The 3-minute 'Wonder Workout'
Let me start by saying that your body is smart, it has an 'intelligence' of its own, one separate from the one you use to consciously think with. And it uses this intelligence to respond to its environment by altering its physical characteristics and metabolic processes to adapt to the environment you expose it to.
'Exercise' is a great example of this. Lift heavy weights, muscles get bigger. Run far, and you can run farther. Simple. Your body adapts.
So why are so many of the people I see, even those who work hard at getting into shape, still unhappy with their body fat, weight, stamina, energy and with how they feel? Many spend an hour a day working out. They eat clean, and take care of themselves. And yet, they're not getting the results they were expecting, much less hoping for.
The problem is that they are sending the wrong messages to their bodies, and their bodies, like the marvelous, smart machines they are, are doing exactly what they think is needed to 'survive and thrive' in the exercise environment they've been subjected to.
A perfect example involves marathon runners Vs 100 meter sprinters:
Below are pictures of Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world...
Below are pictures of Farah, the fastest 5K runner in the world (at the last Olympics)...
Both train hard every day.
Usain Bolt has the body we all want, muscular, low fat, and, under the hood, his heart and lungs are much stronger, his life expectancy is much higher than the average persons.
Farah, on the other hand, has almost no upper body muscles; he has belly fat (noticeable from the side), and, under the hood, has a weaker heart and lungs, and he will likely die prematurely of heart disease.
How can this happen? They both eat well and train every day with the best trainers in the world. It is simple. Usain's training is focused on explosive maximum effort, very brief high-intensity exercise, also known as 'high intensity interval training' (HIIT).
This approach is akin to the survival benefit of having to run away from a saber-toothed tiger, or chasing after a wild boar for dinner... brief spurts, maximum intensity... strain heart, lungs, muscles. Your body gets it. These brief spurts trigger a cascade of metabolic changes, including a huge burst of growth hormone, that build muscle and shed fat, improve insulin sensitivity, increase metabolic rate, burn more calories very inefficiently (which is great for weight loss) etc., and your body becomes leaner, more muscular, less fat, more energized as a result, by just adapting to your environment.
On the other hand, Farah's training is focused on long runs, moderate intensity, burning fat over a long period of time. This is analogous to a tribe of wanderers, on the go every day, or tending to fields, or other low intensity constant work. Your body gets this too. It becomes very efficient. Your body stores large amounts of fat to burn as fuel for these extended episodes, it becomes very efficient at burning fat, your metabolic rate goes down, everything you eat is stored as fat, AND your body will shed useless excess body composition such as upper body musculature. It will even shed lung and heart musculature if not pushed to the limit on occasion.
This is why people come to me with body fat percentages of 35 or 40%. Even though they work out with trainers 3 times a week, jog every day, or spin, or Zumba, they cannot lose the weight.
What do they need to do? Decrease the time spent working out, and workout smarter and more intensely! All the research is pointing to this now. Run away from a 'saber-toothed tiger' 5-6 times a day and you will look and feel more like Usain Bolt!
Just do the 100-meter dash at your maximum effort (say it takes you 3 times as long to run 100 meters as it does Usain), do it just 6 times and you will have spent 3 minutes exercising, which will bring about all the changes you need to really build muscle and shed fat.
The way I do this, practically, is to warm up for a couple of minutes. I then do my first dash. I let myself recover from the huffing and puffing (it may take 45 seconds to 2 minutes) and then I repeat this process until I've done it 6 times. VERY EFFECTIVE!
And you do not need to 'run', anything will work that gets your heart rate up past its 'anaerobic threshold', eg past the sustainable heart rate whereas you get completely out of breath. You can cycle, do zumba, spinning, weight training, even brisk walking, especially if you are out of shape. The key is bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by rest and recovery.
Until next time, Good Health is a choice... choose 'well'.
Dr. Mark Rosenbloom MD