Category Archives: Training

Aerobic exercise mode

What is your preferred aerobic exercise mode? Do you even have one?

If you have decided to improve your cardiovascular fitness (heart, lung and circulatory fitness) what are your options?

Here is a list of 3 groups of exercise, intended to compare energy expenditure(calorie burning) and exercise intensity. If we are improving our aerobic fitness this means we are improving our ability to utilize oxygen. We need oxygen to transform stored energy into a form that our muscles can use to produce movement. When we move, we use calories. The number of calories we use will depend on our exercise intensity and the duration of this intensity. Check out the different aerobic modes of exercise to see what one you most likely would engage in.

(This following info was found in an article by Len Kravitz, exercise physiologist, called “Calorie Burning; It’s time to think “Outside the box” 7 Programs that burn a lot of Calories” and within that article he quotes the American College of Sports Medicine 2006 Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. I like this list of aerobic exercise modes because it is quite simple and to the point.)

Exercise mode Group I

Consistent intensity and energy expenditure that is not dependent on the participant’s skill level, eg. walking, stationary cycling, running, machine based stair climbing and elliptical training

Exercise mode Group 2

Rate of energy expenditure will vary, depending on the person’s performance ability. With higher skill levels, a person can work harder and longer. Examples include group-led aerobics(this is where Essentrics fits in), outdoor cycling, step aerobics, hiking, swimming, water aerobics, and inline skating.

Exercise mode Group 3

Highly variable in terms of energy expenditure, examples include basketball, raquet sports, and volleyball.

Now that you have thought about what is your preferred aerobic exercise mode, now lets look at effort.

Aerobic mode and exercise intensity (light, moderate or vigorous)

You can use the following to assess your exercise intensity:

Talk test (light=talking easy, moderate=short sentences, vigorous=1-2 words only)
Rate of perceived exertion (light=2/10, moderate=3-6/10, vigorous=7-8/10).
Percentage of Heart Rate Maximum (light=57-63%, moderate=64-76%, vigorous=77-95%)
Sweat and heat. When it comes to aerobic activity, heat is one of the by products of aerobic metabolism.

Goals in minutes: 150 moderate or 75 vigorous?

The World Health Organization has made these guidelines for weekly accumulated exercise.

Depending on your mode, you may be tapping into light, moderate or vigorous intensity levels, or a mixture of all three.

For activities in group 1 aerobic exercise mode, using the talk test or rate of perceived exertion is possible and easier than it would be for a variable level of effort. You can modify your workload (speed, resistance, incline on a treadmill) to attain your goal of moderate or vigorous intensity. Some warm up is necessary.

For the group 2 or 3 aerobic exercise modes, it will probably be easier to use a heart rate monitor and app to determine if you are hitting your weekly goals.

As always, you need to check with a health professional first if you have any concerns about exercising as it relates to any current health problems. You can also use something like PARQ Activity readiness questionaire or CSEP Get Active Questionaire to help you figure out if you are safe to exercise.

Aerobic mode

+exercise intensity

+weekly goal

If you have figured out these three things when it comes to your cardiovascular fitness, then now it’s time to put the plan into action.

Here is an example of how I attain my weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise:

Treadmill jogging at moderate intensity 12 minutes 4X/week 48

Essentrics 2 x/week 20/60 minutes moderate intensity 40

HIIT style exercise class 20/60 moderate intensity 20

Circuit training leg machines plus bodyweight exercise 12 minutes 4X/week 48 (warm up is treadmill jogging)

Total 156

I will add that I had to recently modify my workouts to attain the 150 per week. I used a HR monitor and app to figure out exactly the impact of my weekly training and noted that the weighted/machine workouts needed higher intensity activities interspersed throughout (like mountain climber, jog on spot, step ups fast pace, and other plyometric type exercises) in order to keep my heart rate up. The pace of the machine exercises had to be sped up a bit as well(more volume in less time).

Does it have to be so complicated?

Of course not! I just like to work out the details and make calculations. You only need to keep it real if you want to have an effect on your current fitness level. Trust me. It is challenging but never impossible. Check out my blog on Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2max if you need a little peer support and pep talk.

If you are ready to take another step toward your fitness, check out my page Essentrics® with Andrea.

Until next time, onward and upward!

Exercise specificity: What do you need?

