A certified Canfitpro personal trainer specialist, and a Yondan (4th Degree) black belt in Shorin Ryu Shorin Kan karate, training at Ferraro Karate under Sensei Stephen Ferraro. Also holding a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from ECornell University. Fitness and health have been a big part of my life, and always will be.
New Year’s resolutions are a popular way to set goals and make positive changes in our lives. One common resolution is to get fit and healthy, but it can be challenging to stick to this resolution. As a personal trainer, I’ve seen firsthand the struggles that people go through when trying to make fitness a part of their daily routine. However, with the right mindset and strategies, you can achieve your fitness goals and stick to your resolution all year long. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:
Set realistic and specific goals
It’s important to set goals that are realistic and specific, so you can track your progress and measure your success. Instead of setting a vague goal like “exercise more,” try setting a specific goal like “exercise for 30 minutes, 3 times a week.” This way, you have a clear target to work towards and you can track your progress over time.
Create a plan
Having a plan in place can help you stay on track and motivated. Decide on the type of exercise you want to do, the days and times you will work out, and the duration of your workouts. You can also create a schedule to help you stay organized and keep track of your workouts.
Find an accountability partner
Having someone to motivate and support you can make a big difference in your fitness journey. Find a friend or family member who is also interested in fitness and make a pact to hold each other accountable for your workouts. You can also consider hiring a personal trainer or joining a fitness group for added accountability and motivation.
Make it enjoyable
Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – find activities that you enjoy and look forward to doing. This will make it easier to stick to your workouts and keep you motivated. You can try different types of workouts, such as dancing, swimming, or cycling, to see what you enjoy the most.
Track your progress
Tracking your progress can be a great way to stay motivated and see the progress you’ve made. You can track your workouts using a fitness app or journal, or take measurements of your body to see the changes in your body composition. Seeing your progress can be a great way to stay motivated and stay on track with your fitness goals.
Don’t get discouraged
It’s important to remember that fitness is a journey and it’s not always going to be easy. There will be setbacks and days when you don’t feel like working out. That’s okay – just keep going and stay positive. Don’t let one missed workout ruin your progress – just get back on track and keep moving forward.
Celebrate your achievements
Celebrating your achievements can be a great way to stay motivated and reward yourself for your hard work. When you reach a goal, take some time to celebrate and reward yourself with something you enjoy. This can be a great way to stay motivated and continue making progress towards your fitness goals.
In conclusion, sticking to your New Year’s resolution to get fit and healthy can be challenging, but with the right mindset and strategies, you can achieve your fitness goals and make a positive change in your life. Remember to set realistic and specific goals, create a plan, find an accountability partner, make exercise enjoyable, track your progress, and celebrate your achievements. With these tips, you can stick to your resolution and make fitness a part of your daily routine.
Build strong adductors and improve your power, and prevent injury.
There are over 650 skeletal muscles in your body. Skeletal muscles are responsible for enabling movement of the body, provides structural support, and maintains posture. Think now if you had to work each muscle separately. Overwhelming isn’t it. Fortunately, when we work out we are working a number of combined muscles, and not individualizing them. For example, when working your quads, you are actually working the 4 individual muscles that make up the quadriceps: Vastus lateralis, Vastus medialis, Vastus intermedius, and Rectus femoris.
But even that can require a lot of time, working all of our muscle groups: upper and lower legs, upper and lower arms, upper and lower core. If you break up the upper core you have shoulders, chest, back. You can take this further: back can be broken out to outer back, inner back, lower back. Shoulders can be separated by delts which can then be broken out to anterior, lateral, and posterior delts. Then you have the Trapezius, Rhomboid major. And of course, you have the 4 muscles that comprise the rotator cuff.
Unless you’re a bodybuilder I wouldn’t delve that deep into your workouts and focus on each small group of muscles that comprise the larger group. I would make one more exception: if you are addressing a muscle imbalance it may require focusing on an individual muscle.
However, having said all that, what if you want to excel at a certain sport. Let’s take cycling as an example. Most cyclists’ legs are disproportionate to the rest of their body. Huge upper legs, strong calf muscles, and a somewhat fit, average-sized torso. It makes sense in that your focus will be training to win. A cyclist’s training will be targeting the muscles that will give them what is needed to win.
