by Stephanie Nickel
When I was working in the gym, my son commented that my clients didn’t really get a strenuous workout.
My response . . . “Don’t be fooled by the smile.”
While I recently put together a gentle workout, there are those who need more and times we should ramp up our workout.
As always, check with your doctor before starting or changing your exercise routine.
“So what is this muscle fatigue business?” you may ask.
Let me start with a personal story.
A number of years ago, my husband, daughter, and I had a mini holiday in Toronto after saying farewell to our son who was headed to college in Saskatchewan.
Being the crazy person I am, I wanted to check out the fitness room at the hotel. My hubby walked on the treadmill beside me for about 15 minutes and then headed off to take our daughter swimming. (Read “. . . fled the room before I could torture him.”)
That, however, wasn’t a deterrent for me. (Remember how I said I was a crazy person?) I did more squats and lunges within the following hour than many people I know do in a lifetime. It felt great. Technically I wasn’t at muscle fatigue (I likely could have done more), but I certainly did demand a lot of my quads and hamstrings.
As you know, if you’ve done a strenuous workout, your body will let you know one or two days later. We went for a walk through the art district the following day. Walking was no problem, though my legs did ask from time to time what I was doing. It was stairs . . . you know those stairs that go down into the subway. Yeah . . . those were not my friend.
My response? To laugh and remind my daughter repeatedly, when she asked – from several steps below me – if I was OK, that I had done an insane workout the day before and I would get there – eventually.
So, if you’re ready to take it to the next level, here are a few suggestions.
1. Work all the muscles on the front half of your body on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Then, on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, work all the muscles of the back half of your body. In this way, you will feel you’ve challenged your entire body every day. (Don’t work the same muscles two days in a row – especially if you’re working to muscle fatigue.)
2. You can increase the speed and/or the incline of the treadmill, but if you want to work those muscles in a new way, try the stepper, the rowing machine, or the elliptical (and don’t forget to go backwards too; your quads will “thank” you).
3. Try a new class at the gym. It’s all right if you don’t catch on right away. Everyone was a beginner at some point. (I really wish I could do BodyCombat, but 1) I’m not coordinated enough and 2) I think I might break myself.)
4. Add an extra 5-10 lbs. to your resistance routine. Be extremely body aware. If you have injured muscles or chronic pain, don’t overdo it. (I can only demand so much of my traps and my knees.)
5. Maybe it’s time to add another set. You might even want to do drop sets where you decrease the reps but increase the weights for each set or vice versa.
6. There is a lot of study out there that supports the benefits of interval training (low intensity mixed with high intensity exercises). If you attempt this, remember proper form is much more important than speed. If your form isn’t good, you can cause injury that will set you back instead of propelling you forward toward your fitness goals.
What do you suggest for those who want to intensify their workouts?
Steph Beth Nickel is an author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer.