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March 9, 2015

Training for a Half Marathon

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I'm training for a half marathon. Day 1 of the training regimen suggests cross training for 45-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise. Now I have a confession to make here. I'm lazy, and I don't think I'm alone. I come from a long line of couch potatoes, so motivating myself to get off the sofa has never been easy.

So to start my cross-training, I decided to perform the New York Times 7 minute workout. I did really well with this workout until I hit exercise #7, the triceps dip on chair. It kicked my butt! And here's why: The muscles of the lower body around the hips, the glutes and quadriceps, are huge compared to other muscles in the body. So activities such as walking, and even running, and cycling, do not drive the cardiovascular system to work as hard as if you were propelling your body weight with your arms.

If you look at our quadruped friends in the animal kingdom, their upper and lower body musculature is relatively similar, and their butt development is relatively underdeveloped compared to us humans. We are uniquely designed to walk upright on well developed legs and glutes with wimpy arms. It goes along with our genetic endowment of over-sized brains and language development and the ability to reason. Though I would argue that other animals have developed language systems that are more subtle and complex than we can imagine, they don't have libraries full of literature and poetry. Who knows, maybe they have an oral story-telling history similar to what humans had before the bible was written. After all, even racoons can train their young to break into a trash can with a bungee cord holding the lid down. But I digress down a line of thinking that drives me toward vegetarianism.

So, back to those wimpy arms. From a physical therapy standpoint, the way to quickly drive the cardiovascular rate up for people who are debilitated or confined to a wheelchair is with arm exercises, specifically upper body ergometry. This is basically upper body cycling and the reason it drives the heart rate up (great for cardiac rehab too), is that it uses the small muscles of the arms to drive the cranks. The small muscles can't do as the same amount work as efficiently as the large muscles of the lower body. So using your arms to help cross train is a great way to give your legs a rest and still get a great cardiovascular endurance workout.

And that's what happened to me. Exercise #7 targeted the weakest part of my body and drove my heart rate up. And the rest of the routine felt like I was at 80% of my exercise max. I was just proud that this couch potato was able to get all the way through the routine.

Posted by linda at March 9, 2015 9:02 AM

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