So let’s get to the adductors and why you would want to train them if you are a martial artist. Adductors play a role in hip rotation and strong adductors will increase your hip rotational power. If you have a difficult time rotating your hips ahead of your shoulders, you’ll lose power in your strikes. Strong adductors will generate huge amounts of power from the lower body by aiding in internally rotating the hips.
Having strong adductors will provide strong, stable hips and could be the difference in completing a takedown, a sweep, as they play a key role in the ability to generate the power needed to execute these.
Most importantly, in my opinion, is weak adductors = weak, unstable hips which can lead to injury. It’s common for people to think lower back pain is due to spinal issues and end up booking a number of appointments with their chiropractor. Having an unstable pelvis due to weak adductors can lead to injuries in other areas of the body, including the lower back.
So let’s see what can be done to strengthen the adductors:
Straight Leg Ball Squeeze: Laying on your back, place your exercise ball between your feet, having your legs straight. Squeeze the ball with your feet and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 6x. Bonus: to strengthen hip flexors, and strengthen your core, while you squeeze the ball raise your legs straight up until vertical and then lower. Do this as you execute each rep.
Knee Ball Squeeze: Much like the straight leg ball squeeze, we will be putting our exercise ball between our legs, but this time the ball will be between the knees as we will be on our back, legs bent, feet on the floor. Squeeze the ball with your knees and hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 6x.
V Cross Scissors: While sitting on the ground, legs straight, together, and out in front of you, put your arms behind you so you are supporting yourself for when you raise your legs off of the floor to a 30 degree angle. With your legs up, cross them back and forth alternating each time which leg is the upper and which is the lower. When crossing your legs, extend as far as you can to make a big V. If you would like to also work your core, keep your body in a V position without using your arms to support your upper body.
Try to mix in adductor exercises into your weekly routine 2x a week. Having strong adductors will help in your performance and also prevent injuries such as groin pulls.
If you are someone who trains in karate, you would have heard your Sensei say that the power in striking comes from the hips, specifically hip rotation. Your Sensei is right. Hips play a very important role in the process of striking, kicking, and so on.
But hips are not exclusively the only body part that plays a role in how ‘good’ your striking is.
Just like anything we do, it requires components of our body to work together throughout the process. There are muscles that work as the primary movers, muscles that are secondary movers, and stabilizers. An example would you the set of muscles that make up the core. If you have a strong core you will have stronger striking, faster striking than if your core is weak.
When we punch, or strike, the motion starts with our feet. Foot positioning, stances can be a complicated discussion but I’ll keep it simpler. As an example, if we are throwing a reverse punch (punching from the opposite side of the foot that is forward in our stance) our hip on that side is rotated back and the opposite side is rotated forward. We make ourselves become heavy by digging into the ground with the ball of our foot on the side we are striking with. That starts the process of kinetic energy getting to the punch, the fist. While digging down on the ball of that foot, a few things start to happen. That kinetic energy drives up our leg, through the muscles in the leg, through the glutes. Core muscles tighten and contract to help with the speed and efficiency of the hip rotation.
As the hip rotates forward and our arm starts the striking process, moving forward towards the target driven by the kinetic energy we have created from the foot up, the energy now is moving through additional muscles. The back, shoulder, biceps, triceps, all this working in harmony (hopefully) to execute our striking as efficiently as possible. Just like a conductor of a symphony keeps the wind section, percussion, string, and brass sections working together to make beautiful music, we want the various muscles of our body working together as best as they can to make that perfect punch.
If one of those muscle groups is not able to perform well due to being weaker, underdeveloped, out of balance, our striking will not be as strong or efficient as it can be. Just like an orchestra, if the brass section is not aligned with the other sections, the music just isn’t as good as it can be.
I think we all have muscle groups we like to train more than other ones. That’s why there is the saying ‘Never skip leg day’. No one likes training legs. Try to have a balanced workout routine. Full body exercise routines are a great way to help achieve this. On the other hand, exercises that isolate individual muscles can end up creating muscle imbalances if not done correctly. This can lead to reduced performance, and also injury.
