Are you feeling too tired to exercise, even though you know how good it is for you?
Or, are you frustrated with poor workout results? Many people are either too fatigued to get a good workout in, or they work hard, sweat a ton, and invest a lot of time—with little benefit.
The cause may be related to how you exercise.
More than 100 million Americans eat a diet that decreases muscle strength and energy, which undermines the motivation to exercise and the effectiveness of their workouts. Are you one of them?
Proper exercise can boost your muscle strength, and give you the energy and vitality needed to exercise regularly.
Join me as I teach a simple workout that can give you the vigor of a teenager.
Muscle Fatigue = Less Motivation to Work Out
Your muscles fatigue when your blood sugar levels are too high. When the hormone insulin rises to an unhealthy level, the muscle cells resist the function of insulin, which is to uptake more sugar. As sugar is fuel to muscle cells, they essentially starve and cannot function properly. This is similar to flooding a car with gasoline, yet the engine just won’t start.
This process is called insulin resistance, and unless fasting blood sugar levels are below a healthy 85mg/dL, the muscles will continue to reject sugar from the blood. Without sugar for energy, the muscles grow weak and tired.
Fatigue sets in, desire to exercise wanes, and the blood sugars continue to rise.
Studies show that 85 percent of Americans have fasting blood sugars greater than 85mg/dL, which can weaken your muscles, cause fatigue, and hamper your motivation to exercise.
>> Sound familiar? Read about solutions to high blood sugar here.
In addition to converting the excess blood sugar into fat and cholesterol, which causes a host of weight-related issues, the sugars stick to proteins in our blood through a process called glycation. This creates sticky blood that sticks the muscle spindles together, making muscle contractions during exercise more difficult.
How Your Muscles Work
Every muscle is made up of spindles that slide amongst each other during activity. They are like the twines of a rope that intertwine to make the rope strong. Blood is the lubricant for muscular contractions and strength. If the spindles stick together due to clumpy or sticky blood, the muscle weakens.
Sticky muscles require much more energy to slide or contract. Exercise then becomes a chore, rendering most folks just too tired to workout.
The solution, of course, is a multi-pronged approach of diet and exercise.
The good news is: research has shown that with the right combination of proper exercise, healthy lifestyle, and balanced diet, the function of the muscles can be restored in as little as 12 minutes a day!
Our Bodies Were Designed To Sprint
Historically, exercise was essential to our survival. However, hunting a rabbit wouldn’t require 45 minutes in your heart rate training zone three times a week, the way fitness authorities today advise us to exercise. Instead, it would require multiple sprints using fast twitch muscle fibers that would last about a minute each, followed by periods of rest while you wait for the rabbit to show again.
Fast twitch muscles, as opposed to slow twitch muscles, are muscle fibers that generate short bursts of strength, but fatigue easily.
After hunting in this way, alternating between periods of sprinting and recovery, a natural fitness level was achieved.
Move like a Child
Have you ever asked a child of 10 or 12 years when the last time was that they ran as fast as they could? They would most likely respond by saying, “All the time, I ran here.”
On the other hand, if you ask a 50 year old the same question, what do you think would be the most common response? Probably something like, “I can’t remember when I last ran as fast as I could.”
When you sprint, fast twitch muscle fibers are activated, forcing the big muscle groups to contract and demand more fuel in the form of sugar, glucose or glycogen. The more you use the muscles in this way, the more energy they demand. Via this process, insulin resistance can be slowly reversed.
Fast twitch muscle activation also stimulates the production of human Growth hormone (HGH). This hormone decreases significantly after 50 years of age. Activated by fast twitch muscle exercise, like sprinting, HGH helps restore the youthfulness and elasticity you had in your 20s and, in itself, offers all the benefits of regular exercise.
Be Calm and Lose Weight
The benefits of this kind of exercise are compelling. Nasal breathing during this 12-minute workout naturally creates a safe governor for monitoring how much exercise is good and how much more can be potentially harmful, as indicated above. The sprint/recovery training offers many health benefits in just 12 minutes a day (without the wear and tear of a long, slow duration workout), such as:
• Increasing fat metabolism
• Calming the nervous system and mind
• Stabilizing glucose and insulin levels
• Increasing caloric expenditure
• Boosting energy
• Creating a sleeker, stronger, and more toned physique
• Enhancing sex drive
• Improved lymphatic drainage leading to healthier skin and detoxification
• Amplifying exercise endurance and performance
• Raising growth hormone – which may be responsible for all of the above
Avoid the Dangers of Over Exercising
There is an increasing amount of research indicating the damage of long, slow training on the heart. In one study, 80 marathon runners were tested for the kind of heart damaging chemicals seen after a heart attack. Prior to the marathon, runners were free of these chemicals. Right after the marathon and three days later, all of the runners showed the kind of early stage cardiac damage seen after a heart attack.
