The holiday season approaches and while visions of sugar plums may dance in your head, so does the idea of weight gain. In the past, January has been a guilt-ridden month, a time of repentance and absolution for the sins of overindulgence. This year, why not work to prevent weight gain before it happens? Establish the habit of exercising at a vigorous intensity 2-3 times a week for twenty minutes, and when the new year rolls around the only thing you’ll have gained is a stronger, svelter you. The key word to remember is ‘vigorous;’ walking or taking a leisurely bike ride are excellent ways to stay active, but you are not exercising at a vigorous intensity unless you feel uncomfortable. A good way to judge if you are hitting the right intensity is if your muscles are burning, and although this sensation may scare you, the heat produced from vigorous exercise is a sure sign that you are increasing your metabolism.
If you are unsure of how to exercise at a vigorous level, start by finding a track. In SW Portland, try Duniway track off of Barbur and Sheridan, next to Allstar Fitness, or the Wilson High track. You may also use the Lincoln High School track in NW Portland or the Grant High School track in NE Portland. Running on a track is ideal because it is a flat, even surface and you avoid hazards of the road. Start with an easy warm up of slow running, 1-2 times around the track. When your muscles are warm, sprint as fast as you can for 20-30 seconds, until you feel as if you’ve reached ‘8-9′ on an uncomfortable scale, ’10’ being the most uncomfortable. Follow each sprint interval with a 1 min to 1 1/2 min. recovery period, during which your exertion rate drops to ‘4-5’ on the uncomfortable scale, and repeat the sprint/recovery cycle 8-10 times. Finish with an easy lap or two around the track, and take a few minutes to stretch, if needed. Plan on about 30 minutes to complete this vigorous workout.
If running on a track is not convenient or appealing to you, you may choose to perform your sprint intervals on any path of your choosing, using your common sense to ensure your health and safety. Also, running is a popular sport but it’s not for everyone, so remember that you can put together your own vigorous workout using your favorite exercises. Here’s a sample workout that can be done in the comfort of your own home or backyard:
- jump rope or simulated jump rope
Repeat this circuit-style workout twice, one minute per exercise, the first 30 seconds performed as a ‘warm-up’ for the next 30 seconds of higher intensity. Each interval is followed by 1 min to 1 1/2 min. of rest/recovery. Remember to aim for ‘8-9’ on the discomfort scale for each exercise so that you hit the required intensity level to make this a ‘vigorous’ workout.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults get 20-60 minutes of ‘vigorous-intensity’ cardio exercise three times a week, so head to the track or put together a list of your favorite movements and push yourself! This year you’ll be prepared for the holidays and whatever else life may throw your way! Have fun!