I’ve been thinking a lot about…
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I find myself, similar to last year, thinking a lot about the heart. And again, like last year, both the biological and the emotional heart.
Those who know me, know I’m a huge proponent of high intensity training (HIIT) – in both the weight bearing and cardiovascular arenas. Short bursts of really difficult lifting, loading, and sprinting have such a positive impact on the strength of the muscles – including the heart. They illicit positive changes in our hormonal profile that keep us vital, and stimulate brain development and function. For many, an acute, high intensity workout increases dopamine levels in the brain, improving our memory and focus, and making us feel awesome. For me – to be very honest – when I finish these kinds of taxing workouts, I sometimes feel like a superhero version of myself. “Wow. I did THAT!” And that’s a pretty awesome feeling.
But with all this fuss and bother about HIIT… I don’t want to miss some important things:
What about longer more moderate workouts? What about that 3-hour hike? Or that 10km run where you stride at your best friends’ pace? (It’s a wee bit slower than yours – but you love each other’s company!) What about riding your bike with your little ones? Or just taking a walk after dinner?
There’s lots of great evidence to show that longer workouts also provide loads of positive adaptations. Of course, it varies depending on the duration, type of activity, and relative intensity. But a few perks include increasing endurance, providing a source of active recovery, and relaxing the mind. It’s easier to socialize during a lower intensity workout. Sometimes it’s easier on the joints. Walking is SO GOOD for your spine and pelvis. And for some of us? We really enjoy the activity. What could be more important than that?
When we look at forming new habits, one of the greatest predictors is level of enjoyment. If the workouts you are doing are in theory “super-effective” but you HATE them…guess what? You are highly unlikely to stick to them*.
Increased levels of dopamine in the brain help hardwire new habits. So, loving the activity is in many ways more important than anything else.
Meg Sharp, MSc., B.Ed.Kin, FST, Executive Director of Personal Training, Cambridge Group of Clubs
*Footnote: Getting results is also an important factor in adherence. So, if your goals involve significant physiological or morphological change over a relatively short period of time, you will very likely need to incorporate bouts of activity and dietary changes that will not always be easy!