version of this is referred to as anaerobic exercise.
Anaerobic exercise typically involves short, intermittent bursts of activity. Your heart and respiration rates surge quickly. The oxygen demand of the activity is higher than what your body can supply. There is consequently a buildup of lactic acid and you are ultimately forced to slow down or stop.
Your body doesn’t love the feeling of running out of steam. It makes it uncomfortable and consequently determine that you need to be stronger. You need to keep out running that saber toothed tiger after all. Faster or perish! So, your body adapts. Makes your heart, lungs, muscles, and YOU more resilient. Awesome.
Anaerobic activity can be anything. You can blast into that high-end training zone by doing 30 second sprints on your run or on your bike. You can jump jacks or with a rope for 60 seconds. You could even string together a 90 second strength circuit. You won’t be able to lift as much weight – but your heart will get a great lift and your muscles a different kind of stimulation.
- Typically – an anaerobic interval is anywhere between 10 and 90 seconds. 120 seconds tops. And the intensity – is ALL OUT. What you can barely sustain for the time period. So, it can take some practice to figure that out. Perhaps obviously what you can do for 90 seconds is a touch more moderate than how hard you would go for 15 seconds.
- It can be helpful to repeat the same interval a number of times as you will get better at gauging as you go.
- Your heart rate will typically hit or exceed 85-90% of your maximum heart rate.
- You will need at least a 1:1 work:rest ratio, with your rest requirement higher when the intervals are shorter and harder. And the rest requirement increasing as your sets increase.
- You will feel uncomfortable for pretty much the entire interval, with the last few seconds being quite brutal. And the entirety of the last few intervals will be less than pleasant.
So, why do it?
We’re so glad you asked.
Our Favourite Benefits Associated with Anaerobic Training:
- Training in this manner makes you feel like a superhero. (Yep. This might be our very favourite benefit of tough exercise!)
- Incredibly effective way of training when time is tight.
- Improves performance of aerobic activities (higher pace, greater endurance, and quicker recovery).
- Increases muscle and sometimes bone mass,
- Creates physical and psychological resilience,
- It engages your FULL BODY. You have to brace in a manner you don’t necessarily need to at lower intensities.
- It’s fun.
How to fit it in?
- Just one. Did you know that even ONE bout of anaerobic activity can be beneficial? So, on your next run or power walk… with 2 minutes left to go – go all out for 30 seconds. Next time? Try doing it twice.
- 60 seconds ramps. This is one of my favourites: Running, biking, or cycling: warm up for 3-5 minutes. Then go hard for 60 seconds, recover for 90. Repeat 4-9 times. Warm down for 3-5.
- Circuits. Pick two full body exercises. Do one for 30 seconds, then the next for 30 seconds. Or try 15/15/15/15. Take 60-90 minutes rest. Repeat 3-4 times. Pick two different exercises, do it again.
- Lunch break, coffee break, meeting break, earn your shower, while your smoothie is blending…: Determine what you want to do for a 90 second burst – strength exercises, jumping jacks, air squats, double stairs and perform it a few times throughout the day.
Pro Tip: When you think you can’t do one more, do one more.