Mike Boyle's Blog

A Long Slow Walk to Nowhere
Posted 6/21/2011 5:24:00 PM

This is Part 2 of my series based on my visit to a commercial fitness facility. In Part 1, we covered weight training. To review, look at what everyone else is doing and, don’t do it. It’s pretty simple. The Charles Staley 180 Principle. If everyone is benching, you should be thinking more rows. Just keep thinking, do the opposite. If a guy works arms for an hour, you should do legs. Just a thought. How many people walked by you on their hands today? My guess is that unless you went to the circus, it was zero.

With regard to cardio, the same is true. I hate the term “cardio.” Most of the people in the gym the day I visited were on what I like to call “the long slow walk to nowhere”. Even if I liked the term cardio, what these people were doing would best be qualified as Ultra Low Intensity Calorie Burning (ULICB) or Ultra Low Intensity Cardio Training (ULICT). I just figured I’d make up my own acronyms. Everyone else does. I have trouble believing that anyone walking on a treadmill – while holding on no less – is getting much of a cardiovascular workout.

I know, I know. It is better than watching TV. But, guess what, at most of these places you can walk slowly and watch TV. If only they had waitress service, you could eat while you walked too. Here is my analogy. Walking is to exercise as eating sugar packets at Dunkin Donuts is to nutrition. Yes, if you were starving you could get calories from sugar packets. That doesn’t mean it is good nutrition.

What I witnessed was the lowest common denominator of cardiovascular exercise. Lets get one thing straight. If you want to improve your fitness you need to challenge yourself. Walking is a great place to start. However, if you continue to walk at the same pace for the same time the benefits, beyond calories expended, decrease and potentially disappear.

Back to Charles Staley’s 180 principle. If everyone else is holding on, let go. While others are walking flat, raise the incline. When everyone else is walking for a long time, you should walk up a hill and then rest. That’s it. Start a simple interval training program if you have been walking for a while. First step, buy a heartrate monitor. You can get them at http://www.performbetter.com/. Buy a cheap one. All you need to do is know your heartrate. Next time you walk use your monitor and see what your heart-rate is during your walk. This is what we will call your Comfortable Working Heart-rate. Most middle aged people would need to break 110 beats per minute to get a cardiovascular effect. Either way, don’t worry about it. Just figure out what heart-rate you normally walk at.

Next time you walk, warm up for 5 minutes at your normal pace and then raise the incline to 5%. Walk for one minute. This should move you about 10%-20% (10-20 beats in most cases) out of that steady state comfort zone. If it’s more than 20% higher, reduce the incline to 3%. If it’s less, raise it to 7%.  Step off the belt and wait for your heartrate to return to 100 beats per minute.

The bottom line. Do a 180. Do the opposite of everyone else.

Posted By: Mike Boyle  

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Mike Boyle is known internationally for his pioneering work in the field of Strength & Conditioning and is regarded as one of the top experts in the area for Sports Performance Training. He has made his mark on the industry over the past 30 years with an impressive following of professional athletes, from the US Women’s Olympic teams in Soccer and Ice Hockey to the Boston Bruins, Boston Breakers and New England Revolution. You can learn more about him at his web site, Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning.
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