Friday, March 20, 2015

The First Theorem of AY Fitness

During my most recent “get-fit” period, I started wearing a heart rate monitor. I was curious if monitoring my heart rate would help answer why I tended to fall away from keeping aerobically fit. Within this first training session, it was clear that I had a lot to learn, and a long ways to go.

A few minutes into my usual run/walk workout, my heart rate had bypassed the low-intensity zone, blown through the medium-intensity zone, and was deeply into the high-intensity zone. What to me felt like a typical, not-too-intense run/walk was in actuality, quite an intense workout. And this was not an isolated experience. Over the coming weeks I found that most of my go-to workouts were actually fairly high intensity, even though my friends and I would consider the activities and their pace to be pretty moderate.

I found that I tended to train almost exclusively in the high-intensity zone. While the high-intensity zone can be great for seasoned athletes, it’s not a great place to restart a fitness routine. No wonder I’d drift away from biking, running and skiing: I was burning the candle on both ends each time I’d work out! Feeling depleted and getting injured by working out is a common result of going out too hard, too soon. 

And when I asked some of my yoga colleagues to monitor their heart rate, we found the same result – we were all starting out at a too-high intensity level.

Once we ramped down the effort to a more appropriate intensity level, we all experienced the sustained benefits from working out. Rather than the flash in the pan fitness that feels good but leaves depletion in its wake, we have been enjoying the longer-term, sustained benefits of our aerobic activity.

Interestingly, the problem wasn’t that we were running too fast or biking up ginormous hills. Many of us were simply walking or hiking, yet still our heart rates were too high.

Which brings me to my first theory of fitness for yogis and yoginis. Looser connective tissue (joint laxity) makes aerobic fitness different. Our bodies spend a lot of energy holding the joint flexibility together, and this unseen effort creates its own, unique set of challenges. While we may not be running (or walking) very fast, our bodies are working deceptively hard to stabilize our joints.

The First Theorem of Alignment Yoga Fitness  – Yogis and yoginis should start with low to moderate intensity aerobic activity for the first three to six months of their fitness routines.

In a forthcoming essay, I'll talk more maximum heart rate and what is meant by low to moderate intensity aerobic activity.


Cathy said...

Scott, so glad you're working on this. Looking forward to reading more!

PrairieBlog said...

Fascinating stuff indeed! I've started HIIT recently and find that I run at MaxHR for 60 seconds, then it takes me about 45 seconds to get to the lower intensity region. So if I do 60/120 seconds it seems to be the right fit and I see improvement pretty quickly.

Julia said...

Hi Scott,

Do you have any theories about why joint laxity makes aerobic fitness different? Do you think there is a biochemical difference that causes both lax joints and higher heart rate?

I really love your theory. I find this fascinating. I have always enjoyed aerobic fitness but I have never considered my struggles to maintain it to be linked to by body type.

I look forward to hearing more. Your theory seems counterintuitive. I would have imagined that stiffer joints would require an increased heart rate to move--not lax joints. It will be interesting to hear what your tribe finds as they monitor their heartrates.

Thank you for exploring this idea.


Cris Mic said...

I am so glad that you are doing research on this! After reading this article I am very keen to do these experiments. I would monitor my heart rate after my daily online yoga workouts. Let’s see what happens!