Let’s Do Launch
Outside magazine, July 1995
Let’s Do Launch
For the time-crunched athlete, the midday break is long enough to order up a good workout
The problem with summer: It’s out there, and we’re in here. Five days a week, we struggle to get to the office by nine, and when we’re finally expelled into the world of fresh air, the day is usually on the wane. In between, we’re forced by the proximity of glass to endure the taunts of the sun.
But there’s always lunch. Getting out at lunchtime is more than just another opportunity to enjoy the season’s charms; researchers say that the light of day and an extended break can be a better stimulant than a double espresso. Unfortunately, “extended” is a relative term, and the hour most of us get quickly dwindles as we change, perhaps drive to a park or trailhead, and
Study after study has shown that a consistent 40 minutes of exercise per day is enough not only to maintain your fitness, but, for most of us, to better it. So comes the obvious question: How can we make big breakthroughs in such short stretches? By doing workouts that have purpose. “If you’re already fit enough to exercise for an hour or an hour and a half, then a careless
Do What You Don’t Know
“If you do an activity that you’re already good at, you’re going to be efficient–you’ll burn less energy doing it,” says Hawes, who also coaches the Wesleyan men’s and women’s swim teams. “But if you do something your body isn’t familiar with, it won’t know how to relax, and you use more muscles. Look at an efficient cyclist–she won’t move her upper body much. But someone
At the start of every swim season, Hawes has his team members performing different strokes than they’re accustomed to. It’s the same approach that has boxers taking on roadwork and baseball players running laps. “Athletes should never say, ‘I’m not going to do something because it’s too awkward or hard,'” says Hawes. “It’s because it’s so hard that you’re getting so much out of
Go by the Mets
Mets, short for “metabolic energy equivalents,” have been embraced by the American College of Sports Medicine, which puts out a book that rounds up 46 favorite American leisure activities–from archery to volleyball, horseshoes to hunting–and assigns them values based on relative oxygen intake and thus relative caloric use. The linear scale starts at one. “That’s where you are
Yet the met values of some more ambitious pursuits are surprising. While swimming’s met values range from four to over eight, and riding a bike at 13 miles per hour nets a met of nine, running at a slowish ten-minute-mile pace scores 10.2, and six-minute miles rate 16.3. Other activities that approach running include snowshoeing (with met values as high as 14), climbing
But running is the quick-workout king because it involves so much of your body. “When you cycle, you primarily use the quads,” says Laubach. “You get very little lower-leg involvement and hardly any upper-body use at all. In swimming, it’s just the opposite–it doesn’t recruit the big muscles in the legs. Running, with its arm-swinging motion and heavy demand on your quads and
Finally, gravity has something to do with the equation. Relatively speaking, you don’t suffer from its pull as much when you ride or swim as you do when you run, which is one reason why elite runners have been known to have as little as half the body fat of their pool-bound peers. And if you don’t like pounding the pavement? Try in-line skating–your back and hamstrings will
Take Things at the Right Speed
Mittleman explains that burning the maximum amount of calories requires that you get your heart rate up within 80-90 percent of its top end–which will put you out of breath–and that you tap into your extremely limited carbohydrate stores for fuel. “Back at the office, you’re apt to zone out,” he says. “Your brain can only use carbohydrates, which have now been largely
To avoid the intellectual bonk and access your more plentiful fat stores, according to Mittleman, you have to stay well within your aerobic range during the entire workout. Which means you have to go slow. Mittleman’s short workout recommendation is that you warm up very easily for seven to ten minutes, work out for 20 to 30 minutes at a pace at which you can hold a
On the other hand, lunch can go a long way toward meeting your carbohydrate needs (see “Because Man Cannot Run on Fumes Alone,”), which is why Hawes recommends that athletes who are decently fit consider some speed work a couple of times a week. He notes that it’s high-intensity work that leads to
A typical week, says Hawes, might include a slow-paced session on Monday, followed by fartleks, or high-intensity repeats, on Tuesday: Hawes recommends that after warming up you devote a 24-minute block to three-minute intervals–three minutes at an intensity high enough to make speaking difficult, followed by three minutes for recovery. “But don’t go anaerobic,” says Hawes.
Or, say Hawes and Mittleman, Friday can be a day to do nothing. Whether you’ve decided to go slow or fast or to mix the two, after getting nearly a week’s worth of sun–at least in 40-minute stretches–your body could use a break. And that’s when it doesn’t seem so wrong that you’re on the inside looking out at summe
Mark Jannot wrote about winter training techniques in the February issue. He is a frequent contributor to Bodywork.