Core Client Habit: 10 Minutes Per Week High Intensity Exercise (Breathless)
Question: Did you do 10+ minutes of high intensity (breathless) exercise this week?
How To Know You’ve Done This: Do a minimum of 10 minutes of high intensity (breathless) exercise this week.
Just A Spoonful
Imagine you’re a sailor aboard Captain' Jack’s ship. You’ve been out at sea for months in search of the Black Pearl. Blasted Davy Jones and his ghost crew have stolen it! In typical Jack Sparrow fashion, he’s only packed rum for the trip. Due to a severe deficiency in vitamin C, you start to develop rickets, which makes your bones and body weak. You’re no good to Captain’ Jack so he makes you walk the plank! Luckily, you’re near the shore and able to swim in. Upon arrival at the shore, you see a giant container of a vitamin C supplement powder. You wonder, “how did that get here?” and “am I seeing things?” You’re saved! You power that stuff down like there’s no tomorrow. Within a few hours, you start to feel nauseous and develop a splitting headache. It seems you’ve overdosed on Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is necessary for human survival. If we don’t get enough, it’s bad news. If we get too much, however, it’s also bad news. It’s the exact same with high intensity exercise. We need it, but not too much.
But exercise, especially high intensity exercise, works through a concept known as hormesis. Hormesis isThe occasional small “dose” of high intensity exercise or sprinting can have a more significant impact on overall health, fitness, and even weight loss, than hours of cardio workouts. Even though high intensity exercise will push you above your aerobic max heart rate (180-age) it will be short enough that the stressor is mild.
Confusion and Cardio
The health and fitness world today has made getting fit to be incredibly complicated and painful. We’ve been brainwashed to believe that the only way to achieve a healthy, lean, fit body is through intense cardio sessions on a treadmill, dripping sweat over a Peloton bike or suffering through a Crossfit session. It seems the only way to be lean is with lucky genes or an extremely stressful exercise regime.
But here’s the good news: getting fit is easier than you nearly everyone makes it out to be. From a movement standpoint, you need to first move often. This includes things like walking 11,500 steps a day, hiking, low level cycling, mobility exercises like foam rolling, breath work, yoga, pilates, etc. The only other things you need in your week are 2 30-minute strength training sessions and 10 minutes of high intensity exercise. That’s a total of less than 2-hours per week of focused exercise time.
You know exercise is good for you. You also know that most don’t do enough. High intensity exercise is especially good for us. It seems to communicate to our bodies that they are needed to perform at a high level. But, what’s important to keep in mind, especially with intense exercise, is that exercise is a stress. It’s what we call a eu-stress, meaning potentially beneficial. Exercise can be a productive stress conducive to a healthier body, mind, and immune system or an unproductive stress yielding burn-out, sickness, and injury.
Research shows that moderate exercise actually lowers our risk of getting sick (URTI: Upper Respiratory Tract Infection) and High intensity exercises raises the risk.
Now it’s not this simple. There are myriad factors involved in the amount, intensity, and type of exercise a body can handle. And there is ample evidence to show that some high intensity exercise is actually really beneficial. Someone who is well trained, rested, and eating food that communicates well with their body will be able to absorb and benefit from more exercise at higher intensities. Someone who eats poorly, is stressed out, and has little training experience will likely not benefit from intense exercise.
Think of they typical American office-worker. They don’t move often, they sacrifice sleep for Netflix, they eat what’s convenient instead of what nourishes them, and they don’t handle the stress in their life well. Then, they decide they are going to get fit. They a friend talks them into doing P90X, OrangeTheory, Bootcamp, CrossFit, or running. At first, it works. They feel better and they start losing weight. But in a matter of weeks, or months if you’re lucky, injury, fatigue, and weight-loss plateaus set in. At this point, these well-intentioned exercisers often give up and revert back to doing nothing.
While most American’s don’t move enough, there is a fast-growing movement in the exercise world today of folks who are simply doing too much high intensity exercise.
When we look at the average american who eats too many carbs, vegetable oil, works too many hours, doesn’t sleep enough, and uses things like television, social media, alcohol, or prescription drugs to cope, it’s no wonder many struggle to handle the stress of exercise well. Our heart, nervous system, and the hormones inside of us can get overwhelmed with too much high intensity exercise.