Want to get better at something, then keep doing it. Want to be a better striker, then keep striking and correcting mistakes made in your technique.
Do you have muscle imbalances that need correcting? If you don’t know, a personal trainer can assess you and point these out. This will help you strengthen those imbalances and bring your body to a homeostasis state.
Lastly, something to think about. If we continue to train each side of our body the same, we are only perpetuating our muscle imbalances. As an example, if on my weak side I curl to failure a certain weight for 10 reps, and on my strong side I curl the same weight for 14 reps, I’m perpetuating my bicep muscle imbalance. I’ll always have that imbalance if I don’t change my training. Ideally, you should always train the weak side first, and only do the same amount of reps on the strong side that you did on your weak side. The same goes for striking. Let’s take the jab/straight combination. If you execute the same amount of combo’s on your strong side that you did on your weak side you will never have your weak side perform as well as your strong side.
The weak side will get better, but it will never be as good as the strong side since the strong side is also improving. Try things like a 2:1 ratio. If you do 10 reps on the strong side, execute 20 on the weak side. Developing the weak side by doing significantly more reps than the strong side will bring improvements quicker. You will then get to the point of not having a weak side and being uncomfortable when having to strike from that side.
Ultimately, have fun in your training. Find what works for you best to address these things and help you to become better at what you do. If you aren’t having fun, you won’t end up doing it.
A few weeks back I posted an article about the abductor muscles, the muscles that are responsible for moving your leg out from your side and away from the body, hence the name. I thought it would only be fitting to write an article about its antagonist, the adductor muscles.
The adductor muscles are a group of muscles, five to be exact, that are responsible for bringing your leg back to the centre of your body. The five muscles have an origin point of the pelvis, and an insertion point of the medial posterior suface of the femur.
Want to be especially explosive with side to side motion? Increase your running performance? Of course you do! Working your adductors will help with that.
Another benefit of strong adductor muscles is increasing hip mobility which helps in preventing injuries.
With that, let’s get into what can be done to strengthen our adductor muscles.
To work your adductors all you need are fitness bands, and yourself. Technically you don’t even need bands, but it does help. If you think of what adductors do, bringing the leg back to centre, you can probably imagine what you would need to do to work them. Let’s get started.
Sumo Squat: There is a misconception that sumo wrestlers are just fat and out of shape. No so. Yes, they are mostly huge, but very explosive and powerful, with a lot of that power coming from the legs.
Start in a standing position feet a bit wider than your hips, feet rotated outwards a bit to open the hips. Squat down to the point your upper legs are parallel with the ground, or if you can’t make it that low, go as low as you can. Now, bring yourself back up by trying to push the ground away from you. Feel your muscles engage: adductors, glutes, and straighten up until you are almost at the top. To add intensity do not straighten up all the way locking out the legs. Keep a bend in the legs to keep the muscles engaged.
Aim for 3 – 4 sets, 10 – 12 reps a set.
Standing Adductor with Band: Using a band that will give you enough resistance to perform 10 – 12 reps, secure one end around something fixed to the ground such as a squat rack, or anything you can that you are sure won’t move when performing the exercise. Attach the other end around the foot of the leg you are working.
Now move away from the stationary object you have the band secured to until you have a good amount of tension. You are going to do this exercise exactly the way adductors function, bringing your leg back next to the other leg while under tension. Do this using a full range of motion and the tension being at the point where you are struggling a bit to bring the leg back 100%.
Do one side 10 – 12 reps, then do the other side. Try to get in 3 – 4 sets, one set being both legs.
Side Adduction: With this one, you’ll be in a similar position as to when you are doing side planks. Start on your side like a side plank but with your hips on the floor, your head resting on your arm which is on the floor also. Kind of like you are having a nap. The other arm should be in front of you, bent at the elbow, forearm just below your chest, resting the palm of the hand on the floor. This helps to keep you stable as you do the exercise. Now, take the leg that isn’t touching the ground (the top most leg) and bending at the knee, bring the foot closer to your bum. Place the foot on the ground in front of the knee of the leg that is against the floor. At this point you should look like you are ready for a nap, the upper leg bent at almost 90-degrees with that foot in front of the knee of the lower leg. Here comes the work.
