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Showing posts with label Building Endurance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Building Endurance. Show all posts

The Importance of Rest Periods

Regardless of whether you are doing Cardio, Endurance training or Weightlifting the importance of having rest periods cannot be ignored.

Your body builds new muscle tissue while you sleep and rest. It is a very common beginners mistake to forget to rest properly.

Lets say for example that your goal is Muscle Gain via Weightlifting - Well then you need to be lifting weights 3 days per week - say Monday, Wednesday, Friday - with plenty of rest in-between your weightlifting sessions.

If you don't have rest periods you will end up taxing your muscles too much and you won't be getting the optimal amount of muscle gain.

In theory you could do weightlifting as much as 3.5 times per week, doing a full body routine every 2nd day and resting in-between.

Or another way to do it would be to only exercise your upper body muscles on odd days and only exercise your lower body muscles on even days of the month. So yes, you could exercise every day of the week, but you would be giving different parts of your body a break on alternating days.

When it comes to Cardio or Endurance training you want to aim for 4 days per week. eg. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday. And you want to work your way up endurance wise so eventually you are doing a single activity - eg. swimming - for 60 to 80 minutes.

But the end result is that you still need time to relax, recuperate and heal from the physical stress of your ordeal.

If you aren't resting it will result in you developing a number of physical and emotional sideeffects, including insomnia, anti-social behaviour and all the other warning signs of Exercise Addiction / hormone deficiencies.

Exercising burns through hormones in your body like crazy. It eats it up. Those hormones affect other things health wise however and even your personality / behaviour. Your body needs rest periods between periods of strenuous exercise so that you can recharge and rebuild, not just ripped muscle tissue, but also to correct hormonal imbalances.

So if you're still feeling guilty about slacking off during the Christmas / Holiday season, don't worry, it was a well deserved rest period.

Note: Sometimes its also necessary to switch to low strain recuperative periods in your exercise routine. Maintenance / Healing phases. Basically instead of exercising really hard and intense you take 2 weeks and just sort of "chill" while you exercise. You still exercise, but you do it at a less intense level and you avoid anything that is painful such as Power Lifting or marathon running.

Such phases also give your body more time to build up / repair any muscles, and is great for if you are recovering from a minor sports injury.

Lastly SLEEP!

Remember that the best sleeping pattern is a 1 hour nap during the day and 5 hours of sleep every night. Failing that the next best thing is 7 to 8 hours of solid sleep per day.

If you have difficulty sneaking in naps during weekdays, try to have 1 or 2 naps every weekend. Naps and sleeping do wonders for your hormone and energy levels, making you feel more alert and more energetic.

Strength Training Vs Endurance Training

Strength Training and Endurance Training are actually very different disciplines.

Lets take Bicep Curls as an example...

First we determine what your 1RM is. 1RM means "One Repetition Maximum", meaning the maximum amount you can lift and only do 1 rep.

So in the example of Bicep Curls lets say you can lift a maximum of 50 lbs with one arm and then you have to stop and catch your breath.

With Strength Training what you would then do is calculate what is 75% of that and do bicep curls for 5 sets with 5 repetitions each set. Do that three days per week for 3 weeks and then calculate 80% of 1RM and do the same thing for another 3 weeks. Then 85% of your 1RM for 3 weeks and eventually 90% for 1 RM for 3 weeks.

After you're done all 12 weeks then you recalculate your new 1RM, and start back again at 75%, repeating the same cycle every 12 weeks.

Note: To be fair you're not meant to be doing only Bicep Curls. You should be doing sets like this for Squats, Stationary Lunges, Modified Deadlifts, Calf Raises, Upright Rows, Bench Presses, Pullovers, Bent-Over Rows, Military Presses, Preacher Curls and Tricep Curls. The end result is a full body workout.

It also means you will need to determine your 1RM for each machine at the gym, write it all down in a journal and then recalculate your 1RM every 12 weeks of your Strength Training program.

Lets say however that you weren't trying to build strength so much however and you were more worried about endurance...