When it comes to exercise specificity, start by asking yourself: “What do I want” from my exercise program? Do you want better posture, to be more flexible, to decrease stress levels or improve heart and lung fitness? If you are not sure where to start, and feel there are too many options to choose from, you may want to consult with an exercise specialist to guide you on the path of specificity.

If you can identify activities or tasks that you would like to be able to accomplish or do better, this will help you and your specialist to figure out what will give you the results you want. Exercise may not be the answer to all of your problems, but it is one of the few modalities whose benefits go beyond just physical fitness. “I just want to get fit” is a great goal, but knowing what you mean by getting fit will help you to define and ultimately refine your exercise goals.

Strength,

Endurance,

Cardiovascular fitness,

Joint mobility,

Flexibility, …

What do you want? What do you need?

If you know what your end goal (or intermediate goal), it may fall under one or all of the categories listed above.

Here are examples of what each category represents:

Strength: You want to be able to do a push up. You think it would be great if you could do 10 regular push ups.

Endurance: To be able to stand in the kitchen and bake for 2 hours without pain and without feeling exhausted

Cardiovascular fitness: You want to be able to jog a mile and and be able to breathe at the same time

Joint mobility: Making kneeling for short periods of prayer possible

Flexibility: You want to be able to touch your toes from standing

It’s never too late to try something new

Here are examples of what I do for myself to address the above categories:

Strength: lower body “slider’ lunge series as well as lower body weight training.

Endurance: daily walks to and from work. Continuous non stop workouts like circuits or interval training.

Cardiovascular fitness: steady state running on treadmill or outdoors. Alternate stationary cycling. Interval training is also an option here too.

Joint mobility: ankle mobility exercise using a step

Flexibility: Essentrics is an exercise program where I am able to perform many combined movements and sequences which can address flexibility along muscular or fascial “chains”.

Simplifying exercise specificity

Here is an example to pull it all together.

GOAL:

You are recovering from knee replacement surgery. You are 3 months out. In another 3 months time is your grand daughter’s wedding and you want to be an integral part of the ceremony and reception. Standing and walking for several hours at a time is likely. Navigating on uneven ground is a given (it’s an outdoor ceremony on grass). You will be helping with the organization of the reception, which require you to climb a small set of stairs numerous times. You may need to carry some lighter items like wine bottles, if the server runs out.

CURRENT STATUS:

You have already been climbing stairs daily but only once or twice as needed. You still need the railing and sometimes need to use a cane as well. Twice weekly you go out for a walk with your friend Pat. Pat’s pace makes you move a little faster than you would on your own, for approximately 45 minutes. You usually take 2 canes to help you keep up. You don’t spend much time on grass.

PLAN:

Based on this description, you would probably need your exercise routine to focus on lower body endurance for standing, walking and stairs. You likely will have some strength gains to be made, to improve your stair performance and ability to walk safely without support (especially if you need to carry a bottle or two). The other focus may be cardiovascular fitness, so you can last the entire day without feeling significantly tired. This will be important as the wedding day progresses, as your risk of falls on grass is higher than it would be on level surfaces. Your ability to make good choices and move with care will be affected by your energy levels. Check out Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2max for more on cardiovascular fitness.

Exercise specificity

So as you can see, there could be many layers to “getting fit” so finding what is specifically important to you will make both the the work of exercise and the gains made from exercise that much more meaningful. And remember, any daily intentional physical activity, like your walks with Pat, will be part of your plan. Take all the help you can get, and start making the changes that will truly have an impact how you live and feel. It’s worth it. So let’s GO!

Essentrics with Andrea

Exercise evolution tracking challenge

Exercise evolution: it’s been 6 weeks and I asked you to hold me to it. Has my routine evolved? It certainly has and well, it’s better than ever. Always looking for that sustainable edge. Keeping the body healthy and happy. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we don’t always feel our best after exercise. How about during? What about when you are just getting started? Do you have enough options or ideas to rejig your routine on the spot?

Here was my weekly routine 6 weeks ago:

HIIT running plus stretches 2X

Knee and shoulder rehab 2X

Essentrics(stretch and strengthen no weight) 2X

High rep full body muscle endurance exercise class 1X

Moderate paced walk 2 times daily for 25 minutes to and from work

Here is my weekly routine now:

Steady state running with one minute “fast pace” every 5 minutes for 6 cycles or 30 minutes plus lower body stretches 2X

I was finding that my knees where not tolerating the HIIT work periods at an intensity of a 6-7/10. I have backed off to a 5/10 during the one minute work period and a 4/10 for the recovery or steady state pace.