Bring the lower leg up as high as you can. If you think about the motion needed to work the adductors, this is what we are doing. When bringing the leg back down, don’t let it rest on the floor. Keep it just above the floor keeping the resistance on the muscles. Using your full range of motion, squeeze out 10 – 12 reps, then do the other side. Repeat for 3 – 4 sets, each set being both legs.
If you have not worked your adductors in a while, or are at the beginning stage of exercising, don’t go too hard with these. Don’t overextend yourself trying to get as much range as possible. You’ll get there eventually, but let’s be safe until the experience is there. Nothing worse than having to walk with an extremely sore groin.
Give these exercises a try. I am a proponent of full body exercises such as squats, pull-ups, where you are working many muscles during the exercise, but it’s always a good idea to isolate and work those muscles every so often.
It’s fair to say most of us never thought that we would be in this pandemic as long as we have been. Lowered capacities, lockdowns, increased anxiety, and depression. For a lot of us, this has been life-altering.
It’s easy to get lost and have good habits drop off, replaced with habits that in some cases are harmful to us. People have taken to self-medicating in the form of an increase in drinking, or an increase in drug consumption in various forms. It’s easy to forget that exercising makes us feel good, makes you feel so much better. A medium to hard workout can take you from a melancholy mood to an energetic mood. And you need only anywhere from 20 minutes, or longer if you dare. It’s just like the saying that 80% of the work is getting off of the couch.
With that in mind, here are some options for a workout. You won’t need any weights and you won’t need a lot of space either. Basement, living room, garage, and any other space in your house that gives you an 8′ x 8′ space to move around.
Jumping Jacks/Star Jumps: This exercise has been around forever. I actually read once that a hieroglyphic of a man in the star position was found during an archaeology dig. Legs together and arms at your side. Jump and spread your legs and bring your arms up and touch your hands at the top. Touching your hands at the top will help keep your shoulders flexible. You can do this at an easy pace to warm up, or a more sped-up pace to tax your cardio system.
Another option is to alternate between jumping jacks and high knees. Do 5 jumping jacks then 5 high knees (both legs = 1 high knee). Again, do this at the pace you need to for what you are working on; warm-up, workout.
Burpees: Standing up, jump up at the beginning if you have the ceiling height. Squat all the way down (all the way), then kick your feet back to the point your lower body and torso are in the plank position. Shoot the feet back into the squat position and back up to a standing position. You can mix it up by doing 2 kickouts (a kickout is when you are down in the squat and shoot your feet back and then in again to the squat position) instead of 1, or how about 3, or 4.
Plank: I’m a big proponent of the plank. If done correctly, it works the whole core. Laying down on your front, nice and straight, raise your body by bending your arms to 90-degree position forearms on the ground, elbows under your shoulders, and your feet should be on the balls of the feet. To help with the alignment of your hips, think of a line from your shoulder to your ankle and your hips should intersect that line.
Add some intensity by putting yourself into a bird dog position. One arm straight out in front of you as if you are pointing, and the opposite leg lifted up and straight back. Only do this if you are advanced and capable. If your shoulders, or hips rotate and are no longer parallel with the floor, it’s too hard for you. Try just the arm, or just the leg, or just stay in the standard plank position.
Another way to add difficulty is to tighten up your abs by bringing your belly button in back to your spine. Of course, your belly button will never meet the spine, but it tightens up your abs. Also, you could contract your ab muscles as if you are preparing for a punch to the stomach.
Pushups: Everyone has done pushups at some point in their life. But, you may have done them incorrectly. Most people do. Most people will do pushups with their elbows out to the side, and the hands forward of their shoulders.
Hands should be just below the shoulders, and elbows should be in, tight to the sides of your body. One more thing, have your hands rotated outwards about 20-degrees. This helps to take the strain off of your shoulders.
Other key things to remember; lower yourself until your nose almost touches the floor. This should give you roughly a 90-degree bend in your arms. NEVER go beyond 90-degrees. This can result in an injury as you are now relying more on your tendons to do the heavy lifting. Bring yourself up until your arms are straight, and keep your lower body in the plank position.