Here is what you would do instead.

#1. Calculate your 1RM like you would above, but when choosing the amount of weight to be using you instead calculate it to be 50% of your 1RM.

#2. Instead of doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions, you are instead doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

#3. You train 4 days per week instead of 3 days.

#4. After 3 weeks of training you don't change the amount of weight you are lifting, instead you increase the number of repetitions to 5 sets of 15. Three weeks later it becomes 5 sets of 20. Then 5 sets of 25.

#5. After the 12 weeks is over you recalculate your new 1RM and start over again with 5 sets of 10 repetitions.

With Endurance Training you are still building strength at the same time, but the focus is on increasing your ability to lift many multiple times without tiring so easily. Endurance training is also safer because it builds up your cardiovascular heart and lung muscles more in a similar way to Cardio training.

Its a bit like comparing Sprinters to Marathon Runners.

When Sprinters train out on the track they might only be running 100 meters at a time, and they stop and rest and when they're ready again they will sprint the 100 meters again. They might do that maybe 20 times on a training day. If they can sprint the 100 in 10 seconds their total exercise time might only be 200 seconds of actual sprinting, but they have spaced it out so they have plenty of time to rest in between sprints.

As such Sprinters typically look strong and quick. Marathon Runners have a strong tendency to look almost anorexic.

In contrast Marathon Runners will be out there running half or full marathons 3 or 4 times per week. Approx. 21.1 to 42.2 km. So for example they might be running 25 km four days per week.

With Marathon Runners they need to be careful to avoid going over 100 km per week because if they do they can often develop "Exercise Addiction", a condition runners are frequently prone to because of the batch of hormonal painkillers the brain releases during long runs which are highly addictive. The side effects of Exercise Addiction include insomnia, loss of appetite, headaches, anti-social behaviour, decreased libido, and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (obsessive cleaning, etc). It can even lead to loss of weight / anorexia as the person can sometimes exercise so much they end up burning away muscle and brain tissue for energy. Like any other addiction it can also ruin relationships as the person will choose running over spending time with family or friends.

Even professional marathon runners avoid going over the 100 km limit due to fear of developing an addiction to "Runner's High".

We should note that Marathon Running with an Exercise Addiction is not going to increase your endurance. If the person is running that much the hormonal imbalance in their body causes them to be unable to sleep properly and regenerate muscle tissue during their sleep. Instead they will burn away muscle tissue in order to fuel their obsessive need to keep exercising.

Some Exercise Addicts are known to run 140 km or more per week and get emotionally upset if they don't go outside and run because they're so obsessed with their "Runner's High".

Thankfully that sort of thing doesn't really happen amongst Strength Training or Endurance Training because the focus is still on building muscle, right?

Wrong! Strength is actually prone to Exercise Addiction too. According to some bodybuilders it can even be more addictive, although it is difficult to measure if that is true or not. A warning sign of someone who addicted is their insistence that they have to go to the gym 6 or 7 days per week to work out for several hours, working out for 15 hours + per week.

What is known is that Exercise Addiction is more commonly found amongst "Power Lifters" who develop a psychological dependence on weightlifting - the heavier the weights the more addicted they can become. The psychological symptoms are the same as other Exercise Addictions. It doesn't matter that it is weightlifting instead of running. It is still addictive and dangerous to their mental health.

Worse, Power Lifters are also more likely to use Steroids. Increasing their psychological addiction with a drug addiction that will damage their internal organs. There is a lot of information out there available on this topic if you want to Google the words powerlifting steroids addiction.

Muscle Pain - What is it and what to do about it

Do you get muscle pain after exercising? Its normal, but what is it and what should we do about it?

Muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Sometimes the pain is delayed, but usually the soreness tends to show up between 24-48 hours and is commonly called "DOMS" (delayed onset muscle soreness) after exercise.

