Friday, January 1, 2010

Resolution: Lose Weight: Part 1: Surge/Burst Training

About 14 months ago, I took a class on nutrition, lifestyle, exercise, losing weight... etc.  It was the "Body by God" course and through daily "activities", you slowly transformed how you saw and lived life (from all aspects of it).  Part of this class involved learning a new sort of exercising / training called Surge or Burst Training.

While everything in the class made sense and I learned a lot of new things, this particular part of the course was of interest to me.  With a child who was just a year old, a funky work schedule, and a serious dislike for exercising, I needed a program that I could easily build into my day and didn't require a large amount of time.  So, in order to maximize the time I had available to me, I rose at 4:50 each morning, donned my workout clothes, drove to the gym, and did my workouts.  I was home and eating breakfast by 6 am, showered by 6:30 am, and was ready to face the day with my soon-to-be toddler.  I had a lot of energy, was generally in a good mood, and all that jazz.

I know what you're thinking... here's a program that offers something for nothing... weight loss and fitness in as small amount of time as possible.  Well, I have exercised a lot in my life... I have spent hours at a time in the gym, and slowly watched the weight come off and go on and come off and go on and Goodness, I Hate Going To The Gym All The Time.  I would get up at 4:45 am and be to the gym by 5:00 am and finally be showering around 6:30 am and to work around 7:00 am and Oh, My Goodness, Who Wants to Spend Two Hours Doing This Every Day?  This wasn't relaxing, didn't include eating breakfast, I was showering and getting ready at the gym to minimize travel time, I only enjoyed the comforts of my own bathroom on the weekends, I never saw my husband in the morning... I did not like it.  But I did it to do what I thought I had to do to make myself a better person.  If you do enjoy this routine and think it is getting you somewhere... good for you and I think you are masochistic.

I have an entire sheet of information on Surge Training and you can find more info online... there is science behind how it works, and so while it seems like a lot of benefit out of very little time... it is.  But, you will read forward here that while it is not a time-consuming thing, there is an awful lot of effort involved.

So, you are wondering, did it work?  Well, the short answer is a resounding, Yes!  Of course, any exercise routine works best when paired with eating better and sleeping more and generally working to improve your life (no one thing can make you better all by itself... it's a joint effort, yes?).  But, it did work.  In the first few weeks I lost 10 lbs, and once I changed my eating habits completely, I was losing 3 - 5 lbs a week.  (I have a generous amount to lose; the more you have to lose, the more weight you lose on the front end...!  Just an FYI!)

So.... why did I stop?  Well, I don't have any good excuses.  But, I have excuses... for one, Julia became quite sick on a regular basis last winter, and as quickly only getting 5 or 4 - 5 hours of sleep a night... not conducive to getting up at 4:50 am... and I also learned I was pregnant (and Burst Training, in my non-medical opinion, is not "healthy" to do while pregnant... and did you see above?  I wasn't about to go back to crazy long workout sessions when I could be sleeping instead).  Basically, I had built in excuses for not getting up and going to the gym.

But here are a few things I learned... 1.) it worked when I was doing it, 2.) the weight stayed off even after I stopped (if you don't count the fact that I slowly gained 25 lbs while pregnant), and 3.) I knew that with a good support system, I could start again.

So here we are, January 2010.  My youngest child is finally sleeping through the night and not just through the night, she is sleeping for long periods of time (9 - 10 hours).  I am finally healthy again after recovering from a C-section... recovering from gall bladder surgery... recovering from a nasty bout of hives.  My whole family is relatively healthy and has a good routine... and a good routine is OH SO IMPORTANT for a busy parent... nay, a Busy Mom.  And... I am ready again.  And I know I can pick up where I left off.  And I have an excellent support system.  I have friends who want to go through this with me and are willing to be there behind me.  Yay for a support system!

So... back to Surge Training.  Surge Training is a workout done in intervals, if you will.  The basic concept is as follows:

-- Warm up with some gentle stretches, a brisk 5 minute walk, or some basic yoga poses.
-- Surges can include stair stepping, running, biking, elliptical machines, treadmills, swimming, running in place or jumping rope! Be creative and move!
-- Measure each "SURGE" or interval as follows and repeat 3 times:
  • 10-30 seconds of high intensity SURGE movement
  • 10-30 seconds of recovery/rest or low intensity movement (The duration of the recovery is equal to the duration of the *surge*)
  • 10-30 seconds of high intensity SURGE movement
  • 10-30 seconds of recovery or low intensity movement
  • 10-30 seconds of high intensity SURGE movement
  • 2 minutes of recovery or low intensity movement

Whether you do 10, 15, or 30 seconds depends on your body. The key point: you must use maximum effort for EVERY SECOND of the surge. If you can only handle 10 seconds, then only surge for 10 seconds.  This should be done 3 times per week.

This workout, combined with 15 - 20 minutes of weight training at the gym, made of for three of my workouts each week... and I was only at the gym for 35 minutes each morning. 

Now... traditional low intensity, long duration aerobic exercise still has a lot of benefits... lowering your resting heart rate, increasing HDL cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, aiding detoxification, increasing blood circulation... and it is still important.  However, it doesn't need to be done for hours on end to receive benefit.  So, I would do this 2 - 3 times per week for about 30 minutes... and voila, 5 - 6 short workouts each week.

Here are a few notes about the training...
1.  To know that you are reaching the level you need to reach of "high intensity" during the SURGE part of the workout, attempt to reach a heart rate 75 - 85% of your training heartrate... this is calculated different ways, but for me, I take  of 220 - [my age] and then multiply by 85%.  This is 220 - 31 = 189 x 85% = 160 bpm.  During the low intensity / recovery time, I go down to about 70%, which is about 130 bpm.
2.  Minus the extra pounds, I am relatively healthy.  All exercise programs, and especially this one should be discussed with your doctor if you AT ALL fall outside of "relatively healthy".  And when I say "relatively healthy", I mean... my blood pressure and cholesterol are good, I don't have any "diseases" (diabetes, heart disease, etc.), and generally I am "fit" minus the extra poundage.

I realize that the title of my post is Surge/Burst Training... but I hope you understand the underlying point here... you need to find what is right for you and do what you need to do to make a better you.  I feel that I have finally found what works for me in order to achieve who it is I want to be physically.  (And please know, when I say, "finally found what works for me", it is a whole lot more than a designated work out schedule/plan... the physical me also requires input from the spiritual and mental and emotional me too!)  I wanted to share with you what that was and what it means for me each day.  The next few weeks will be rough starting again... getting up at 4:50 am is no easy task, but it provides the least amount of excuse to not exercise too... my brain is fuzzy, I have no pressing engagements, I can barely function... BUT I *can* move... and that's all that is required!

So... here's to 2010!  I am excited to share my progress with you!

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