Lower your whole body, not just your upper body. People make the mistake of only moving their upper body down to the lower position, keeping their hips up too high. The body needs to move together, as one. It’s harder but it’s better.
Don’t rush either. Slow and steady wins the race. A 2 second count down, and then 2 second count up is a good cadence. Increase the difficulty by having a pause of 1 second at the bottom.
Want to make it especially difficult? Don’t lock out your arms at the top of the exercise. Keep a gentle bend as this will keep the load on the muscles, not giving them a break. You can also lower your hands to be aligned with your chest. Or you can bring your hands closer to each other. Want another variance? Raise your feet up off the ground to do a declined pushup. 25 to 30-degrees is a good angle for this.
The weather, traffic, flight delays, the pandemic are examples of things we cannot change. We have no control over these things. Stressing, getting anxious, becoming angry will not change these things. But it will change you, and not for the better.
However, you can change how you react to these things. The flight is delayed? More time to read, catch up on emails, listen to a podcast. It can be hard to change this behavior. It’s just like muscle memory, it needs to be retrained. But, by doing this you are not putting yourself into the fight/flight response which if not addressed (exercise takes care of this) will do harm to your body, aging, and damaging cells.
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the next best time is today.
As I mentioned in my last post, Keeping your hips strong, here is the follow up article with additional, more advanced exercises you can do to build stronger hips. Having strong hips help us in many ways as the hip muscles are necessary for almost all the movement that involves the lower body.
If you are an athlete, or very active person strong hip muscles are especially important.
Supine Position Hip Flex: You’ll need exercise bands for this one. Sit on your floor with your legs together, out in front of you. Now put the band around both feet close to the ankle. Lay on your back, and keeping one leg straight, bring the knee of the other leg towards your chest. Carry out 10 – 12 reps on one side, then switch to the other side. Try to do this for 3 – 4 sets.
If you find this too easy, you need to switch out your band for a more resistant one.
Knees to Chest: For this exercise, you’ll need an exercise ball. I’m going to do my best to explain this exercise so I hope this comes across clear and concise.
Lay on the exercise ball and with your body in the push up position, position yourself on the ball so the ball is right around the knees. Keeping your legs on the ball, bring your knees towards your chest. Now move them back to where you started, flattening out your body. Keep repeating this. It’s kind of like doing mountain climbers on an exercise ball, but both legs move together.
Feel like making this even tougher? Straighten out one leg (kind of like the bird dog position, but only the leg) and carry out the same movement of bringing the knee of the opposite leg to your chest. This is the same movement as above but using only one leg, as the other leg is held out and above the ball. 10 – 12 reps, 3 – 4 sets.
Even tougher? If you want to make this exercise even more challenging, keeping the opposite leg up and off of the ball, bring the knee of the leg on the ball towards your chest. Stop when the leg has a 90 degree bend and when in that position move the leg side to side for about 10 – 12 reps. Now do the same using the other leg. Try to squeeze out 4 sets.
Seated Leg Raise: Sit on the floor and have one leg extended out in front of you, and straight. Bend the other leg bringing the knee towards your chest, hugging the leg to keep it close. With the other leg that is straight, slowly lift it off of the ground and hold for 1 -2 seconds then slowly lower back down to the ground. 10 – 12 reps, then switch sides and do the same. Try doing this for 3 – 4 sets.
These exercises are deceptively hard. Try them out and see what you think. As always, pay close attention to technique as you execute the movements, Don’t rush it either, slow and steady wins the race.
Havings strong hip muscles, or abductors, can help prevent activity-related injuries. Week hips, or abductors, can also lead to issues such as IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). If you are a runner you might have heard the term IT band. PFPS can cause pain behind the kneecap when sitting for too long, or when going down the stairs. These are injuries that at the least are uncomfortable and at the most prevents us from training for a long time.
You may have read some of my other posts where pain or injury is not always caused by what we think, the obvious, but instead by having muscle imbalances, or weaknesses. As you can see from the above, here we have again a set of muscles that if weak can cause us discomfort/injury somewhere else on our body.
Abductors are the muscles responsible for moving your leg away from your body, to the side. Getting out of the car, stepping to the side are common activities that use the abductors. Having strong abductors also helps aid in balance and stronger athletic performance.