Everyone gets it too. It's not unique to beginners or bodybuilders. Anyone who strains/rips their muscles is going to experience soreness either soon after or a delayed response. Sometimes the delay is caused by adrenaline and other pain-killing hormones in your system so you simply don't notice the pain until later. This is common for boxers for example who experience pain while fighting in the ring, but the real pain doesn't happen until after the match is over and they can barely stand due to all the pain.

Every time that you exercise and especially when you try new things such as exercises you've never done before, or trying heavier weights or by adding time to the routine, your muscles are simply not used to the demand. What happens is the tiny muscle fibers tear and break, and then they heal and fill in the muscle void with new muscle tissue so that you can handle that same load of work the next time with less effort and less pain. A little muscle soreness is a good thing. Hence the saying NO PAIN, NO GAIN. Muscle pain means that you have challenged your body and that it is now healing and building new muscle tissue.


Lets say you don't normally do situps and your core muscles aren't the greatest. So one day you do 300 situps and that night and the day after your abs hurt. But two days later if you try to do 300 situps again, it will be easier the 2nd time around and you will experience less pain. This is because you've healed and built up more muscle in that region during the healing process. If you kept doing 300 situps every 2 days for a month by the end of the month you would be experiencing almost no pain and your ab muscles would be significantly stronger.

So regardless of whether you are doing weightlifting or ab workouts or even cardio, you are going to experience muscle pain. Even archery causes muscle pain in your arms and back if you aren't used to the poundage of the bow.

So what can you do about it?

#1. Only exercise those same muscles every 2 days so you can rest and heal in-between and build up your strength/endurance.

#2. Don't overdo it on the weights. Make gradual improvements on how much weight you are lifting. I know its fun to try and lift your maximum amount, but I only recommend doing that once per month and then keeping a record of what your maximum was.

#3. Stretching / Yoga. Stretching and yoga can help prevent / decrease muscle soreness.

#4. Take a cold bath or shower when you experience muscle soreness. Its really cold, but it helps numb the pain.

#5. Eat lots of beans, nuts, etc after a workout. Or a protein shake or protein bar. The extra protein will help build/repair muscle tissue faster. I don't recommend meat because the protein content in meat isn't as high as people like to think it is. eg. Pork chops are only 18% protein.

#6. Do NOT exercise muscles that are already sore. They're trying to heal. Focus your workout on different muscles on days when your muscles are so. eg. Some people like to alternate weightlifting on one day with cardio on the next. Or alternatively upper body on one day and lower body on the next.

#7. As a last resort, pain killers. Pay attention and learn what is actually in them however. A common painkiller you can find in a pharmacy for bodybuilders is actually just Tylenol 650 mg - which is the same thing people take for arthritis pain. So if you do go that way, look at the prices because seniors pay less for arthritis pills than bodybuilders do for muscle relaxers, even though its the same ingredient.

Always remember that pain is temporary. The feeling of achieving your goals lasts forever.

Going the Distance: Building Heart and Lung Muscles

Do you get tired easily?

Does taking the stairs at a friend's apartment building sound like a chore to you?

If your car broke down and you only had to walk for 30 minutes to get there, could you do it with a smile on your face?

The thing you probably don't know is that endurance is very difficult to measure because it really comes down to two things:

#1. The strength of your heat muscles

The human heart is composed of a series of intricate muscles which contract and squeeze the heart, thus pumping fresh blood (and energy) throughout our cardiovascular system. Some of the energy being transported is sugar, fat and even proteins, but another source of energy the blood transports is oxygen from your lungs...

#2. The strength of your lung muscles

Air is drawn into the lungs by the pharyngeal muscles. Breathing out is automatic and requires no effort, but breathing in requires a contraction of the pharyngeal muscles. Rapid breathing is the result of a rapid use of these muscles, resulting in more oxygen being sent from the lungs to the heart, which makes re-oxygenizes blood to make fresh blood. That oxygen is then transported all over the body to specific muscle groups which need it most.

