Dr. Reese’s Bits and Pieces Newsletter
Memorial Day has passed and the unofficial start of summer is here. Those who survived the Bolder Boulder are moving on to other athletic pursuits like half marathons, triathlons or Ride the Rockies style bike races. I love this time of year because I get to golf on real grass that is green and soft plus the gym empties out due to the nice weather and outdoor exercisers.
When I graduated from Indiana University several decades ago, I traded in my judo gi (uniform) for a pair of running shoes. The late 70’s saw a dramatic increase in running enthusiasts in the US and Runner’s World became our bible. LSD was the new drug of choice: Long Slow Distance running to get that Runner’s High from the endorphin release.
I worked for International Harvester in Chicago and got to travel the world with my running shoes. From scenic little villages in France and Switzerland to the frozen logging roads of Ust Ilimsk Siberia in the former Soviet Union, running allowed me to explore and sweat at the same time.
Like a lot of runners, I pushed through the pain and toughed it out like a good road warrior is supposed to. I never took vitamins or minerals, never ran with water but had lots of coffee to stimulate my morning run. Eventually, my knees yelled loud enough for me to stop and I heeded their call. I was chronically dehydrated and over-trained because it was all about the mileage and not about my health.
After two years, I left the corporate world and went back to school to become a Chiropractor. My schooling and outside reading taught me about physiology, joints, nutrition, hydration, etc. I learned there was a difference between exercising for a sport and exercising to be healthy.
As my body nears 60, I’ve learned about how to save my joints and strengthen my body without tearing it up. Having been in a gym over 40 years, I have made every mistake you can make and still live to talk about it. I see the fads come and go and watch the damage they create in the meantime.
The one constant that has held up through the decades has been the efficacy of Interval Training. High intensity, short bursts of exercise that gets your heart pounding (for those healthy enough to do it) will get you in better shape faster than Long Slow Distance training ever will. Research has now been able to document the benefits of this type of exercise.
High intensity training has many positive outcomes and one bad one:
*Increases growth hormone release (the real fountain of youth)
*Increases serotonin and dopamine release
*Increased opioid response to decrease pain and improve mood
*Improves insulin response, lowers insulin resistance, increase energy and burns fat
*Strengthens the heart muscle and improves lung capacity
*Activates the eNOS system which helps the brain, heart and circulation.
*Activates the nNOS system which helps increase brain function and decrease neurodegeneration.
*Stimulates the iNOS system which increases oxidative stress and can lead to overtraining (bad)
How do you know you are training with intensity? You will be breathing hard and your heart rate will be near its max. You have to use a heart rate monitor and a watch that shows seconds to do it properly. A good rule of thumb is to rest 3 times longer than the exertion phase. So if you are on a stationary bike and you warm up for a few minutes, then increase the resistance and increase your speed for 30 seconds, than slow down and coast for 90 seconds before repeating the cycle 3-8 times.
You know you are training with intensity when you are breathing hard and your heart rate continues to increase for a few seconds after your intense exertion phase is over. The better shape you are in, the faster your heart rate will drop in the first minute after your exertion phase.
Now some of you are exhausted just thinking about this exercise but that is not really from overtraining. The unhealthier your body is, the easier it is to over train so start slow! Doing Interval Training 1-2 times a week is plenty in the beginning. Only doing a few cycles of intensity is fine. It is better to under-train and go slowly because this is about getting healthier not training for the Olympics. If you are already training hard for a sport you compete in, adding Interval Training 1-2 times a week will just make you even better at your sport.
Signs of Overtraining:
-Inability to complete or recover from your workouts
-Increased injuries and performance is getting worse not better
-Loss of motivation and enthusiasm
-Loss of competitive drive
-Depression, irritability, aggression for minor reasons
-Weakened immune system
-Loss of libido
-Loss of menstrual cycle
-Increase or decrease in body weight
-Decreased muscle strength
Yes, if you are training hard and seem to be getting fatter, you are overtraining. Understand that you can build muscle faster than you will lose the fat over the muscle so don’t get confused. Many women stop weightlifting because they are gaining size on their arms and legs instead of losing inches. The inches will come off with time as the fat gets burned off and the underlying muscle becomes more evident. If your waist is getting bigger, you could be overtraining or eating foods you are allergic to.