November 27, 2007

Experts Say: Time to Drop Acid

[Written by Mary, who has her own very fine blog Sheesh. Crabby is currently scheming to persuade Mary to hang out at Cranky Fitness and keep the Crab company].

Drop Acid? Wait a Minute...
Yes, this is a post about fitness. Or at least a rant about fitness. And I do remember the 60s. But I remember the 70s even more.

Thirty years ago, fitness was all about goofy-looking track suits and people dutifully jogging round and round a track until their legs fell off from boredom.

Twenty years ago, it was Jane Fonda and people deliberately wearing spandex until they felt the burn.

Ten years ago, it was Covert Bailey, and LSD* (long steady distance, also known as long slow distance) work that would promote fat-burning.

Now that's all passé. Yesterday's fitness. Today it's all about high intensity interval training: hit-the-body-with-a-quick-burst to promote fitness. In a way, this idea is a throwback to the concept that you have to feel it for the exercise to be any good. It's as if these ideas seem to cycle in and out of fashion.

This is not, not, not to say that interval training is a bad idea. Au contraire.

What I am saying is that The Merry objects to fitness being treated as if it were fashionable, something trendy. The press tends to trumpet the latest discoveries as if the scientists had re-invented the wheel, when in reality they haven't even re-invented the Krebs cycle. The basic principles of human biochemistry have been known for awhile now.

These approaches to fitness all work, to one extent or another. Even jogging around a track ad boredom does help the cardiovascular system up to a point. But a lot of people, including fitness experts (who should know better, except that they're usually promoting a book), seem determined to focus on one approach only, regardless of what works best for any one individual. We hold these truths to be self-evident: just because an expert is promoting a book, it doesn't mean the expert's approach will help with your specific goals. These different approaches should supplement each other.

Should you stop LSD and start HIITing yourself instead?

Both Long Steady Distance and High Intensity Interval Training can work to increase fitness. But they are not created equal.

If you're trying to increase your endurance, you want to increase your fat-burning capability. After two hours of steady cycling, your body is going to be relying on fat-burning to keep going.

Likewise, if you've been an obese, sedentary couch potato for years, long steady exercise sessions are a much more healthy approach than sudden intense exercise. If you're not in shape, HIIT would probably be a marvelous way to hurt yourself.

On the other hand, if you are in shape, HIIT could be the perfect way to work yourself off an annoying plateau, while LSD could make you bored out of your gourd. (Unless you want to be the next Lance Armstrong.)

It depends.

It shouldn't be about the latest expert's theory of fitness.

It shouldn't be about the latest expert at all.

It should be about you.

* Okay, so LSD in this post doesn't have anything to do with acid, strictly speaking. It was a cheap, meretricious trick designed to make you look at the post, that's all. I'm deeply ashamed of myself. Opinions expressed by minions of Cranky Fitness do not necessarily represent the views of the womanagement.


  1. The Womanagement of Cranky Fitness actually agrees! It's important to figure out what works best for you.

    While I've got a love/hate relationship with interval training (okay, mostly hate, but it seems to really help my ability to do cardio), I do a wimpy version that's tailored to my own laughably minimal fitness goals. But having learned over the years how these trends change, I take every new fitness "solution" I hear about with a grain of (low sodium) salt.

  2. Being "old school", I find that LSD works well for me and is the center of my exercise regimen. I mix in HIT but I don't think you get the physiological benefits like with those 'slow' runs where you can feel your mind working as well as your muscles!
    Well written post! Thank you!
    Dr. J

  3. Yikes! My renegade spell checker changed the correct "psychological" for the incorrect "physiological"!

    Dr. J

  4. Fitness trends. Yikes. I say as long as you're doing something you should be proud.

  5. Exactly! My trainers are terrific in that they really try to tailor the workouts to what works for ME! It's all about ME! hehe

    On a sad note, RIP Sean Taylor.
    Long time Redskins fan - is it nuts that I actually teared up?

  6. The Bag Lady has never been very trendy...missed out on the LSD trend (actually, BOTH of them, thank heavens!).

  7. Oh, I'm glad there are so many non-trendy people around here! :)

  8. I suppose you do get different physiological benefits from the different approaches as well. An increase in the number of slow-twitch fibers from LSD and stuff like that.

    Did you see the study that just came out the other day, which said that the only to increase your fitness for a particular sport was to practice that sport? Not sure how this reflects on the benefits of cross training.

  9. There are very few trends that make me take notice. I belong to the simple old school of "consume less and do more." I'm not always successfully doing either of those things, but I do know that it's what works for me when I do.

    Psychedelic post, btw! ;)

  10. I hate LSD and HIIT.

    But I will say that when I go running, LSD is much more satisfying if only to be able to say how many miles I ran. It makes me feel cool. If I do a spin class, I much prefer HIIT. I don't get to brag about distance, so being drenched in sweat is really the only way I get to prove I got an awesome workout.

  11. katieo, I love your approach--pick the one that gives you the best bragging rights!

    And wait a minute, missicat, I thought it was all about ME!

  12. And here I thought there would be a tie-in with lactic acid and all that. :-P

  13. I tend to use whatever method feels good that day.

    I mix up my workout routine all the time, to keep me from getting bored, and not working out at all. Boredom is the real enemy!

  14. But just imagine what real LSD could do for those long, boring jogging sessions!

    Assuming you were able to stay on the treadmill, you wouldn't ever want to stop!

  15. Hmm, that's an idea Jim! Better yet, why stick to jogging on a treadmill-- on acid, can't you just fly?

  16. I try for HIIT at the gym. Running on a treadmill makes me feel like a gerbil on a wheel so I play with the speeds to push myself a little harder.

    My outdoor runs tend to be more LSDs unless I'm following a specific training schedule. I can't control speeds or intensities in the great outdoors.

  17. Most of the fitness instructors these days seem to preach a mixture of both: preferably two days a week of high intensity stuff and three or four days of "building an aerobic foundation." Each has benefits that the other doesn't provide. And don't forget the all-important rest day! (Life presents me with at least one of those every week.)

  18. i do a combo of both but have to thank HIT for making me more fit in general... when you've been exercising for a few years, your body craves something different... whether its speed, hills, or a new machine - go for it and your body will thank you! :o)

  19. I'm sure the fitness instructors that one meets in the gym give more balanced advice than someone who's promoting a book or a product. A combination of HIIT and LSD sounds useful.

    I just got tired of listening to people disparage all other approaches to fitness besides the one they're selling. This time of year makes me very anti-commercialistic. (Is that even vaguely a word?)

    And Crabby, I love the psychedelic picture that you found!

    I probably should stop procrastinating and get out there and exercise :(

  20. Yeah, I have to lean towards the school of thought that exercise period is better than no exercise at all. I like to switch it up to keep things from getting too boring or mundane. I do a combination of calisthenics, step aerobics, speed walking or jogging, swimming and deep water exercise, and strength training. I also love to dance and I'm trying to learn poi, which is a loooot harder than those people make it look. Staying active and keeping yourself moving is what really matters in the long run.


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