Fatigue Chasing: an expression I have stolen from one of my esteemed colleagues to describe the high intensity cardio work outs that have become popular these days.
I won’t name names because let’s face it, I haven’t actually done all of these programs and maybe there’s more to them than I have been lead to believe… but I’m talking about any and all of the popular programs that are about going flat knacker, fast paced, non stop, lots of plyometrics (aka jumping), high impact and high intensity from go to woah. Usually marketed (or at least, usually talked about by the people who are doing the programs) in terms of how many calories are burned in a workout.
(for my overseas followers who have never heard the phrase “flat knacker” before, you are welcome!)
One of my concerns with these sort of programs (and this also goes for a lot of group fitness classes in gyms and for that matter some Personal Trainer’s approaches as well) is the emphasis on energy expenditure. As I’ve talked about many, many times already, you don’t create a new body type just by burning energy, and you certainly don’t get healthier just by pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion and then beyond, over and over again every day.
Now… that’s not to say there is no place for some hardcore cardio training in a program, but it needs to be scheduled in as a constructive activity rather than a destructive one. If we are training for improved strength, posture and general health, a hard cardio (or interval training) day once a week will improve cardiovascular conditioning, lung capacity, and assist in fat loss. Where hard cardio is the entire program, day in and day out… we are only improving cardiovascular and lung capacity, at the expense of our overall health. We are putting the body under a destructive level and type of stress, rather than a constructive one.
Especially for unfit people who have previously been inactive, and even more so if they are on a restricted diet or already have elevated stress hormone levels for any other reason, this form of training is a recipe for disaster in terms of hormonal effects as the body struggles to adapt. I’ve talked previously about how increased energy expenditure combined with reduced intake causes the body to conserve and retain energy in the form of fat stores, right? It has to, for survival.
Of course, all of this is without even discussing the potential for injury to unfit people through fast paced and high impact (for example plyometric) routines, especially when unsupervised and trying to keep up with a dvd presentation.
We must always ask ourselves; what is my goal, and why would I expect to achieve it through this program?
If the best answer you’ve got is “it burns a lot of calories” or “it will make me fit”, you might need to reconsider. Cardiovascular fitness is great but on its own it is not necessarily synonymous with healthy weight loss and getting your dream body.
Remember; the point of training is not to get better at exercising. The point is to achieve a specific goal, and to do this requires a suitable and appropriate course of action.
We have established that hard cardio on restricted calories is a recipe for hormonal disaster, and even on a sensible intake cardio sessions in excess of what is actually required to improve cardiovascular fitness is at best a waste of resources that could be better utilised in building your goal figure / physique through a slower paced, methodical resistance training program.