Knee rehab 2X and shoulder rehab1X.

I have returned to weight and body weight training for the benefit of my knees which are so much better and so much more predictable in their response to activity. My shoulder is also more predictable but still annoying at times so I can’t let go of the specific regime at this time.

Essentrics(stretch and strengthen no weight) 2X

The focus for one of the sessions is developing new choreography for the classes that I teach. I let new musical choices guide the creative process.

High rep full body muscle endurance online exercise class 1X

It’s hard but I leave it to the best instructor to direct the flow the day. The workout pushes me but I am in full control of what I do.

Moderate paced walk 2 times daily for 25 minutes to and from work.

No major changes here. Just added snow pants for minus 10 degree weather. Worth the bulk and feeling like a kid again.

Exercise evolution tracking challenge

To participate in the challenge, use the comments section to first tell me where you are on the exercise and physical activity spectrum. Then jot down, in general, what your current weekly routine is.

Check back in 6 weeks and compare notes. Don’t feel embarrassed if your are just starting out. Exercise evolution is just that, ever changing. And don’t worry too much about detailed explanations. Just let me know where you are at and what you are doing.

Where are you on the exercise and physical activity spectrum?

Option 1A: You have never exercised or paid any attention to physical fitness.

Option 1: You no longer exercise but used to be quite active and competent in your physical abilities. Now you are not sure where you are in your fitness level and you are not sure where to start.

Option 2: You exercise sporadically, in bouts. You get really good at getting started but within a short time things peter out or you hurt yourself.

Option 3: You don’t engage in formal exercise but challenge yourself with the occasional or regular walk, hike or other outdoor activity. The intensity level is more than a stroll in the park.

Option 4: You exercise or move regularly, but switch things up often. You are flexible with the activity you do, and have a lot of options to choose from depending on the day and how you feel. You may work with a trainer that likes to switch things up on you.

Option 5: You exercise regularly and are doing pretty well at what you have always done. You are a clock that doesn’t stop ticking. You are routine to the core.

Now let me know what you are doing.

Brief explanations including weekly frequency will help with future comparisons.

Remember, its not what you do but that you are doing it.

I look forward to checking out what you are up to and then in 6 weeks, we can do it again and see if anything has changed. Let’s do it!

Are you evolving as an exerciser?

Do you exercise the same way you did 10, 20 or 30 years ago? Has your program evolved into something new? Maybe your program is constantly changing. Maybe your daily physical activity level has taken a steep dive. Maybe you are not even sure what you are capable of doing anymore. Check out the exercise and physical activity spectrum below to assess where you are now and where you would like to go.

Where are you on the exercise and physical activity spectrum?

Option 1A: You have never exercised or paid any attention to physical fitness.

Option 1: You no longer exercise but used to be quite active and competent in your physical abilities. Now you are not sure where you are in your fitness level and you are not sure where to start.

Option 2: You exercise sporadically, in bouts. You get really good at getting started but within a short time things peter out or you hurt yourself.

Option 3: You don’t engage in formal exercise but challenge yourself with the occasional or regular walk, hike or other outdoor activity. The intensity level is more than a stroll in the park.

Option 4: You exercise or move regularly, but switch things up often. You are flexible with the activity you do, and have a lot of options to choose from depending on the day and how you feel. You may work with a trainer that likes to switch things up on you.

Option 5: You exercise regularly and are doing pretty well at what you have always done. You are a clock that doesn’t stop ticking. You are routine to the core.

Things to consider depending on where you are on the spectrum of exercise and physical activity:

Wherever you are on the spectrum, the most important thing is that you decide that you are going to move. Sedentary activities often dominate our current lifestyles and even more so now.

Exercise and physical activity affects the health of not just our cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. Metabolism, digestion, hormones, cognition and emotional health can all be impacted by a lack of movement in our daily lives.

Exercise programs that evolve according to your needs will more likely be meaningful and sustainable. If we do the exact same thing everyday, depending on the intensity, the cumulative stress to our bodies’ may result in a breaking down of systems versus the growth and maintenance that keep us functioning at our best.

Here’s my routine this week:

HIIT running plus stretches 2X

Knee and shoulder rehab 2X

Essentrics(stretch and strengthen no weight) 2X

High rep full body muscle endurance exercise class 1X

Moderate paced walk 2 times daily for 25 minutes to and from work

Ask me in 6 weeks and it will likely have evolved into something different. Actually, let’s commit to that and I will let you know.