Below is a simple, 12-minute workout routine that I recommend to reverse insulin resistance and give you all the benefits of fast twitch muscle activation.
Twelve Minute Workout
Sprint Recovery Training
This 12-minute routine can be performed daily, or a minimum of three times per week, for cardiovascular improvements. You can use this as your entire workout or as a cardiovascular warm up before yoga, a bike ride, or hiking. In these twelve minutes, you will build your cardiovascular base.
Step One: Warm up
Slowly begin exercising. You can choose one of the exercise options listed under the “Sprint Alternatives” section below, or pick something else that appeals to you. Stick to this activity throughout the entire routine.
Exercise slowly for two minutes while breathing in and out through your nose as deeply as you can. Check out my book, Body, Mind and Sport, to learn more about why nasal breathing is important.
Nasal breathing is a skill that may take some time to master. Don’t worry if you have to breathe through your mouth. Do the best you can and, in time, the nasal breathing will get easier.
Step Two: Sprint
Start exercising faster, like a mini sprint, for one minute. Use the nasal breathing during the sprint if you can, as it will slow you down and not let you do too much. Don’t push it here. Start slowly and build yourself up to a faster sprint over time. Try to find a pace that you can maintain for one minute. In a couple of weeks, you will be sprinting like a pro.
Step 3: Recovery
Slow the exercise down to the warm up pace for one minute, maintaining the nasal breathing if you can. Nasal Breathing during the recovery will force air into the lower lobes of the lungs, allowing for more efficient release of CO2 and activation of the calming parasympathetic nervous system that predominates in the lower lobes of the lungs. This will help you release toxins and stress.
Step 4: Second Sprint
Start another sprint for one minute. Make this a little faster if you can. Continue nasal breathing if possible.
Step 5: Second Recovery
Recover from the sprint with one minute of deep nasal breathing at the warm up pace. If you cannot maintain nasal breathing during the recovery, it’s an indication that the sprint was too hard. It will get easier each time.
Step 6: Continue Sprints and Recoveries
Continue sprints and recoveries for a total of four sprints and four recoveries. Follow the nasal breathing if you can.
Step 7: Cool Down
Repeat Step 1. Exercise at the warm up pace, slowing down gradually, with deep nasal breathing for two minutes.
Note: In the beginning, you may need a 90 second recovery period after each sprint instead of just one minute. If this is the case, then just do a two-minute warm up, followed by three 1-minute sprints with three 90-second recoveries and a two-minute cool down, for a total of 12 minutes.
Sprinting can be running as fast as you can, running up and down the stairs, jumping jacks, jumping on and off a curb, anything that gets the exertion levels up. However, if sprinting scares you, here are some options:
• Walk quickly up and down your stairs for one minute as fast as you can.
• Step up and down on the first step in your house as fast as you can.
• Hold a can of food in each hand and raise your arms up and down as fast as you can for one minute.
• Consider joining a fitness facility and start a weight training program. Weight training causes the big muscles to slide and demands that more energy and sugar is received by the muscle, which reduces insulin resistance.
• If you are weight training, use lighter weights and do fast (and safe) reps for one minute to activate your fast twitch muscle fibers.
Less Is More
It is clear that long, slow workouts in your heart rate training zone are not necessarily healthy. In some cases, they can even be damaging to your heart. In just 12 minutes, you can get your cardiovascular base and be free to enjoy a fun bike ride, hike or some yoga. Less has been proven to be more!
1. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0126_diabetes.html. Accessed November 3, 2011
2. Campbell, Phill, A. Ready Set Go, Pristine Publishers, Inc.
3. Sears, A. PACE: The Twelve Minute Fitness Revolution
4. Roskamm, Canada. Med. Ass. J. Mar. 25,1967, vol. 96 Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health 895
5. Siegel A., et al. Effect of marathon running on inflammatory and hemostatic markers. Amer Jour Card. Volume 88, Number 8, 15 October 2001
Editor: Brianna Bemel