Note: the litigiousness of our times requires that I put these remarks up front. I describe, below, an exercise routine I find to be particularly effective. Every exercise-related book or article, even if the only exertion recommended is to walk to your television instead of using the remote, always encourages the reader to “See a doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.” I’m going to recommend it, too. The exercise I am going to suggest is strenuous. In fact, it’s not that much different from what a cardiologist will do to you, during a stress test, to see if you have heart problems. Doing strenuous exercise has risks. Take a few minutes to speak with your doctor and prevent yourself from becoming a statistic. Thanks!
Regular readers of this blog know that I recently underwent somewhat of a transformation, losing about forty pounds. Although I attribute that weight loss mostly to what I didn’t do (eat much), there is no doubt that my exercise plan contributed to my success.
Two elements of that exercise plan were as basic as they come: I walked nearly every day (I have a Fitbit and set a goal of averaging 10,000 steps a day) and lifted three times a week using a low-weight-and-lots-of-repetitions strategy. The benefits of walking for an avid hiker are pretty obvious. I’m not convinced that the weight-lifting burned many calories (although there is some scientific evidence that tends to support that theory), but it helped with injury prevention, strength, and—most importantly—resiliency. Even doing as little as three sets of six different exercises has proven to make a significant contribution to my overall fitness.
The third exercise, while hardly exotic, was new to me. When I first read about it I was little skeptical, but I found it on the internet. It must be true!
Readers who exercise a lot will recognize it as a form of interval training. Here’s how it works:
1. Choose some sort of aerobic exercise machine that is low impact. Personally, I think a stationary bicycle, either upright or recumbent, is the best choice. I suspect an elliptical trainer might work, too. Treadmills and rowing machines—not so much. (For the rest of this example I am going to assume you are on a bike.)
2. Set yourself up for a twenty-minute workout and configure a timer, either on the machine or on your smart phone, to count up.
3. Peddle at a comfortable pace (for me it is about 65 rpm) for twelve seconds.
4. Once you hit twelve seconds, pedal as fast as you can (around 120 rpm, for me) for eight seconds.
5. Repeat until you reach the end of your twenty minutes.
6. Do this three times a week at a minimum, and every other day at the most.
A few other tips:
- Work UP to twenty minutes. I started at five minutes and added a minute every iteration.
- Use the friction or “levels” adjustment to modulate your cadence. If you can’t comfortably peddle at 60 rpm, you are at too high a “level.” If you can pedal at 130 rpm without working hard, you probably are at too low a “level.”
- You’ll soon learn that you need to speed up at :12, :32, and :52. You slow down at :20, :40, and :00.
- You might be better at multi-tasking than I am, but I can’t watch television or read and hit all my marks. I’m too easily distracted.
It’s uncanny how this works. (Another word to describe it would be “tortuous.”) Within a few weeks you will start to see the benefits on the trail, especially when climbing. You will also see progress on the stationary bike. The first time I did a whole twenty minutes I couldn’t move for six or eight minutes after because I was so winded. Now, I knock it out, jump up, and press on to my next task.
Kathleen and I nicknamed this The World’s Greatest Workout. Once you have clearance from your doctor, give it a try. I’m not going to say you will like it, but I will say that it is worth the effort!
Good hiking, Ray