Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Great Cardio Debate

There is something to be said about accomplishing a goal. No matter how great, or how small or insignificant, when you decide you want to do something and then finally do it, it's empowering.

Of course there are always things that try to stop us from getting there. Sometimes it's self-doubt; sometimes it's other people doubting us; Or it could be something that just needs more practice, or to work hard enough at.

I had one of these small victories yesterday during my run through the forest. I made it up this ridiculous hill that, to me, is like a mountain, but to others might just look like a speed bump. (I know there are no actual speed bumps in the forest... how ridiculous would that be? Like, how many animals need to be running in the same area to require speed bumps and even then I'm sure the deer would just jump right over it. And if it were an actual speed bump, I'm sure I would have tripped over it.)

But back to my story, I recently read The Oatmeal's comic on "The Terrible and wonderful reasons why I run" . I realized that I am still by no definition a "runner" and that The Oatmeal is far more experienced in this realm. In fact, I think he's a bit nuts, but I also realized that running and exercise in general is a slippery slope - in a good way! So I'm probably not too far from there.

I say it's a slippery slope because the more we exercise, the more tolerant our bodies are of it. Our muscles increase in size and we can lift heavier weights; our cardio endurance increases and we can maintain an 80% max heart rate for longer. The more you "practice" at working out, the more your body adapts and the more you can do over the next few weeks/months.

So why do I run if it's torture? Because really, I'm not running away from anything. I'm not trying to get somewhere faster. I run because in a sick twisted way, it feels great. First off, I run through a forest. There's nothing greater than nature. Who needs to spend hundreds of dollars on therapy when I can just be in a forest, walk on the grass with my bare feet, sit on a rock and put my legs in the creek.

When I run I can think about things. I can process things. I come up with blog ideas... unfortunately as soon as I get home I realize that my blog ideas weren't nearly as good as I thought they were in the forest. Maybe that's because forests are magical. Or nature is magical. Either way, there is universal magic at hand.

When I run, my legs are like energetic puppies and unfortunately my lungs are like an old, wise, asthmatic dog. My legs are hyperactive and caffeinated and want to keep going. They're full of energies and love the impact on the dirt floor. My lungs however, can just never keep up for long. They're learning, but every once in a while I come to that moment where the old dog just needs a break, regardless of the little puppies nipping on him, telling him to keep going (only 2K more!). I can often hear this interaction in my head, but of course, not wanting do die alone on the forest floor, I listen to the old dog and tell the puppies to hold their horses.

We can't forget the whole cardio debate... when you do cardio for long periods of time, you're basically enabling the flight of flight response. You're secreting lots of cortisol to deal with this "stress". But exercise is so good for you! So where am I on the cardio debate? I think running is amazing, but we also need to realize what we're doing physiologically. To some, it feels great to run 10K without stopping, but I'm actually a fan of an interval-style of training. Every once in a while stop, let your heart rate go back down and then do it all over again. OR, make sure to not to limit yourself to just running (no matter how addictive it is... because seriously, it is... ask any runner). Throw in some days of doing weights or resistance training. I love throwing in days of weight aerobics. Doing both within the same week helps to tone muscle as well as increasing endurance. It's a win-win. Otherwise you'll end up like The Oatmeal and have the legs of the Hulk, but the body of... well... just read the comic and you'll understand.