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Exercise Questions

  • Is walking or running better for weight loss?

    Looking purely from a calorie expenditure point of view, it is far more beneficial to complete a distance in the shortest amount of time.  What happens is that, by pushing yourself to work at a higher output, you will burn a higher degree of calories in a shorter period of time.  You will also fatigue your body considerably more and thus your body will require far more recovery for many hours after your workout.  During this time, you will be breaking down fat tissue at a higher rate.

    From a fitness perspective, you improve your level of fitness by exercising outside of your level of comfort.  Walking for a particular distance will have minimal fitness benefit, but pushing yourself by running will boost your cardiovascular fitness significantly.

    While both the fat loss and fitness benefits are a result of the increased degree of recovery after your workout from the higher level of intensity, if you are feeling fatigued, this would be an important reason to back off the intensity.  In essence, we need to find a balance.  Too intense and you will run yourself down (excuse the pun).  Not intense enough and you will not obtain the desired weight loss results.

    One other consideration.  Running will induce far more impact throughout the joints (ankles, knees, hips in particular).  If you experience any discomfort throughout these joints, then you would want to avoid the high impact nature of jogging.  This is often very important for people who are overweight as, the heavier you are, the more joint impact you can expect to experience.

  • I no longer feel DOMS (muscle soreness or stiffness) for a few days after a workout. Does this mean that my workouts aren't as effective?

    Good question. This stiffness and soreness is called DOMS, and acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. DOMS is the fitness industry jargon for microscopic damage to the muscle fibres that cause muscle soreness for up to a week following the workout.

    When you initiate a new exercise regime, DOMS is usually highly prevalent due to your muscles not being conditioned for that particular type of exercise. The more you perform a certain type of exercise, the more your muscles adapt to handle this exercise more effectively.

    One physiological adaptation is the muscle's ability to recover following a workout. This is exactly what you will be experiencing. Whilst you are still making amazing progress, you are no longer getting the same degree of soreness because your muscles are far greater equipped than previously to handle the heavy loads.

    Meanwhile, DOMS is NOT an indication of how effective your workout was. It is ONLY and indication of damage to your muscle fibres - nothing more. You can obtain significant DOMS from an ineffective workout, yet obtain no perceived DOMS at all and yet have a highly effective workout.


  • Mental strength, mind set and exercise seem to be increasingly related during my intense exercise sessions.

    A very, very good point. This is quite an advanced aspect to exercise.

    Guess what - many top athlete's have a sports psychologist. These professionals specialise in getting that person's mind set correct for maximal performance. Whilst an athlete's body may be in an exceptional physical condition, their mind also has to be in peak condition for maximal performance. This is very, very tough to accomplish.

    As you progress from a beginner to an intermediate trainer, you do become far more aware of the mental component to exercise.  You will realise first-hand that exercise has many more levels associated with it than just performing a particular action.

    One core component to psychological mastery of peak performance is belief. You need to believe that you are capable of achieving a certain result. If you believe that you can lift that weight for 10 reps, or obtain 120 calories on that single machine, then, assuming that this is realistic, you will have every chance at achieving it.

    The more you push your body, the more psychology will come into play. Your mind may start to tell you "you're too tired, take a break", or "slow down and conserve some energy" - but you need to work out your own strategies to overcome these internal objections. One strategy could be to distract yourself, just as you suggested. Another strategy I have read is to imagine seeing yourself as a third person (like an athlete would imagine looking at themselves from a seat in the stadium).

    Of course, this is a very complex topic and there are many self-help and psychology books available that deal with this far more specifically than I have explained here. If this is a topic of interest, I would strongly suggest reading abroad because there is a wealth of information out there on how to enhance the mental strength that you exhibit.

  • Will HIIT cardio reduce testosterone levels and thus reduce my muscle gains? I want to lose weight, but I don't want to sacrifice muscle mass. Is this different for males and females?

    HIIT has many benefits:

    1. Enhances fitness
    2. Significantly increases fat loss relative to steady state cardio
    3. Improves mental focus
    4. Can enhance muscle gain

    Whilst excessive HIIT training can significantly inhibit testosterone levels, resulting in overtraining, if you receive sufficient recovery from each session, the effect will be negligible. The HIIT workout itself can actually help in the secretion of anabolic hormones to boost the rate at which hypertrophy is experienced.

    Testosterone levels will primarily be improved through:

    1. Sufficient recovery
    2. High intensity heavy weight training
    3. Sound nutrition

    If you have all of these aspects in check, the incorporation of HIIT for fat loss will not significantly impact your muscle maintenance (or gains) by any great degree.  Keep in mind that if you reduce your caloric overload (or increase your caloric deficit), the rate of hypertrophy will most likely drop.

    Now the main difference between females and males with respect to muscle gain is testosterone, something that is required for muscle synthesis. Females obviously have far lower levels.  The good news for females is that cardiovascular training has no where near the potentially detrimental effect that it does on males with regards to testosterone levels. It is much easier for a male to overdo the cardio and thus see a reduction in testosterone levels.

  • What intervals should I use for HIIT for weight loss? I've been sprinting for 20 seconds and then jogging for 1 min 40 seconds.

    For HIIT, I'd be looking at always increasing the intensity. You can have a very intense session as you have described.

    Another alternative to your current approach could be to do 30 second sprints, 30 second walks. Or, you could try 60 second sprints (which would turn into a fast jog by the end of the minute!) and then a 60 second walk or jog.

    Vary the intervals up. It gives you plenty of variety and thus will assist in boosting the intensity of each HIIT session.

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