Good News… you don’t have to run a marathon to get fit

downloadI read this article the other day and thought I’d share it. It interested me because it talks about short intensity exercise perhaps being better for health in the long run than endurance type exercise, think marathon running.  This is good news for people like me who near burst into tears at the thought of pounding away at a pavement in running shoes for hours on end.

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I have found that once I began working with a personal trainer (Darren one of my journey to a new me guardian angels) and  I switched to more focused short intensity exercise my overall fitness level increased quite noticeably. My energy levels went through the roof, my body strength certainly increased. I’ve always had very strong legs but a weak upper body and that is not the case any more. I found also that my endurance improved even though I do mainly short intensity exercise. As I’m not a real runner and probably never will be in the ‘go for a run every day’ sense of the discipline, I noticed that I did, and do, feel like bursting into a run more and more often, either outside when I’m having a brisk walk or indoors on the treadmill and at Christmas I did my first planned run, it was only a mile or so but as much as I enjoyed it I knew I couldn’t do more than that, it was mind numbing.

Where I have really noticed the increase in my endurance was in the swimming pool, I just found that I felt stronger and more in control of my muscles and more aware of how they made my body move, which ones were working and how they were working as I drove download (1)myself through the water. My breathing had improved and I just felt more efficient as a swimmer. I’ve never been a good swimmer, I’m a leisure swimmer but not long after starting to work with Darren I began to feel more serious in the pool, for want of a better word. It was there that all of the gym and outdoor work felt like it came together to make me a stronger healthier person and a more skillful swimmer.

I’m not sure if it was all just due to the intensity training or if it was a combination of factors, the breathing techniques and muscle awareness that comes from Tai Chi and now the yoga that I do may have helped too. Darren does explain to me though how my muscles actually work to move me and how they process the food I take in and how they expel the waste and how they strengthen and weaken and can become damaged and I think all of this has combined to make me a more physically aware person who is using that awareness as well as the increased strength and stamina to push myself beyond anything I’ve achieved physically before.

As I said I don’t think I’ll ever be a runner or a long distance serious cyclist I get far too bored but swimming is where I’ve found that I become aware of my body as a machine, a really clever machine and I love the feeling of all of those muscles working together to propel me through water. I find a real serenity and deep sense of relaxation when swimming which kind of consumes me and I find that before I realise it I’m exhausted and it’s the exhaustion which makes me stop swimming and I often find that I’ve swam far more lengths than I ever did before, always outdoing my personal best and always feeling amazed at the way my body loves to perform.

I know that is arguably endurance training itself but it was and I believe is, definitely the short interval training which has boosted my stamina and over all sense of well being in so many ways which has led me to be able to let my body do its thing in the pool.

Besides swimming, thinking back to interval training, I kind of like the instant call on everything you have to give and then some, I like instant gratification, perhaps why I’ve turned to food to make me feel happy over the years. The minute that chocolate is in my mouth I feel my anxiety, fear, sadness whatever begin to fall away. Short interval training gives me that instant gratification, I feel download (2)what I’ve done right there in the moment, I don’t need to wait for measurements and weigh ins I know I’ve pushed myself and  I know I’ve done good because I feel better instantly, I get an almost immediate high that I don’t get from a drawn out session or repetitive exercise over a long period of time. I get a feeling of accomplishment from that kind of training but not an instant rush of feel good that I believe I need to combat my food addiction.

I guess sharing my experience here has the dual message that it’s important for us to find what is right for us as we are all individuals and we all respond to exercise in different ways and without turning into a total fitness nut, it does pay to find out how your body works, it makes you more aware and when you are tempted to put rubbish into it you do think twice on autopilot eventually.

I think a journey from a morbidly obese sedentary person to one in a normal weight who is active has to include many steps. Don’t try to rush through them. We can’t go from 350lb languishing hulk to 349lb marathon runner, that isn’t how it works. It’s a gradual process and so you have lots of time to learn new things along the way that will help you to lose weight, get fit and stay that way once you reach your goal.

Take opportunities to learn and find what suits you by trying out different exercises, different imagesapproaches and seeing how they might impact on things you didn’t think you could do or would enjoy.  I’ve never enjoyed open water swimming, I’ve always been very cautious, but then I know now that my weight and my emotional hang ups made me feel cautious about most things, but now I’m really looking forward to my next beach holiday so that I can swim more in open water, I’m craving what I see as my next big challenge. I never would have imagined a year ago that I’d actually be getting excited about my 2015 summer holiday and checking out safe sea swimming as one of the most important factors in making my decision about where to go and actually planning a daily open water swim as part of my holiday routine.

You might have an idea in your mind of what you’d like to be able to do physically, maybe you want to be able to go for a run, maybe you want to be able to cycle for miles, maybe  you want to swim miles in open water, maybe you want to learn to ice skate or to do a particular dance, like a sexy samba, maybe you have a vision of an exercise that you think you would enjoy and can picture yourself doing when you’re in your slimmer form. You may not be able to do it right away but other exercise, any other exercise you can do along the way will help build you up so that one day you are flying and that sense of accomplishment will uphold you to keep on striving to maintain and surpass your own personal bests time and again. For me it started by stepping from one foot to another with some music on for twenty minutes and flailing my arms about for some of those minutes and I was shocked when I was worn out, heart pumping fast, sweating, breathing heavy from just doing that and if I’d not carried on and found that it soon became easier and moved on to the next thing and the next I wouldn’t be here now doing what I do and knowing what I know.

Take being healthy seriously. We are not here for long and being seriously overweight can impact on our enjoyment of life and it can shorten our life and I bet none of us, me included, want a shorter less fulfilling life when there is another option just a few steps will lead us to.

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