Whatever your relationship is to physical activity, remain open minded as to what is and isn’t working for you. This way you will increase your success at keeping things going on a regular daily basis.

Stay tuned for ways to evaluate and evolve your current program.

Think NEAT(non-exercise activity thermogenesis)

Think DIPA (daily intentional physical activity)

Think EXERCISE

Think MOVEMENT

Then DO!

Essentrics with Andrea

Keeping it real: Physical fitness and VO2 max

I was a runner back in high school. Mostly distance. But even as a youth it was easy to delude myself on my level of physical fitness. I remember running a cross country race where I had barely trained for it. We did not have a coach that year so we had to train ourselves as a group. Despite having run cross-country ever since I was 9 years old, I “forgot” what it took to be competitive. Without the external driving force(our coach) it was very hard to max out with speed drills and progressive endurance training. I had just finished a summer of partying and eating McDonald’s regularly so the extra weight and new outlook on life didn’t help things.

I had ran the exact same race several times in the past. I recall watching other races with runners who were falling behind shortly after the initial 3/4 sprint start. I remember the winded looks and trudging bodies that looked like they may collapse at any minute. I never imagined myself in their shoes. I would say to myself, “well at least they were trying.”

Obviously, I spoke too soon. I joined my new cohorts with a vengeance. I didn’t just stop at placing poorer than I ever had. I came in last. No joke. People on the sidelines cheered me on, “Come on West Hill!”. In the moment, I wanted to tell them to go fly a kite. It was extremely difficult not to walk off the course and cry in the bushes because of the level of humiliation that I felt. If I hadn’t heard those few words of encouragement I probably would have.

The real problem was that I already knew the method to the madness. My physical capacity for running was seriously depleted and I found out the hard way. It wouldn’t be the last time, but delusional moments following that episode were not nearly as extreme. I was learning, slowly.

VO2 max and muscle endurance.

We use the word fitness as a descriptor of our physical health. It is a general term and may encompasses many different components. The one measurement of our fitness that relates to our capacity to carry out our daily activities is our VO2 max. It is a measure of our heart, lung and circulatory fitness, in others words, our cardiovascular fitness. More specifically, it is the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize during exercise. Its the critical one that if reduced to a level that is too low, we won’t be able to produce the energy required to get out of bed.

Now let’s take it up (or down) another level. You used to manage the 2 flights of stairs at your workplace but you discontinued that activity because you were working from home. Then you were forced to take the stairs one day and you are stunned by your body’s response. Your head feels dizzy because the level oxygen to your brain has been impacted. Maybe your blood pressure has shot up secondary to your heart’s attempt to supply your body with more oxygen. Your heart is racing and you are out of breath.

You may still have the basic mechanical capacity to do the stairs(i.e. enough strength and joint mobility) but you don’t have the muscle endurance and cardiovascular fitness to support the “sustained” activity.

How to improve your heart and lung fitness.

The best thing about cardiovascular fitness or VO2 max is that it can be improved through physical activity. If you have cardiovascular disease then you may need more guidance but everyone can benefit and make gains.

You need to do something that is beyond your normal level of exertion. You can usually tell if you are accomplishing that by your heart rate and respiratory rate. Of course, if you are seriously deconditioned or have any medical issues you may need to consult with a health professional. If you don’t know, get some help.

Moral of the story

Coming in last was not the worse thing in the world. But I sure felt like crap in more ways than one. It’s so much easier to maintain fitness with a sustainable daily commitment to exercise and/or intentional physical activities that challenge you. If we do that little bit more, everyday, our bodies will adapt appropriately over time.

Figuratively, we need to keep climbing hills everyday to challenge the body to keep up. It naturally wants to decline, and with age, even more so. We need to continue moving towards a higher base camp, higher than the one where we left off. Without activity, we end up progressively going downhill to the lower base camp and eventually we find ourselves below sea level and not even sure how we got there.

Keeping it better than real

Keeping it real will allow you to continue to be able to do all the things you enjoy doing. Knowing that you could do more is even better. Stay in tune with your physical abilities and don’t let them slide. Stay up on the highest base camp possible. There’s no rush to get to the top but don’t inadvertently coast downhill and let the clutch out too soon. Apply the gas gently and progressively. You will be amazed where you can take yourself!

Alright now, let’s GO!

Essentrics with Andrea