Photo Credit: Theremina
At some point a while back, I first posted about High Intensity Interval Training, (H.I.I.T) and how doing intervals is really good for your health. I started doing them myself, and it really is a great way to pump up your workout in a minimum amount of time.
But intervals are kind of a pain! The whole point of them is to work hard enough to get uncomfortable, over and over and over.
So later I wrote a post about a new Cranky Fitness exercise invention, S.H.I.I.T., which stands for Somewhat High Intensity Interval Training. It's really just a mellower approach to H.I.I.T., but it still involves a fair amount of being uncomfortable.
Anyway, for those of you are interested in intervals and their awesome health benefits, and who want to know more about how to get started, I have a handy new resource to tell you about below. But for others who have no intention of ever, ever doing this crazy S.H.I.I.T.-- don't worry, this post is not really about that.
It's more about the pro's and con's of being Flexible. And not in that can-you-wrap-your-ankles-around-your-neck-way.
Flexibility is Great!
Generally, the more flexible I can be about how I work out, the better. I tend to get too stuck in a routine, too attached to my favorite exercises and routes. I grow to hate them, and it often takes something like moving across country to shake things up and make things interesting again. I'm always happy when I discover new options, yet I'm stubbornly reluctant to seek them out unless I absolutely have to. I need to get better about this!
However, one way in which I AM awfully flexible is in my exercise goals. Alert readers may notice that Cranky Fitness is not as Hardcore and Ambitious as many other fitness blogs. I never seem to be charting my progress towards some impressive goal like running a marathon, or doing 100 pushups, or climbing a mountain or whatever. And if I do actually set some little goal, I never put a time limit on it or berate myself for backing off if it gets too hard.
This flexible approach means I've never "failed," and keeps me from getting discouraged. Overall, it's been working pretty well for me.
However, back to the Interval Training...
The Disadvantages of Being Flexible
I'm still doing interval training, in my usual half-assed way. And I've been feeling pretty darn pleased with myself when I do it. Hooray for me!
Here I am, a middle-aged slacker of no great ambition, sprinting up fake treadmill hills, gaining all these tremendous health benefits and getting stronger and faster and....
Hey. Wait a minute. I'm really not getting all that much stronger, or faster.
Sure, I'll make a bunch of progress for a little while, and then I start hating intervals too much. I find myself doing 'em a little less often, and then even a less, and then pretty soon I have to dial the speed back down and the incline back down too and take longer rests. But then I'll get tired of my lack of progress, get all determined again, and ramp back up.
I thought I'd been doing intervals maybe six months or so... til I looked at the date of my first interval post. Sure, it was only back in June--June of 2007! That's like a year and a half of intervals, and I'm probably still pretty much doing what I was doing 3 or 4 months after I started. (I think. To tell you the truth I don't track it all that closely).
And it's not just intervals, either. Strength training and regular cardio are the same way--bursts of diligence and progress, followed by grumpiness, slacking and skipped workouts.
I never quit entirely, but I never get a whole lot further along either. I started messing around with fitness, and got real serious for a year or two, let's see.. oh, about 25 years ago! And before that I did sports in school. So it's really been pretty much a lifetime of physical activity.
That's a lot of years without making a hell of a lot of progress.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Yet I still have no plans to start getting out charts and graphs and stopwatches, or setting the date for my 10K or marathon.
I really admire you folks who do that. It's so inspiring! But it's just not me.
I keep hoping a benevolent Exercise Fairy will wave a magic wand and make me fitter and stronger without doing an extra work. And I do keep trying... just not hard enough to make continuous gains. As much as I'm sometimes jealous of you folks who run 7 minute miles or bench press 200lbs or whatever, I just don't seem to be willing to devote the time and determination and energy it takes to get there.
So I pick little goals along the way, and then I backslide, and then I pick other little goals, and I keep at it, year after year. Compared to most folks my age, I'm in pretty good shape. I'm strong and fit and I'm gaining all the great health benefits, both immediate and long-term, that regular exercise gets you. I think, for me, had I not developed a flexible approach to goals I would have gotten discouraged and given up.
The best thing, though, is the older I get, the more "credit" I get for doing the same things I did when I was in my twenties. And as I may have said before, while temporary goals come and go, my bottom-line goal is to stay at the same level of fitness I was as an in-shape twenty-something... until I'm an Eighty Something. (Once I hit ninety, I figure--screw it). And so far, so good. I got into fairly decent shape in my twenties, and now, with only a couple years until I reach 50, I've managed to cling on to it--whining and griping the entire time of course.
Want to Know More About H.I.I.T?
Over at Experience Life Magazine, they have a good article about H.I.I.T., including research on why it's so good for you, as well as plan to get started. And unlike some resources, they emphasize balance and don't get all extreme and hardcore about it.
Anyone else struggle with the issues of flexibility and setting goals and making progress? Do you keep getting fitter every year, or is it sometimes tough just to keep from backsliding?