Exercise is a fantastic thing. If done correctly it makes you fitter, stronger, healthier and much more energized. Now this may sound like the sales pitch of the fitness junkie but this is so very true. When you train you just feel different. You feel right, like your body and mind are working like they’re supposed to. When you’re fit, truly fit, you literally feel more alive.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still get a cold the same as everyone else. You can still get a bout of gastro or upset tummy. You may even have as many days off as a “normal” person. You’re certainly not immune from an injury either. But when you beat the cold and you’re back to training you realise how much better life feels when your body is truly fit and firing on all cylinders. It’s an amazing sensation.
So what exercise is best for making you super-fit, super-healthy and super-toned? Any movement or exercise is generally good for you. Some people swear by walking every day, others love to run for hours on end, cyclists will dream of hitting the road for a big ride while the rest of us love hitting the gym and throwing around heavy weights. Any regular activity is likely better for you than sitting on the coach eating chips and chocolate. But what’s BEST for transforming your body and building you to this state of mega fitness I keep talking about?
For my mind it’s a tie between a well designed and effective weight routine and interval training. Both of these can bring about amazing physical transformations of both health and fitness.
When we think of weight training we naturally think about muscles. It’s true. Weight training is absolutely awesome for transforming your body with lean muscle. If you want a nice shapely or athletic looking body then you should most definitely consider lifting weights. And if you’re a girl that is currently thinking “but I don’t want to get too bulky”, it’s time to forget that argument and do some google research. Weights probably won’t make you “bulky”. It’s much more likely to make you tight, toned and, might I say, just a little bit hot!
But what about the other benefits of lifting weights? Weight lifting is so much more than just building muscle. Of course it increases your strength and boosts your metabolism but it can make you damned fit too!! In fact the right weight-lifting program can replicate almost all of the health benefits generally associated with running, swimming, walking and cycling.
It increases V02MAX, endurance performance, bone mineral density, lung vital capacity, lactate threshold, balance, explosive sports performance and central nervous system connections, brain usage and joint flexibility. At the same time it reduces body-fat (including visceral fat) and improves our insulin sensitivity. And that’s still not a complete list of its benefits!! What does all this stuff mean? Weight training can make you fitter, stronger, healthier and better on almost all physical levels.
True interval training is hard to beat for amazing transformation results. Interval training involves short bursts of high intensity physical activity (like a sprint) interspersed with periods of rest or lower intensity activity (like a walk). Any activity can be adapted to become interval training. Running, cycling, boxing, rowing, walking and even weight training can be used for interval training.
Why is interval training among the best possible training methods? Because it works incredibly well. In my opinion genuine interval training is hard to beat for fitness, body-transformation and, importantly, overall good health. Interval training is now accepted as one of the most potent ways to shed serious body-fat while preserving muscle. Intense interval training trumps continuous steady state aerobic training on every level. In fact, the only reason I would actually do endurance training is if I were training for an endurance event. Otherwise genuine interval training kills it when it comes to rapid and serious results.
Interval training is the best known training methodology for promoting the AFTERBURN. The afterburn (known as EPOC to those in the industry) is what makes this training so potent for fat-loss. When you train intervals you continue to burn fat for a massive 48+ hours after you finish your brief 10-20 minute session. WOW! Regular cardio only burns calories for about 3 hours afterwards. Imagine that: After you finish a short, sharp interval training session you can STILL be burning calories 48+ hours after. That’s potent!!
And what about overall health? Excellent! When it comes to physical health there are few things more important than lung power. If you’re interested in your health and vitality as you age you should be seriously interested in your lungs. From preventing heart attacks, improving your stamina and energy to preventing & recovering from colds and illnesses lungs capacity is critically important. Unless you prevent it, you lose 20 percent of your vital lung capacity by about age 35. By 50, you’ve lost 40 percent of your breathing capacity and the decline continues for life.
In fact lung capacity is absolutely the best indicator of your lifespan. Studies have shown that the better your lungs work the longer you’ll live. So how can you stop your lungs from declining? Not through steady state cardio. In fact endurance training can actually DECREASE overall lung power as, by nature, aerobic exercise trains your lungs to work below actual true capacity. The good news: lung vital capacity is dramatically improved when participating in regular interval training. One could therefore argue that interval training is the most effective training strategy known to potentially extend your life!
The key to successful interval training is finding the right intensity. Effective interval training is usually when you push yourself pretty damned hard. When you’re “gassed out” and find yourself gasping for air, this is usually about right for interval training. Sessions are typically short (around 20 minutes max) which makes it a great option for those that are time poor or find long duration exercise boring. But make no mistake: It’s hard! and that’s why most people don’t do it.
People that regularly use interval based training are usually the ones we envy. They’re ridiculously fit, have low levels of body-fat and they sport amazing athletic physiques. Interval training is very different from normal jogging or endurance cycling type of activities. It’s much much more physically aggressive. The benefits over the endurance style activities are astounding. I love the comparison of the sprinter vs the marathon runner. This gives you a great idea of the different results you could expect between the two training modes. Sprinters are leaner, have lower body-fat percentages and more quality muscle. The bits you can’t see: They have better lung vital capacity, heart rate reserves and blood glucose levels. Oh and they’re most definitely more explosive, powerful and strong.
So if you want to get serious results for your body, your aesthetics and your overall health and vitality I’d be hitting the gym to reap the benefits of proper weight-lifting and interval based training. Chat to your personal trainer or gp to see what types of training might suit you. Serious training for serious results. Enjoy!
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