Friday, January 21, 2011


We were in the cool down phase of some serious early morning Spinzycling at Positive Stress Workout when an interesting topic came up. I was observing the post-exercise, pleasantly exhausted, blank facial stare that most riders were sporting and thought of an interesting article I'd read earlier on training intensity. It came from Outside magazine (December 2010/"Beware of the Black Hole") and basically stated many exercisers get "sucked into the black hole", a workout intensity that is neither hard nor easy. As the article states, it "falls somewhere between a piece-of-cake recovery pace and a hellishly intense interval session." The majority of the article is supported by research performed by exercise scientist Stephen Seller, who's study was published a The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. He states "Middle-of-the-dial efforts just produce middle-of-the-pack results." Carl Foster, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, contributes to the article by discussing one's "Lactate Threshold" (the point where "your body shifts from aerobic to anaerobic training". You know when your thighs start to burn a little on that beloved Stairmaster? That's you breaching your lactate threshold) and the importance of training well above that threshold for your body to adapt and become stronger. Falling short of this point during exercise "won't get you as strong as intervals but will leave you just as fatigued".  Foster concludes by also explaining middle-of-the-dial exercise will not fully allow your body to fully "recharge" for the next high intensity workout.

Such a scenario would be most unfortunate, and often is the case for many of us who follow this paradigm. Black Hole workouts lack proper increases in intensity, become stagnant and frustrate many well-intended exercisers.  Our take on this method of training? In short, the large majority of our members are middle aged or thereabouts, and jazzed about boosting their metabolic rate as quickly and safely as possible. So, based on what we've learned via research and practical experience, low to moderate efforts are great for establishing a solid fitness base. Beginners looking to get fit and not get hurt are wise to go this route. Once strong enough, interval based workouts with adequate recovery are critical to boost muscle and/or cardiovascular strength. A great trainer named Sonni Vestal once told me "Most people simply don't train hard enough on the hard days, or easy enough on the easy days." Others folks, many of which being much smarter that me, shun recovery runs as being an oxymoron, premise being the impact creates to much musculoskeletal and metabolic stress to recover. What is certain is the body MUST have adequate time to repair tissues and replenish energy stores. Those who do follow this golden rule fall victim to "overtraining" syndromes, many of which are  characterized by decreased performance, depression and even injury from overuse.

Bottom Line: If you're gonna work hard, you gotta rest hard. Your goals will dictate how your workouts should be structured for adequate training stimulus and recovery. We got plenty of ideas you can connect with at Running a half-marathon this spring? Great! Progress your milage specific to the race, run some hills, and maybe try swapping that 3 mile recovery run for a massage and a matinee. It's up to you whether or not to smuggle-in the candy.

Train with your brain,

Joey Motsay, CSCS
Owner and operator
Positive Stress Workout