I learned a very good distinction on consistency and intensity from my trainer Damien Chapman of Shift60 the other day which reminds me a little of the story of the tortoise and the hare.
Your progress depends upon your degree of sustained intensity in a given direction. –Roger McDonald, The Message of a Master
My favourite type of cardio exercise is HIIT. That’s High Intensity Interval Training. I’ve been doing it for years ever since I learned the techniques from the Body-For-Life book by Bill Phillips. (Which is the training method I used to drop 20kgs in 3 months, 7 years ago.) I like it because it’s very time effective. You can do a super effective, fat burning cardio workout in just 20 mins or even less!
When you do an intensity cardio session, you push yourself up to massive peaks of performance for a minute or so every couple of minutes and then drop back down to a much lower level to recover. What I like so much about INTENSITY is the mindset shifts that happen with the growth. When you train with intensity, you have to give 150% for a short burst of time, it’s all in.
In those short bursts you can really open up the tank and see how much you can do, as you get used to the technique, you will often surprise yourself with just how much you actually can do. Just how fast you can sprint, row or cycle. You push your threshold levels and your expectations of yourself rise. When you perform well like this it builds self-belief, satisfaction and happiness, on top of the immense physiological benefits.
What Damien reminded me of when we were discussing it after a session was to never let your INTENSITY affect your CONSISTENCY. You know those times when you enthusiastically push it so hard at the gym that you can’t walk for days afterwards, and you stop training because you need to recover. You would have been better off going a little bit less intense in that session, and continuing with your training over the next couple of days.
Consistency is really the key to lasting results with your health in all areas. When you consistently commit to an action, it becomes a habit. Habit expert Scott Young says that it is actually easier to create a lasting exercise habit by exercising 6 days for 30 mins rather than exercising 3 times per week for an hour. Even though it seems like just going the 3 times would be easier, you are more likely to skip the session if the habit isn’t a consistent, regular part of your daily routine. That’s why exercising in the morning is such a good habit to cultivate. If you exercise at the same time every morning before the pressures of the day get in the way then you are much more likely to stick to that habit.
So the big aha for me, was that it’s ok to have some days when I don’t train like a demon. Those yoga and pilates sessions, or just a simple light 5km jog are just as important to my long term health as the intense boxing, running or interval training sessions. Mix up WHAT you do each day and each week to keep your interest and motivation high, and to challenge your body in different ways.
When I think about it now, when you look at the big picture of your training intensity over the week, it would look very similar to a 20 minute HIIT session, with peaks and troughs. Minutes to push it hard, and minutes to recover. Days for super intensity sessions followed by recovery days of Yoga or a light bike ride or run.
Psychologically if you have planned your week of exercise to have days to push it hard, followed by days to take it a bit easier, you will unconsciously allow yourself to really give it your all in your intensity session because you will know that you don’t have to back it up the next day with another massive effort. Give it a go!
There’s also the cortisol factor as well.. When you train with intensity all the time, you push your cortisol levels up, (that’s your stress hormone). If you are stressed and cortisol is running around in your system for too long, you’ll hold more belly fat. So those more relaxing sessions are super important for a flat tummy… Aaah… Nice. So it’s all in the balance.
What has your experience of this been? How do you find the balance between consistency and intensity?
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