Between sprinting, jumping, crawling, ball slamming, rope tossing, hammer swinging and tire flipping, the fitness industry has brought the intensity of a D.C. political meet up group into the gym.
The more we look around, the more you see a shift in every studio to this culture of high-intensity workouts. The ideology nowadays is that if you aren’t dying then you aren’t working out. I constantly hear people describing how good classes are by how many times they threw up or how dizzy they got. No ma’am.
Even the relaxing flexibility and core workouts in the city like yoga and pilates have to be prefaced with power and hardcore in order to get people into the classes. Are they now yelling namaste? What happened to the “g” word, gradual? Well I’m here to tell you that gradual fitness gains are still in style, despite what most studios may be telling you.
How much is too much? The less time that you have, the more intense your exercises should be, but this has to also be a gradual progression. Even for elite athletes, good intensity must be balanced with proper rest, recovery and variation of workouts. Any good trainer or athlete knows your workouts need to be periodized.
Periodization is basically varying out the types of workouts you do to allow your body to focus on specific goals and to allow the body to get proper rest and recovery. How often you workout and how intense your workouts are should be dictated by your personal fitness level. Weekly I see beginners in high-intensity classes doing the same exact exercises and weights that someone of a high level is doing. They usually end up doing the exercises wrong, potentially hurting themselves. Do we wonder why our injuries in exercise classes have gone up? It’s because workouts are now teaching to the elite and not to the middle.
Surviving the high intensity class: When starting a class, I recommend you first research the class and its instructors. If you can, talk to people who have been to the class to get a feel if it’s for you. If you are researching your restaurants more than your trainer, there’s a problem.
You only have one body so lets make sure that you are careful with it. Once at the class for the first time make sure you introduce yourself to the instructor and tell them it’s your first class. This small introduction will help the instructor remember you and pay more attention to you during the class. More attention and direction from the instructor generally means less chance that you’ll get hurt.
Good instructors should be ready to give you variations of the same exercises if they see you struggling. If you feel like something is not right, make sure to ask for a variation. If the teacher can’t give you a modification then don’t go back. The calories aren’t worth the risk.
Rest, Run, Repeat: High intensity should be the anomaly not the norm. The whole point of a high-intensity workout is to shock your body and break it down so that it needs a longer time and more calories to recover. This doesn’t happen if there is not ample recovery.
I recommend you participate in high-intensity workouts a limit of three or four times a week. Rest and recovery doesn’t always mean just staying still. Try low-intensity yoga classes, cycle classes and foam roller classes combined with proper nutrition to help your body rebuild. The key is to include classes or workouts that don’t challenge the body in the same ways that the high intensity workouts do.
Whenever starting a high-intensity training plan, it’s important that it is adopted gradually, coupled with rest days and supplemented by varying workouts. The most important part of any fitness plan is that it challenges you while keeping you safe. Remember — uncomfortable is good, but pain is bad so get out there and work smart.