In our fast-paced world, it seems like people are always looking for a way to get more done in less time. If this describes you, then you may be interested in short duration, high intensity exercise. This type of workout is designed to help you burn more calories in a shorter period of time.
Working out at a high intensity is not as easy as it may seem. It takes time, patience, and dedication to reap the rewards of an intense workout. But don’t let that discourage you. Studies show that people who work out harder have more muscle mass, less fat and better blood sugar levels than those who do not exercise intensely. When you work out hard, your body releases endorphins, a chemical that makes you feel good and can give you a natural high.
What You Need to Know About Intensity
Intensity is a measure of how hard your body is working and how much energy you are burning. Technically, it’s defined as “the amount or degree to which something exists”. The harder the effort, the higher your intensity will be. On the other end of the spectrum, lower levels of exertion will achieve more control over movement and body function.
Most people think they need to go all out when they initially start working out, but this isn’t always true or beneficial. Your body tires quickly from overexertion when it’s not worked up to gradually, and this can result in form breaking down and loss of optimal control over your movements. This may lead to injuries that could derail your regular exercise regimen and be detrimental to your overall health.
How to Increase Intensity While Staying Injury-Free
When starting out, an exercise program may be something you do every other day, or even just on occasion. However, when your exercise routine becomes a habit and part of your lifestyle, try adding an extra session each week, or every other week. This small change in frequency is enough to increase the intensity of your workouts while preventing injuries from happening. Over time, the nervous system adapts to persistent effort and workload, which can leaving your body feeling stronger, your form and movements better controlled, and feeling less burnt-out post workout.
What is Adaptation and How Does It Work?
The human body’s nervous system can adapt and survive high intensity exercise because of certain mechanisms put in place for survival. However, in order to sustain high intensity exercise as a routine, your body needs to adapt over time in order for your workout session to not only be effective but also enjoyable and sustainable.
Physiologically, athletes who train consistently at a more intense level will notice changes to their heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and controlled muscle movements. Over time their bodies have adapted to accommodate these changes, effectively allowing them to sustain this high intensity exercise while controlling body movements with successful recovery. This adaptation can be referred to as “high intensity endurance”. The average person trying to achieve this level of intensity would need to work their way up slowly to adapt physiologically.
How to Know Your Own Level of Intensity
Exercising at the correct intensity and making sure you’re not pushing too hard or too little can help you get the most out of your physical activity. Here are a few pointers to consider when starting out.
How You Feel
Exercise intensity is a subjective measure of how hard physical exertion is perceived to be by you. Your perceived exertion level may be different from what someone else feels doing the same exercise. For example, what feels like a hard run to you can feel like an easy workout to someone who’s more fit.
Your Heart Rate
Your heart rate offers a more objective look at exercise intensity. In general, the higher your heart rate is during physical activity, the higher the exercise intensity.
Ways to Prevent Injuries During Intense Exercise
When working out, it’s important to be aware of the common injuries that can occur. By taking a few precautions, you can reduce your risk of injury and get the most out of your workout. Here are five tips for avoiding injuries when doing intense exercise:
Warm Up: Before your workout, go through several low impact exercises that will help to prepare your muscles. Try walking lunges with alternating knee lifts. If possible, try adding light jogging at least once per week too.
Keep A Cool Head: Don’t get too excited about your workout and blow too much energy at the beginning. Pace yourself to maintain good form for at least 10 minutes to start.
Take Breaks: After 20-30 mins, take a quick break and check in to see how your body feels.
Lift the Right Weight for You: Start with a weight you can lift 10-15 times with proper form. Begin with 1 or 2 sets of 10-15 repetitions and slowly progress to 3 sets or more. Take breaks in between sets for about 60 secs.
Stay Hydrated: Make sure to drink water before, during and after activity.
The Benefits of Adding Intensity to Your Workout
Intense workouts can have many benefits, such as increasing metabolism, controlling blood glucose levels, improving cardiovascular fitness, and reducing blood pressure. Another benefit is that they can be a time saver. You can get the same benefit with a shorter duration, high intensity workout as a long duration, low intensity workout. However, as you get stronger and your body adapts, you will be able to maintain a higher intensity for a longer period of time.
In conclusion, working out at a high intensity can be a great way to get in shape. However, it can be difficult to maintain focus and control and not overexert yourself too soon. Remembering to be patient while learning a new exercise routine can give your body the time it needs to adapt while having fun along the way.
The key to staying injury-free is understanding your body and how it reacts. Know when you’re working too hard, or if that soreness means something more serious like a muscle tear. Being patient with yourself will help your mind and body adapt and build intensity gradually.
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Take care and have a great day.
Rick Kaselj, MS