Training at the RIGHT Intensity

We all know that adaptations occur when we subject our bodies to training and exercise. What adaptations (if any) occur depends, in part, on the intensity of the workout.

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I never knew how important it was to be training at the right intensity. When I first started running, my goal was to just run. I had no idea about the time, duration, intensity, distance, pace etc. I just did the same thing over and over again. To me, exercise was just exercise.

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A lot of my running was (and still is) done based on how I feel. To make sure that my runs were “quality” runs, I always ran to the point that it felt hard (but not too hard). Essentially, I was eliciting some adaptations to my heart and lungs, but they were not specific enough. Even though I did “intervals”, I don’t think I was working at the right intensity that was meant for that training. I tend to remain in the “comfortable zone”.

There is nothing wrong with running/working out based on how you feel, except for the fact that “feeling” is very subjective. On a bad day, your perception of an easy workout may seem very hard.

Why It Matters

Everyone is different when it comes to personal fitness goals and training approach. This is where specificity comes in whereby you train using different modes to bring about specific adaptations. The SAID principle is sometimes used to refer to this specificity: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands [1].

For example, distance runners will spend hours of their time training at specific intensities (sub-maximal effort) to elicit specific adaptations (ie. to become an efficient fat burner, enhance endurance etc). A sprinter, on the other hand, will spend more time doing short intervals (maximal effort) to build speed and power.

IMG_3513Kicking it up from tempo to negative splits!

Training at the right intensity is key to achieving your goals.

I have people telling me that they’ve trained XX KMs per week but have yet to achieve their goal time in a marathon/race. Why is that so? What was the intensity of those training miles? If most of it were done at what is termed as “easy”, then you would have developed enough aerobic fitness to allow you to comfortably cross the finish line. However, that sort of training will not give you much strength or speed.

Same goes to weight loss. People claim that they exercise 6 times a week but they don’t see any changes. It can be due to many factors (nutrition, recovery, rest etc) but it is usually the intensity of the workout. Your bodies adapt, which means that you have to increase/change the intensity or type of workout every 3-4 weeks to shock your body into change and adaptation. What was once difficult became easy and your body stopped responding to the workout.

Your Heart Knows Better

Having the WOD or the run menu of the day is pointless if you fail to train at the right intensity to elicit the necessary changes.

The intensity of a workout is also relative. A high intensity workout may seem easy for a trained athlete but might spell hell for a beginner. For the workout to work for both a trained athlete and a beginner, base it on something that is unique to the individual – their heart.

You can fool your brain but you cannot fool your heart!

IMG_3262That heart bursting moment when you reach the top!

Judge Intensity using Your Heart Rate

As the intensity of a workout increases, your heart beats faster to meet the demands of the workout. The intensity of the workout (based on your heart rate) will determine which energy system and fuel source your body is using during that time, and ultimately the adaptions that will occur along with it. With this in mind, you can actually devise your own training/weight loss plan.

Now What?

To fully maximise your workouts, it will help to know your heart rate, heart rate zones that you are working in (intensity) and heart rate reserve (HRR). More on that in my next post!

Just Remember

If you don’t train at the right intensity, the necessary changes that are expected to occur from the workout WILL NOT take place.


Snapshots from EARTH DAY RUN 2015!

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With our plants!

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It was a killer route! SO TOUGH! You know how I usually dart out at the start? Yeah, that day was different. I didn’t start out as fast as I usually do. I picked up the pace when we were going down hill!

And then…… we had to go through the same loop AGAIN! I don’t think that I’ll be going back there anytime soon!

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With Snoopy who was errr…sniffing his butt.

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Post-race grub!

Till next time,

Run Hard. Run Fast. Run Strong.

 

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