Monday, July 14, 2008

Kick cardio to the curb!

Being that I'm borderline obsessed with Dr. Mike Eades' blog, I can't help but to troll around his blog archives and related links as I anxiously await the next post. While paroozing his site one day, I found a book he co-authored with Fredrick Hahn titled The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution: The Slow Motion Exercise That Will Change Your Body in 30 Minutes a Week. I got the book at the library the following weekend and began it immediately.

After 6 months of doing low-carb, I knew I needed to implement an exercise routine somehow in my life if I really wanted to change the shape of my body. With a new baby, it was difficult to find the time and ambition to do so. Had I thought of the idea myself, doing 30 minutes of exercise a week, I would have thought it was a waste of time. The mantra: "at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week ," echoed in my brain. The idea intrigued me and I was going to give it a shot. At the very least, it was a good step in the right direction.

The premise of the book focuses on 30 minutes of weight training with heavy weights. Cardio is not really part of the plan. Which is fine with me. I'd much prefer weight training than an embarrassingly exhausting cardio kickboxing class. In essence, you are advised to lift a weight that you think might be too heavy and do that for as many reps as you can. The trick is you have to perform this exercise very SLOOOOWLY. Five seconds up, hold one, two, and five seconds down. If you are doing it right, you should only be able to do 3-5 reps until your muscles reach failure, at which point you can't lift anymore. This is part of the reason why this exercise session should only take 30 minutes. You just aren't going to do a whole lot of lifting. It's the quality not the quantity of the exercise that makes this work.

I do not believe that paleo man engaged in daily "moderate-intensity" activities. Early man did not jog for 30 minutes every day. Our bodies have not adapted to that sort of strain and shock to our joints. Our bodies were designed for moderate walking (migrating and hunting/gathering) and short intense bursts of running to catch prey or flee a predator. This is why you see so many joggers and avid exercise enthusiasts with tennis elbow, bad knees, and torn ligaments. These overuse injuries make traditional exercises dangerous if performed every day like elite athletes (you here about athlete injuries all the time).

This book takes the idea of a "less is more" approach. Intense weight training should not be performed every day and this book limits it to once a week (possibly twice a week, at the most). Thus, reducing the chance of injury by allowing the body to fully recuperate from your workout. I can hear you now, "Paleo man didn't lift weights." Your right, he didn't, other than the pushing the occasional boulder off of a cliff (okay, maybe that was just from the Bugs Bunny cartoons but you get my drift). Biologically, weight training is very similar to short intense sprints, they are both anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic activities are extremely effective and provide benefits that cardio can't.

Aerobic cardio exercise is hailed for its ability to strengthen the heart and improve circulation, but look, anaerobic sprints are now being recognized for their heart-health promoting properties as well. So now, what can cardio give you that anaerobic can't?

Here are my results: I've been following this program since the end of January in addition to the continued low-carb lifestyle. I have lost almost 15 lbs (of pure fat since low-carb diet is muscle sparing plus I've gained muscle mass so I definitely lost more than just 15 lbs of flab) and have gone down 4% in body fat. My measurements (the true test) are as follows:
Waist: 2 inches gone
Bust: 1.5 inches gone (oh well)
Hips: 3 inches gone!!!
Arms: 0.5 inches gone
Calf: 0.5 inches gone
That's a total of 7.5 inches lost in 5 1/2 months! No bad.

I am starting to see some muscle definition as the weight comes off. I have developed just as much muscle tone and strength as I've had when I've gone to the gym several times per week. This routine is just as effective. I'm loving the fact that I can put such minimal time in and reap great rewards. I'm less inclined to skip a session, although I can't say I haven't, I'm just less likely to do it now. Since it's only 30 minutes per week, I feel guilty if I don't go. I have to admit that some days I put in an extra 15 minutes that I reserve for some sprints on the elliptical machine as well as some kicks on the punching bag. Since I don't go every day, I actually look forward to my gym time so I will occasionally stay a bit longer than 30 minutes.

I'm thrilled. This routine is fast and it works. But don't be fooled, the work is hard. You will not be chatting it up on your iPhone while you casually use the leg press. You should be breathing hard, sweating, and tired when you are through.

This plan is really a great option for those who hate to exercise, don't have time or are just plan too lazy to make it to the gym. This is a no-brainer. This program is not for gym rats. It's best for those who are looking for a way to implement exercise but have a laundry list of excuses why they won't.

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