So how do you make your heart and lung muscles stronger? The answer is quite simple: Cardiovascular Exercises (or Cardio for short). Running, swimming, cycling, jumping jacks, boxing and similar activities get your heart racing and your lungs working quickly. Such exercises don't just build up your muscles in your heart, lungs, legs, arms, etc, but they also burn a lot of calories (fat, sugar, etc). They also reduce your risk of heart failure as you get older because you have a good strong heart.

Additional benefits include: A boosted immune system, a higher metabolism, a more enjoyable sex life, a slimmer figure, reduced chances of cancer and many other health benefits.

When you hear about people who go jogging or running for 60 to 120 minutes on a regular basis you may wonder how they managed to get that way. Truth is they didn't start out they way. They built up their heart and lung muscles over time, years of jogging and running on a weekly basis. Compared to some people who can only run for a minute or two, it may seem mind boggling that some people are able to run that far over long distances.

But what if I was to tell you that was actually the norm during "cave men times"? No TV, no internet... everyone hunting and gathering for food. Exercise was part of daily survival and recreational sports. The human body hasn't really advanced much physically since then. We still have the same genetic codes for accomplishing such feats of strength and endurance. So you do have the genetic material inside you to become a caveman (or cavewoman) running machine. You just need to unleash it.

Learning How to Improve Your Endurance

1. Practice Often (Once a Week is Not Enough)

A huge factor in improving cardio endurance is not letting progress slip away by taking a week off. You need to be doing intense cardio at LEAST twice a week to see progress. Even though it is built back quickly, stamina is lost rather quickly if you stop practicing because your heart and lung muscles wither back to normal if you aren't giving them a regular challenge. When starting out, aim to train at least 2-3 times a week.

The BEST routine is to go jogging every second day. 15 days per month. Why? You need the day off in-between to rebuild muscles. If you try to do it everyday then your muscles will be damaged repetitively without enough time for them to repair themselves.

2. Always Reach Limits and Aim Higher

It will be difficult when you first start jogging and running. One way to improve your stamina in a quicker way is to turn your jogging routine into Interval Training Exercise. You alternate jogging for several minutes with walking for several minutes, increasing times for the jogging on a weekly basis until eventually you are jogging the entire time. See the image on the right as an example of how to do this.

3. Push Through your Mental Barriers

Psychologically it's not going to be easy to keep jogging. Nobody likes to lose their breath or have sore legs but you know what, it will get better really soon as you build up your strength and endurance! Keep at it and within a couple of months the less enjoyable parts of building endurance will be a distant memory.

And you will be so happy you did it and succeeded when you do reach that point where you've realized you have the endurance to do it and keep doing it.

Training to Run Long Distance

Are you hoping to run long distances and looking for a training routine you can use?

Here is a great graphic which shows a 9 week training program which will ready you for some long distance runs by using interval training to build up your endurance faster in the early stages.

Running Marathons: Fun and Challenging


You've started running regularly and you're beginning to feel the benefits of having a healthier body.

You can run farther and faster. You feel stronger and less winded as your endurance grows. You've even gotten that infamous runner's high (which is why marathon runners often get Exercise Addiction because the chemicals act like heroin). You are feeling so confident you want to try running a marathon...

If you think you are ready to test your new abilities and try out a marathon race you might want to ask around and get a 2nd opinion. Yes, you can do it. But is it worth it? Your first stop should be your doctor to get a complete physical.

You will have your options too. You don't have to do a marathon race, you could try sprinting or a mid-range race instead. With so many races scheduled each year, both locally and throughout your region, it may be hard to choose the one that's right for you. Here are some things to consider to make the best selection so that your first race is a great experience and encourages you to sign up for more:

The Marathon Course

Of course, one the primary considerations for race selection is the distance.

If you are a beginner, signing up for a marathon is not realistic. Since it's your first race, choose a small distance, such as a 1-mile fun run, the classic 5K (about 3 miles), or, if you're up for a challenge, a 10K (about 6 miles). Many marathons and half-marathons include a fun run or a shorter run as well. If you're interested in working up to one of these longer races, you can sign up for a 5K as part of a larger event to get a sense of the course and other race-day conditions. Also, keep in mind the layout of the course. Hilly courses can be much more challenging to complete as a first-timer. A flat course on a paved trail will make your first attempt a bit easier.

