This past week, several people have sent me an article which discusses a 12 year survey which demonstrates that people who do strenuous workouts on a regular basis die at the same rate as couch potatoes. Individuals who jogged at moderate pace (their criteria), did add to their lifespan.
This has definitely ruffled a few feathers and as usual, I’m sure other studies and companies are debunking this claim with the greatest possible urgency. After all, strenuous workouts is what keeps many of them in business and it has also become a hugely popular workout strategy.
What’s the solution?
Now as for my thoughts on it. Consider your body a machine, for example a car. If you take good care of your car, you can do many miles on it and it’ll last you a very long time. Consider the quality of oil and gasoline you put in it your food. As human beings, we can restore and regenerate tissue, something a car cannot of course. Nonetheless, there’s a comparison to be made.
If you accelerate at maximum capacity every time you start off, brake hard and rev the engine on a constant basis, chances are that your car won’t last as long as your neighbor’s, who is very cautious with his driving. That being said, sometimes it is good to accelerate faster when your engine is warm enough to clean the system and keep its performance at optimal levels.
That is what our body does. If you keep your intensity at moderate levels and put the miles in, you will create a solid base or foundation. Another analogy: this is the foundation of your cathedral. Without it, sooner or later your performance (cathedral) will collapse because of lack of foundation. When you have a proper foundation, you want to maintain that. You need to continue putting the miles and time into your training at a moderate level to sustain that. This is what endurance training does. It creates a solid base and offers many cardiovascular benefits high intensity training cannot – no matter what some HIIT athletes say.
What about intensity?
While you work on your base, you also need to work on your intensity. This can be done by HIIT training, interval drills, group training, sprint workouts, resistance training etcetera. This will ensure you work the other side of the spectrum as well. You will learn how to recover from intense bursts of intensity, gain strength and burn a ton of calories during and after. You also want to add resistance training to increase bone density, ligament strength and add lean muscle to slow down atrophy at later stages in life.
Consider training like your diet (sorry, last analogy!). If you eat the same thing over and over again without anything else, your body will rebel. It will lack certain nutrients and have too much of others which can be dangerous as well.
I don’t consider pure runners or cyclists healthy human beings (and I’m a cyclist so don’t have a fit). Neither do I consider many bodybuilders well rounded athletes. There are plenty of bodybuilders who have died from heart failure.
The key to a longer and healthier life is variety.
It’s ok to focus more on a certain activity if you have a passion for it. Simply make sure you spend time doing the other ones as well to make yourself a more well rounded athlete. Or at least work on it during your off season. This is why I focus on several disciplines at the same time. I’m not looking to win an olympic gold medal. All I want is to perform at my personal best, feel good about myself and be healthy. Above all, remember working out should be fun!
Spending time doing different activities and work separate aspects of your physique will unquestionably make you a better athlete, as well as healthier, happier and extend your life span. It’s 100% common sense. Don’t forget studies aren’t all accurate as they often have many flaws. That is why there are so many studies out there which contradict each other.
As Confucius said: “Life is simple but we insist on making it complicated.”
By Sander Vanacker for FitGuana
Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana. He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.