How to work more than 60 hours per week
and still find time (and energy) to exercise.
Today nine-to-five means starting your day at six and hobbling home sometime after eight. For many dedicated individuals in our modern workforce, the precious weekend remains the single refuge.
IN THIS ARTICLE YOU'LL LEARN
· Why mental AND physical fatigue require recovery
· Why exercising only once a week can be ineffective
· How to perform mid-week active rest workouts
HOW TO BEAT FATIGUE
But it's normal to feel exhausted even though you've sat on your butt all day. We live in a world where our energy requirements are very cerebral, and sometimes not much energy is left for physical work. Whether you're desk jockey or ditch digger, mental or physical exertion can create extreme fatigue.
Unfortunately, mental effort doesn't pack the same caloric burn. An article written as far back as 1930 (on the energy requirements of intense mental effort by American researchers, Francis and Cornelia Benedict) summed it up nicely.
The doctors reported that "...even though a sustained mental effort produces a noticeable increase in heart rate and volume of air passing through the lungs, body heat production as a result of intense mental effort is never greater than 3 or 4 per cent above normal, not nearly enough to effect overall caloric burn."
When working 60-plus hour weeks, longer workouts will have to be reserved for the week's end. A couple of mid-week mini workouts can make a huge difference, keeping your muscles and metabolism revved up.
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH
As a weekend athlete (or gym rat), you typically participate in some type of intense sport or physical exertion faithfully at every week's end, and then remain completely sedentary for the next five days.
You build strength, muscle tone and endurance, just to have it wane before your next strenuous session. There is too much recovery time between bouts, allowing all your gains to slip back to previous levels. There's pain AND no gain.
There's a simple way to reverse this process. Develop a simple, in-home, progressive routine, with as little as 2 or 3 exercises that don't take too much time or crush recovery. In other words, utilize an Active Rest approach.
Sort of an oxy-moron, active rest implies training at an intensity level that falls a bit under your maximum work capacity, but intense enough to maintain levels of fitness previously reached. You can also break the active rest program down into two sub categories.
Level One (Near Max Effort) will be performed at full intensity with an extreme effort exerted on every set but volume (total number of exercises and sets) will be substantially reduced. Level Two (Sub Max Effort) drops it down a notch to about half to three quarters of the effort needed at the first level. Reps, sets, and overall effort exerted should be moderate.
For example, at Level One, you do 3 sets of 12 reps of exercise A. When working at Level Two, do 1 or 2 sets at 6 to 9 reps (using the same resistance). Below I'll structure a sample routine, based on 3 classic, and highly effective exercises that create a complete mini-workout routine.
MID-WEEK MINI WORKOUT
LEVEL ONE: Near Max Effort
· Select a resistance that allows you to hit muscle fatigue at suggested rep ranges
· Do 3 sets of all 3 exercises (9 total sets)
· Alternate exercises with a 1 or 2 minutes of rest between each set
· Keep moving while resting (walk, step in place, perform a stretch)
· Increase rest between sets for more strength development
· Decrease rest between sets for more endurance gains and toning
LEVEL TWO: Sub Max Effort
· Do 1 or 2 sets of each exercise (3 to 6 total sets)
· Work with the same resistance, do only 50 to 75 percent of reps done at Level 1
· Keep rest between sets the same or slightly longer
Alternate workouts performed at Level One with workouts at Level Two. Do as many workouts per week as your energy levels allow, but no more than 3 of each. Refer to the text and illustrations below for detailed exercise instruction.
Dumbbell Dead Lift
Position yourself as shown. Feet are hip width apart, straight or toed slightly out. Shins are kept as vertical as possible throughout the exercise. Back is tight and arched, your butt is way out behind you. Your head looks up. If back rounds during the lift, switch to a lighter dumbbell.
Exhale, as you lift with the legs (push the floor away with your heels). Elbows remain locked out as your knees straighten, first bringing bar to knee level, then locking out your hips as you come to a full standing position.
Be sure to bring your shoulders back and down, as you completely straighten your back. Arms remain straight. Pause briefly while standing and inhale. Exhale and quickly (but with total control) lower the weight to the floor in exactly the reverse order (be sure the back never rounds).
Lie flat on a properly supported bench that's inclined to about 45 degrees. As an option, this exercise can be performed on a flat bench.
Start with 2 dumbbells you can safely handle at about shoulder level. Exhale, press both bells to the ceiling (forearms remain vertical with the heel of your hand under the weight (wrist not bent back). Inhale as you slowly lower both bells to shoulder level and repeat reps to muscle fatigue.
Lie in the position shown. Flatten your lower back to the floor as you hold one leg at 90 degrees (at both the hip and knee) for the entire set. The other leg kicks out and back to the chest in a very slow and controlled manner, all the while keeping the lower back pinned to the floor. This will take an intense abdominal contraction. Exhale as you bring your leg up, inhale as you extend.
Your head, neck and shoulders also remain on the floor. To reduce intensity on this move, fix the knee of the working leg at 90 degrees so that all movement takes place at the hip joint. Extending the leg with the knee bent will result in the sole of your foot tapping the floor (versus full extension of the leg) before bringing knee towards chest.
To increase intensity, hold each extension (kick out) for a few seconds before returning knee to the chest.
MICHAEL STEFANO is the creator and author of the Firefighter's Workout (Harper Collins 2000). Mr. Stefano is a health and fitness writer, contributor to eDiets, eFitness, and Firehouse.Com. Michael's articles have appeared on AOL, MSN, and Yahoo! His workouts have been featured in magazine and newspapers from around the country, as well as in numerous network and cable TV segments. He also offers an online version of his FitFlash custom program, via a comprehensive 22-point fitness profile form.