What Exactly Is Intense Exercise?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
I talk a lot about short, high-intensity workouts, but I don't think I talk enough about what "intense exercise" really means.

I'll use a sport that I draw upon a lot as my example. Watch a track & field meet, particularly the sprinters compared to distance runners - I'll use the 100 meter dash and the marathon as my examples.

Both groups are essentially doing the same activity - they're running. Both groups finish their races completely exhausted. Yet one group finishes in 10 seconds and the other finishes in two hours.

How are they both finishing so exhausted? Shouldn't the marathoners be way more tired than the sprinters?

This, as well as any example I can give, demonstrates what intensity has to do with exercise. The sprinters are working SO much harder than the marathoners at any given point that it only takes them a matter of seconds to be spent.

The point of exercise is to sweat. It's to get your heart pumping and your muscles burning. You can do this in two hours or you can do this in 10 seconds. The point is that you have to match your intensity to the duration of the exercise. The longer you work out, the less intense you'll be able to work and still finish. The shorter you work out, the harder you must work.

If you tried to run a marathon at the pace a 100 meter sprinter runs his race, you wouldn't make it more than a couple hundred meters before slowing greatly, and then maybe another couple hundred before you'd have to stop all together - if you even made it that far. And you'd probably be screaming for mercy for a couple days after the fact because you'd be so sore!

By the same token, if you ran 100 meters at a marathon pace, you couldn't even call it exercise.

In my 30 minute women's fitcamps, I typically only have them actually exercising for 12 minutes. The rest of the time is warm up, cool down and exercise demonstration.

I've had people ask me why I don't have them exercise for longer. My answer is simply that they don't need to.

You see, a lot of people think that 12 minutes isn't enough exercise because it's too easy to keep going for 12 minutes. This is because most people have learned to "guard" themselves from working too hard. It's easy to give into the voice that says something is too hard, and it's easy to pace yourself, but exercise should be hard, and you've got other stuff to do in your life besides exercise.

Just keep in mind that how hard something is has nothing to do with how long you're doing it.

I guess my point is this - if you can end up completely spent after 10 seconds, why would you want to take an hour to achieve the same effect?

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