In the latest article for Legal Life, Steve Pitts of Welsh Back Squash and Health Club looks at how true the old saying is.
We all know the old adage ‘no pain, no gain’, originally coined by Jane Fonda in her early 80’s workout videos, but how much truth is there in this statement? In this article I’m going to explain how your body adapts to exercise and set some guidelines so you know how hard to push yourself.
So why should you push yourself when you exercise? Basically when you push (overload) your body it improves; this is true for both Cardio Vascular and resistance exercise but not in the same way. It is important to understand that the right amount of overload is a good thing; in fact it is critical to improving performance.
Cardio Vascular adaptation
CV exercise primarily challenges your CV system, which consists of your heart, lungs and circulatory system. When you push that system the heart beats faster and it also increases the volume of blood pumped on each beat. Your rate of breathing increases and your lungs, with the help of your diaphragm and intercostal muscles, increase the volume of air in each breath. These changes in your CV system are seamlessly managed by your nervous system to match the demands placed on it.
Over time and repeated CV exercise your CV system will improve its ability to react to the overload exercise places on it. The amount of improvement is directly linked to the level of over load you place on that system.
Resistance exercise primarily challenges your skeletal muscles; the muscles responsible for movement. When you perform a resistance exercise the muscles being worked incur very small microfibre tears. These tears then repair and your muscle grows, ever so slightly, stronger and bigger. This process of breaking down and rebuilding of the muscle and subsequent improvement in performance is directly linked to the amount of overload you place on the muscle.
This graph shows that as you increase your overload, your performance increases up to the peak of the curve after which you move to overtraining and performance quickly drops. There are many signs of overtraining which vary from person to person, but a few common ones to look out for are:
- Loss of motivation and energy
- Increased susceptibility to illness
- Elevated resting heart rate
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Persistent muscle soreness
The best way to combat overtraining is to take a break or cut your workouts in half for a while, then gradually re-introduce them, being conscious that you don’t revert back to overtraining.
Exercise intensity- how hard should you work?
When doing CV exercise I use a simple scale to tell if I am working hard enough:
- Low Intensity: Able to hold a full conversation
- Moderate Intensity: Able to talk to someone but you have to pause for breath every 4-5 words
- High Intensity: Only able to use 1 to 2 words at a time
After a proper warm up you should be aiming to exercise at a moderate to high intensity to get the most from exercise.
When doing resistance exercise there are three stages I use to identify if I am working hard enough:
- Low intensity: easily perform your set and continue on to do 5+ more reps without reaching failure
- Moderate intensity: Feeling the burn, maybe could do 1 or 2 more extra reps
- High intensity: Go past the burn, work to complete failure and can’t even do one more rep
After a proper warm up you should always aim to reach high intensity when doing resistance exercises, it will be hard, you will have to overcome the burn, but trust me it is the quickest way to get results.
As your body adapts and improves to CV and resistance exercises it is important to increase your exercise levels to maintain the same intensity and overload. Whether you want to tone up a bit or become a weight lifter, run a marathon or get a bit fitter, intensity is the key. Work hard and you’ll get the result you want!
These are only general recommendations and I would always suggest you seek the advice of a trained fitness professional before undertaking an exercise program.
Welsh Back Squash & Health Club offers an excellent range of facilities, including squash, classes and a gym with free personalised plans. We also have discounted rates of membership for all Bristol Law Society members. You can download a free day pass from our website (www.welshback.co.uk ), why not pop down and give us a try?