Are you sitting for many hours throughout the day? Dealing with a lot of inactivity? It may be time then to work on building the abductors. When we stop using muscles, the body will in a sense deactivate those muscles. Instead, the body will recruit other muscles to do the work. This can lead to pain, poor performance, and having trouble executing certain movements.
Alright, let’s look at some exercises we can do to strengthen our abductors
Leg lifts on the side: Go get your mat or find a comfortable spot you can lay down on your side, legs stacked. Keep your head comfortable and have your upper hand on the floor in front of you to keep yourself on your side not leaning forward or backward. Now, with both legs straight, lift the upper leg all the way up to higher than your hip until you feel your hip flex and hold for 3 seconds. Now, lower your leg down but not all the way. Hold your leg above your other leg to where the tension just starts to lessen. Do this nice and slow. Lowering the leg should be done on a count of 3. Do this for 10 repetitions then repeat on the other side. Try to do 3 sets to start with.
Side Stepping: Do you have exercise bands? If so then this one’s for you. Grab a small band and place it around your ankles just above that bone that sticks out to the side. Keeping your feet under your hips, squat down to a seating or semi-setting position (if you can get yourself to the seating position then that’s where you need to be). Now, step to the side pushing with your heel against the band. Keep the band tight so it provides a fair amount of resistance. Feel the hip doing this work. Now, bring the other foot over so you are again positioned with your feet under your hips. Do this for 10 – 15 steps then return to your starting position by going back the other way.
Do you find this too easy? Get a resistance band that offers more resistance.
The Fire Hydrant: Don’t worry, you don’t need to use an actual fire hydrant for this exercise. You’ll see why this is called the fire hydrant. Get yourself on all fours, elbows locked out, knees under your hips, and head level looking at the ground below you. Now, using either the left or right leg, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees, raise up the leg up to the side as high as it will go, and hold for 3 seconds. Yes, you should resemble a dog doing his business at a fire hydrant. Bring the leg back to the starting position. Do this movement slow and steady holding at the top for 3 seconds. 10 – 15 per side for 3 sets.
It’s always good to isolate muscles that are not used extensively. Most of us have strong pecs, shoulder fronts, quads but suffer from weaker neglected muscles such as abductors. If you practice martial arts then you’ll enjoy the benefits of having strong hips. Everything is about the hips. Who knows, maybe if after 8 weeks of working your abductors you’ll notice better performance, or no longer having that nagging pain in your IT band.
Enjoy these exercises and I’ll probably post some advanced hip flexor exercises in the weeks to come.
Do you have goals? What are they? Why do you train? Where do you see yourself in 6 months?
I think these are important questions for those of us who train for specific reasons and are looking for positive results and growth. But not everyone falls into this bucket. It depends and knowing what bucket you fall into is very important, in my opinion, on what it is you do.
For a large number of people, training means getting in their steps, burning a specific number of calories a day, doing things such as going for walks, light calisthenics to keep moving, and to maintain the ability to keep moving. For those of us who exercise to maintain a high level of athleticism, to compete, to be a better person physically today than a year ago then it’s very important how we train. And when I say train I’m really encompassing all things we do that impact training.
If you fall into the former group I mentioned above then this post might not be for you. If you fall into the latter then keep reading and hopefully you’ll pick up some tips that will help you grow athletically.
How we train directly impacts the results we get. Throughout time there have been many schools of thought on this. To run marathons you need to train distance, and lots of it is a good example. That’s how marathoners used to train years ago, nothing but long slow runs. But that changed and interval training was introduced and those who added interval training started to win events and set records. How we train with respect to the impact on our cardio health is very important. What energy system you use is very important.
But how do you know what energy system you are using, and how does this impact your results?
