Friday, April 30, 2010

Run for your life!

What first got me thinking about this was an article, concerning cardiovascular exercise in rats. One group of rats was made to swim in a calm pool for six hours a day. The other group was made to swim in a wave pool for six minutes a day. After a few weeks, both groups showed similar cardiovascular improvements. Most animals, who don't seem to drop dead of heart attacks very often, don't run for hours a day. Rather, something that wants to eat them jumps at them, and they run for dear life.

I then theorized that what signals your body to grow is forcing it outside of its comfort zone. For fast twitch fibers, you do that by doing more, faster. For slow twitch fibers, you do that by exercising longer. However, the smooth and cardiac muscles don't have fast and slow twitch fibers. Therefore, how you raise them above their comfort zone doesn't matter so much as the fact that you do so. You could, therefore, increase cardiovascular fitness with short, intense workouts.

Biologically speaking, physical fitness should be evident in how attractive we find people. If you compare athletes, who are all in the peak of health, the one's with the "best" bodies are the sprinters. We intuitively recognize that style of body as the most successful.

A problem I had with this is that sprinting can easily cause injuries, but so can the repetitive stress injuries of running, so it may be a wash.

The one major flaw I can see to this theory is that humans are distance runners biologically, not sprinters.

Anyway, being of that sort of mind, I decided to do a rough test on myself. With a background in weightlifting, I already had a tendency towards fast-twitch muscles, so sprinting would be an easier fit. Here's how it's gone so far:

Day 1:

I thought I was going to die. I ran until I was winded, and I felt like I had tuberculosis. My lungs were complaining all evening. They were still kind of sore the next morning. As a general rule, when you know you have an internal organ, something is wrong, and I was worried about this one.

Day 2:

Nothing much different, but the next morning, I was breathing noticeably deeper. I don't think it could work this fast, so I'm guessing I just started using spare capacity that I already had, not developing new capacity.

Day 3:

Inner thigh muscles very sore.

Day 4:

Calves hurt. Not shins, which is surprising, because that's what always hurt when I ran before.

Day 5:

I noticed that I wasn't pushing myself hard enough when I slowed from running on the balls of my feet to the heels. Have to make myself go up on the toes.

Day 6:

It is taking noticeably longer to wind myself. The little parking lot I have for a track is kind of short to maintain a good speed. Normally cardiovascular exercise takes two weeks to show itself. It may be that I started from such a low level that the benefits are coming thick and fast, but it hasn't been that long at all.

Day 7:

I rested.


Blogger Prof. Roger Kovaciny said...

Actually, on the open veldt, African distance runners will simply run an ungulate to exhaustion, though it takes them all day. It's like bullfighting--they wear it out and the bull just stands there and gets stabbed to the heart, cf. opening scene of Carmen.

1:46 AM  
Blogger Erika said...

Hi, If you are looking for a routine here is one: There are three actually. I think I tried one a while ago, but had that “I feel like I’m going to die” feeling, so I just stuck with walking. I’m doing the couch to 5k program now. I feel it is helping me get more fit than walking, so maybe after I’m done I’ll try a high intensity workout program again.

9:38 AM  

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