Anyone who’s running the London Marathon this month will know that it takes dedication to reach your peak of physical fitness. Performing at your best takes months of training, and it…
Anyone who’s running the London Marathon this month will know that it takes dedication to reach your peak of physical fitness. Performing at your best takes months of training, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But while putting in the hours pounding the pavements will achieve results, there are other ways to reach your goals and train better, harder and more effectively…
HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING
High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves alternating brief speed and recovery intervals when you exercise to increase the intensity of a workout. Exercising hard for just one minute a day doesn’t sound like the recipe for success, but research has demonstrated just three 20-second HIIT sessions a day can improve cardiovascular fitness as much as an hour’s moderate-level aerobic exercise over a four week period. This type of training also reduces visceral fat – the type surrounding organs that’s associated with chronic disease – and increases muscle as well as fat metabolism. TRY IT: It’s best incorporated into a workout. For example, you might jog at a steady pace for 15 minutes, then sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, and then jog at an easy pace for two or three minutes, then sprint again, and repeat three times.
Not all exercise is created equally and performing the wrong type can actually increase stress in your body. “Aerobic training like jogging increases the stress hormone cortisol; in addition to elevating oxidative stress,” says Nolan. “The body cannot distinguish between this and other stress. Exercising a stressed system can exhaust essential nutrients which in turn can lead to adrenal fatigue. TRY IT: If you’re very stressed out, concentrate on resistance training, gradually increasing the weight to increase muscle-building hormones which negate the effects of cortisol and inflammation.
You should hold your muscle stretches for 30 seconds each, but over the age of 40, try to hold for 60 seconds. As your muscles become less pliable you need to give them longer.
Need to maximise your gain from exercise? Then it is time to get competitive. Research has shown that competition increases performance significantly. “Studies have found that participants can lose between five and 20 percent more when competing in a group environment in a weight-loss challenge, than going it alone,” says top personal trainer and strength conditioning coach Nolan Sunnassee (evo-fit.co.uk). “The more social influence the greater the results seems to be.” But interestingly, men and women need very different training buddies to thrive. TRY IT: “Men are generally much more competitive than women when it comes to physical activity, so training with other men similar in age, height and weight makes them succeed, whereas for greatest success females should be paired with someone they dislike, as this maximises performance,” reveals Nolan.
If you’ve recently started swimming – which is a great whole body exercise for everyone but in particular those who have musculo-skeletal or weight limitations – improving ankle flexibility will really enhance your performance. Flexible feet will act as flippers and make your technique more effective. TRY IT: With your legs extended in front of you, point your toes as much as you can, then flex them back towards your shins as far as you can. Repeat this ten times every day.
PULL IT DOWN
Fan of working out in the gym? Next time you attempt chin-ups, imagine pulling your elbows down rather than focusing on pulling yourself up – psychologically it will seem easier and you’ll get more benefit.
GET OUT IN THE COLD
Want to reduce your body fat fast? A simple strategy is to use the cold weather to your advantage. “For maintaining its core temperature the body has to generate heat through shivering or using up brown fat cells,” explains Nolan. “Around 10-15 kilojoules per minute of heat is produced from shivering and this is thought to significantly contribute to the 35 percent more fat that’s burned when you exercise in the cold. You also intake more oxygen and release more adrenaline; the latter tells the brown fat cells to use more glucose and fat and to raise the body’s temperature.”
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