Stop The Cardio
Chronic cardio leads to an increase in stress hormones in our body, an eventual difficulty with weight loss, and increased stress. Unlike the amazing benefits of walking 11,500 steps per day and other low level exercise, chronic cardio workouts can really jack you up! Cardio workouts that are too hard (at heart rates of higher than 180-age) and last too long (more than 10 minutes) fall into the bucket of chronic cardio. It’s likely that nearly everyone you see jogging on the street, biking up a mountain or slogging through a group exercise class is in the chronic cardio heart rate range. Exercise done with a heart above 180-age is what we call “The Black Hole” heart rate range. At heart rates below this threshold, the body burns fat for fuel. At heart rates above this threshold, the body starts to burn glucose for fuel.
Chronic cardio won’t help you lose weight. The calories burned from exercise are negligible and exercise in the black hole lowers our metabolism and makes us want to eat more carbs.
If you have ever done a ½ marathon, bike race, triathlon, or similar cardio event, you’ve experienced the burning desire for carbs after the event. This is a direct result of the body burning glucose for fuel instead of fat.
Now if you love to cycle, do spartan races, or run marathons, keep going! It’s awesome to have things in life to work towards. But make sure you do the bulk of your training below the black hole heart rate ranges.
What Does High Intensity Mean?
High intensity varies from person to person.The best barometer is breath. If an exercise makes you breathless, you are in the realm of “high intensity”. For the ultra fit, only the hardest interval workouts, sprinting, or running up a hill would suffice. Yet for others a brisk walk with a slight incline might do the trick.
There are many benefits of low level exercises like walking, hiking, playing with your kids or grandkids, paddleboarding, or cycling at a low level. These types of exercises are easy to recover from, use fat for fuel, and are beneficial.
Moderately intense exercise, done in the black hole heart rate range, like jogging, bootcamps, group exercise classes, or intense bike rides are counter-productive. These workouts use glucose for fuel, flood our body with stress hormones, are hard to recover from, and make it tough to lose weight and keep it off.
Sprinting, high intensity interval work (we call these APEX’s at Village) are maximal intensity efforts that are short in duration. Unlike chronic cardio, these workouts won’t cause your body to get stuck using carbs for fuel and will have amazing benefits.
High intensity exercise spikes adaptive hormones which lead to a release of anti-aging magic. High intensity exercise makes us more resilient physically and mentally. High intensity exercise strengthens connective tissue like muscles, nerves, bones, and tendons.
Pushing yourself hard a few times a week in short bursts, communicates to our genetic code that we need to turn unwanted fat cells back into muscle, nerve, bone, and tendon.
A recent study had cyclists perform 15 cumulative minutes over the course of two weeks of cycling like their life depended on it. Yes, just 15 total minutes in two weeks. The results were amazing. Their performance on the bike nearly doubled! Our body is patiently waiting to respond to the signals we give it in our environment. In the case of high intensity exercise, it doesn’t take much of this signal to create a great result.
For these reasons, we recommend a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes of high intensity exercise each week.
How can you tell if something is worth calling high intensity? You’ll know you are in the high intensity zone when you are breathless.
It really doesn’t matter what type of exercise you choose. It could be sprinting up a hill, riding a bike, a rowing machine, or a combination of exercises like we do at Village in our APEX. Each session, our clients finish their workout with an APEX. This is 5 to 10 minutes of high intensity conditioning. We turn the music up, focus all our energy and attention on the exercises at hand, and create an environment for a lean, strong, and healthy body.
Think of your body like a student in a college classroom. If the student is free from distractions in the class, they will be able to absorb information. But imagine a student in the back of the class is shooting spitballs at them, the folks next to him are deep in conversation about the latest episode of This Is Us, and sprinklers in the ceiling are shooting out water. It would be distracting to say the least and the student would not get much out of the lecture. This is what happens when you try to add intense exercise on top of a bad diet, stress, and poor sleep.
Our classroom scene is a little crazy and you would probably walk out. But to your body, adding too much intense exercise on top of trying to process vegetable oil, sugar, and constant digital stimulation is crazy too. And you can’t very well walk out of your own body.
Our body is like an eager student, sitting in the front row of class, waiting to be told what to do next. It’s your job to make sure the “classroom” is an optimal environment for learning. So turn off the sprinklers, kick the spit-ball shooters out, and tell the talking couple to take it outside by eliminating toxic sugar, vegetable oil and replacing it with food which communicates well with your body.
APEX-style training should not only spike your heart and get you sweating, but should make you feel like you can accomplish other things in life. By doing the rowing machine for 45 seconds at a pace you didn’t think you could, you’ve proven to yourself you can do more than you thought. This is about more than burning calories, shedding-fat, or getting ripped. This is about become a better employee, boss, parent, grandparent, friend, and human being. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself. In order to maximize your potential you need to believe bigger about yourself! That’s what the APEX and high intensity exercise is all about.