I’m going to start off by making a recommendation. It’s one I’ve made before but I’m going to make it again. You need to get a device that at a bare minimum records your heart rate. And with that, I recommend you get one that gets you the most data. Monitoring heart rate is a good start but at the simplest level, it’s just showing you where you are at when you look at it. It doesn’t record your heart rate the whole workout only at that point of time you look at it. This is fine to know where you are at that moment but does not give you the data to understand where you were throughout the workout. A better device will allow you to break down your whole workout post-workout and understand at various points how you were performing. Some devices will let you set a maximum heart rate for that workout and warm you if you exceed it. If you are training your aerobic threshold this is a great feature as it will prevent you from having your heartrate slip into a higher zone. There are also devices that will factor in how rested you are (taking into account amount and quality of sleep, if alcohol has been consumed, etc.) and give you guidance on the type of workout you should be doing or even if you should be working out that day. How well we have recovered from our previous day should be included in the analysis we do when we decide how we are going to work out. If we are consistently overtraining because we aren’t taking this into account you are harming yourself and in actuality, you are moving backward instead of forwards with your athletic performance. Overtraining can also lead to injury, lack of progress, depression, and could also lead to loss of interest in training.
We are living in a time and age that probably has given us the most sophisticated tools we can have to better understand our fitness, health, and ability to perform. Training has evolved from getting up in the morning and doing the same tried and true to using data, feedback from our bodies to determine the workout for that day, and also tools to monitor our performance during the workout. Olympic athletes are constantly using modern tools, data, coaches, doctors to squeeze out as much as they can from their bodies. Technology to analyze and refine technique, and tools to analyze our bodies metrics and determine what is the best workout for that day.
We can’t go hard all the time, especially if you are more of an endurance athlete. It’s a mix of hard and soft, of yin and yang.
So how can you do that? Let me start with the basics, knowing what zone to train in. For this post, I’m going to cover zone 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Zone 2 can be called the fun zone as it’s the zone to use for the long and slow type of exercises, that gentle run where you can carry on a conversation. For this type of activity, you will want your heart rate to be at 60% at the low end to 70% of your max heart rate at the high end. This is the heart rate zone where you can carry out an activity such as running for 2 or more hours. Primarily using fat but also some glucose (sugar) for energy. Typically your muscles will tire before your cardio. This zone helps to build efficiency in our cardiovascular system, build endurance, and increase efficiency in our fat oxidation system. It’s hard to stay in but has a lot of benefits. This zone can easily comprise the majority of your training time amounting from 50% to 60%.
For this zone, you will want your heart rate to be at 70% on the low end and no higher than 80% of heart rate max for the top end. This zone is not a zone to spend a lot of time in (maybe %5 of total training time) as it doesn’t make you faster or stronger, and you don’t reap the benefits of the lower zones. Try to resist the temptation of being in this zone.
High exertion training. Training in this zone will help you get fast. Spend about 15% of your training in this zone. At this pace, I’m hitting about 90% MHR at the top end. Want to get faster and stronger? This zone will help with that. Spend about 15% of total time in this zone.
Raw speed and power is what zone 5 is about. This is high-intensity training. Train in this zone and you will need to ensure you have ample time, optimum nutrition to recover. Ever do a Tabata session? Yep, you are in zone 5. Because this zone is very intense, do not devote more than 10% of your total workout time in this zone.
Those are the zones. They give us different benefits, and also can lead to detriments if we stick to a zone for too long or are in that zone too often.
So let me ask you a question…
…what zone were you in your last training session?
If you don’t know then you aren’t training smart, or as smart as you can be. Think how simple it is to have a device tell you if you are training well. You’re putting in the work anyway but now you are putting in smart work. Have you ever woken up tired and dragged your ass to the gym and did your best to put in the work but you couldn’t? And you felt like shit about yourself, putting yourself down, telling yourself you’re useless. We shouldn’t be stuck to a strict schedule if that schedule is wrong. “Tuesday is Tabata, Wed. is 30 min interval training”, etc. That all looks great on paper but we are not machines! We are different from one day to the next due to a number of influences.
Having a device that tells us we are well-rested and recovered and today you can go hard, or it tells us that today is a good day for an easier workout because you didn’t recover well. This is training smart, and if you start to train hard when you can, train easier when you can’t train hard, you won’t be overtraining and you’ll end up spending more time quality training. And you’ll probably see some better results.
A variety of training doesn’t just mean different activities, it also means different intensities. Keep that in mind moving forward and enjoy those training sessions that are the long and slow ones. Those ones can be fun.