Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

What would it take to push yourself out of your comfort zone?

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Consider the spectrum of exercise. On one end, you have every bit of physical activity you do; getting out of bed in the morning, to taking a leisurely stroll, to cooking, to gardening and any daily living tasks. On the other end, you have your exercise routine, or the things you do to try to keep yourself in shape- strength training, cardiovascular and core work. There is likely yet another segment of the spectrum that’s worth examining- that part that has you pushing yourself to your limits of muscle burning, lung-busting work that you, yes you, are capable of doing. It may not sound like fun, but it is possible, and even preferable to the routine exercise which your body has gotten used to, but no longer is deriving as much benefit. Enter the latest study of the chemical processes behind how to maximize your cardiovascular, strength and conditioning gains. It seems that you need bursts of intensity to let loose your catecholemines, which are necessary to see major changes in your muscle definition and strength. Yet another group of hapless mice served as the subjects of this experiment that examined what made the difference in their body’s changes in response to exercise. In a nutshell, “Catecholamines are released only during exercise that the body perceives as stressful,… so without some physical strain, there are no catecholamines, no messages from them to the CRTC2 protein, and no signals from CRTC2 to the muscles. You will still see muscular adaptations… if your exercise is light and induces no catecholamine release, but those changes may not be as pronounced or complete as they otherwise could have been. The study also underscores the importance of periodically increasing your intensity so your physiology doesn’t adapt- in other words, always keep the workout strenuous and challenging- it should never feel easy. Check out this article for the full story:

My exercise intensity increases for 4 months from April to early August when we ride in the Pan Mass Challenge. This past weekend, Jeff and I cycled in the some beautiful villages in the Berkshires, through Monterey, Lee, Stockbridge, and Tyringham and learned how these places earned their status as hill towns! We gained 1600 feet in elevation, but the downhill was a blast (if a bit nerve-wracking!)
Over the course of 30 miles, we definitely needed to ratchet up our game, and for the rest of the day, we could feel our metabolism cranking. Think of what you can do to kick up your routine a notch- if you’re used to walking, walk more briskly in intervals. If you’re swimming, add a “fast lap” every other lap to your workout, to the point where your breathing is heavier, and your muscles feel some burn. Take up a new activity you haven’t tried before- kayaking, paddle-boarding (I’m thinking water sports in this heat, but whatever floats your boat will work best.
So get out there, and kick it up a notch, and let me know what your new challenge will be!

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