Benefits Of High Intensity Training
Fat To Muscle
Fat seems to come from nowhere. In reality, it comes from what are called stem cells. These cells have the power to transform into many different types of cells in the human body. They may hold the key to unlocking currently un-curable diseases like cancer, alziemers, and diabetes. But for now, we know that they play an important role in the shape of our bodies. Whether your stem cells turn into fat or muscles is entirely dependent on the environment you give them.
In fact, once a fat cell has been created from a stem cell, it requires constant attention to maintain itself as a fat cell. Thankfully for those fat cells, the standard american diet, chronic cardio, and high stress lifestyles provide the perfect, cozy environment for fat to thrive.
When we eat too much, especially vegetable oil and sugar, our body needs to find a place to store the extra energy. So it finds stem cells in the body and converts them into fat cells. The excess food energy creates the signal and communication for your body to store excess calories in the form of fat.
The opposite is true of un-doing this. If you create the right communication and signals, your body will seek to turn fat cells into more useful tissue like muscle, nerve, and bone.
Research shows that 10 to 30 minutes of intense exercise per week (APEX-style interval workouts) can provide the necessary cellular information for the conversion of fat cells into tissue like muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and tendon.
For the busy person, interval training is a time-effective way to get an effective workout. Most folks think that they need to spend hours in the gym in order to get an effective workout. But with interval training, just 10 minutes can get your blood pumping and create the communication you need to achieve the results you want.
Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, has a powerful effect of releasing endorphins into the bloodstream. These are the feel-good hormones.
Pump Up Your Brain
How To Do It
In a negative rest format, you work for longer than you rest. For example, a 30-second interval on the bike followed by 15 seconds of rest. These types of intervals are great for getting a higher volume of time at the high level of intensity.
5 minute warm-up
1 minute all-out row
30 seconds easy or rest
5 Minute cool-down
In a positive rest interval, you rest for longer than you work. These types of workouts are great for when you’re looking to train your body’s ability to recover and work at a maximum intensity.
Battle Ropes: 45 seconds all-out
1 minute rest
Squat To Press: 45 seconds all-out
1 minute rest
Step-ups: 45 seconds all-out
1 minute rest
Rowing machine: 45 seconds all-out
Variable Work: Rest
Work for as long as it takes to complete 20 ball slams.
Rest for 30 seconds.
Battle ropes for as long as it took to complete the ball slams.
Rowing machine until you get your heart rate to 170, keep it there for 15 seconds.
Rest until your heart rate comes back down to 120.
Repeat until thoroughly cooked.
“Ciabatta?” clients respond when we ask if they have heard of tabata.
Tabata intervals or 20-seconds-on, 10-seconds-off were created by an exercise physiologist with the last name “Tabata”.
Example: Hardest 4 Minutes Of Your Life
20 seconds: Barbell Front Squat
10 seconds: Rack bar, take a few breaths, get set for next set
This one is downright nasty. I’ve done this with 115 pounds on the bar and turned my legs into utter jello in 4 minutes.
Don’t be confined to using a bike, elliptical, or running as the only means for doing interval training. Dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or just about any implement can be used for interval training.
A “complex” involves moving in rapid succession from one exercise to the next using the same set of dumbbells throughout. These are a great way to get a cardio or interval-style workout without having to use a machine.
Bicep Curls: 2,4,6,8,10,12
Front Squat: 2,4,6,8,10,12
Mt. Climbers: 2,4,6,8,10,12 each leg
If you have access to a sled, it’s one of the most brutal and effective lower-body training tools out there. Simply pushing a sled across the grass, gym floor, or outside is an amazing challenge.
Simply find a hill and sprint up it. Walk down. Repeat.
Listen To Your Body
You should never push hard through an interval workout when you are not feeling good. If your body is in pain, feeling stiff, or you feel a cold coming on, skip the intervals in favor of walking, stretching, and mobility work. Remember, the only way your body will be able to absorb the high intensity workouts is with the right environment. Pay attention to your body. Push hard on the good days, take it easy on the bad days, and always keep moving.
1 "Transdifferentiation potential of human mesenchymal stem ... - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15084518. Accessed 26 Sep. 2018.
2 "Reversible transdifferentiation of secretory epithelial cells into ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15556998. Accessed 26 Sep. 2018.
3 "The cellular plasticity of human adipocytes. - NCBI." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15900154. Accessed 26 Sep. 2018.
4 "Insulin-resistant subjects have normal angiogenic response to aerobic ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26038468. Accessed 26 Sep. 2018.