Time Limitations

Some races have a time limit. This means that you are required to finish the race within a certain time. Otherwise, you will either be disqualified or find yourself running along a road that has been re-opened to traffic. Be sure that you are able to run the distance within the time specified, based on your past training times. Check race rules for any other limitations that may detract from your experience. For example, some races do not allow the use of headphones or portable music devices. Some races do not allow strollers if you wish to run with your child. Others may have limitations on your dress or the support team that you can have with you. Be sure to review these rules in advance to be sure that you can have the experience you would like.


Do you prefer the roar of the crowd to get your adrenaline pumping? Or do you prefer a smaller group so that you can focus more intently when you run? Check out the anticipated attendance or the registration limit of the race to know what kind of crowds you can expect. Larger races can be overwhelming for beginners, who may feel crowded or pushed around on the busy streets. But if you feed on the energy of others, larger crowds can motivate you to your best performance.

Atmosphere + Weather

There are races for every type of running personality. There are races for the serious runner, which focus on the course and the competition. Then there are races for those looking to have a little fun. Many races allow participants to dress in costume -- particularly holiday-themed runs like a Turkey Trot or a Jingle Bell Run -- and others have a fun course (like the Walt Disney World marathon) or include entertainment (like the Rock n' Roll Marathon). Decide what type of course appeals to you best.

Weather is another factor you should pay attention to too. It could be raining or unbearably hot outside. You will want to practice running in different weather conditions.

Setting Goals

Finally, keep your personal goals in mind when determining your first race. Do you just want to finish the race? Or do you want to try to meet a personal goal, such as finishing within a certain time period or finishing a long distance? If you just want to put yourself out there and finish a race without a lot of pressure, choose a fun run with a lower distance or one of the themed runs with a party atmosphere. If you want to challenge yourself or meet a fitness goal, enter a longer race with official timing.

The experience you have with the first race you enter can influence the way you feel about racing in the future. Make sure you choose a race that complements your personal style and that will allow you to meet your goals.


You aren't going to be able to do that well in a marathon unless you train in advance. Having a personal trainer can give you extra edge during your training. If you live in Toronto and want to compete in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon then you could even hire me as your personal trainer.

Happy running!

How Much Rest Do You Need?


"Hello! I am confused from various people who say I should exercise daily and other people saying I should rest every 2nd day. Who is right? What should I be doing with respect to resting?"

- Jessica Y.


They're actually both right, but I understand your confusion.

Not the answer you were expecting, is it?

Ideally what you want to be doing is alternating days where you do upper body exercises and lower body exercises, giving the upper or lower half a rest in between.

Daily exercise is your ultimate goal, but to do so without developing sports injuries you need to take a rest in-between each day so you don't over-exert yourself and injure yourself.

Doing Alternating Routines also increases your endurance over the long run, because you are getting adequate rest for your various body parts, but your heart and lungs are being exercised daily - which means your heart and lungs will get stronger and develop much more endurance.

So for example if you are doing lots of upper body weightlifting one day the next day you should be focusing on your legs and hips.

However if you are doing full body exercises that are pretty intense, such as marathon running, then you need to be taking a break for a day (or two) after running a marathon.

Also please note the differences between different types of resting:

Active Recovery - Do something less stressful to stay active and not sedentary.  Instead of running go for a walk or do yoga, lift lighter weights and increase reps or swim for fun to take a break from your competitive training schedule.
Absolute Rest - Do nothing at all!  Read a book, go to the museum or take a nice long bath.  No activity is a great reward for many consecutive days of hard training.  Your mind and body will thank you!

Alternating Routines - Give your upper or lower body the time it needs to recover by alternating routines on different days of the week.

If you hire a personal trainer (hint hint) they can help you to create alternating upper body and lower body routines, thus allowing you to maximize your exercise and rest periods.
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