Pick Up the Pace

Now that you know the basics of aerobic training, it’s time to learn some tricks to get even more fit while doing these activities. For starters, during any activity, simply increase the intensity of your exercise for short periods of time (so-called interval training) to gain more from it. For example, if you are out walking, speed up slightly for a short distance (such as between two light poles or mailboxes) before slowing back down to your original pace. During the course of your walk, continue to include these short, faster intervals occasionally, and, as you are able to, lengthen these intervals so that they last two to five minutes at a time. Not only will you become more fit and use up extra calories doing so, but you also will likely feel more tired when you finish your walk (which is actually a good thing). Over the course of several weeks, you may even find that your general walking speed has increased due to the extra conditioning from your interspersed bouts of faster walking.

By way of example, when unfit men and women in their 30s and 40s trained just twice a week doing only three to four minutes of aerobic exercise at an intensity of 70 to 80 percent of their maximal heart rate (i.e., short, intense exercise), preceded and followed by three-minute warm-up and cool-down periods, they increased their maximal aerobic capacity by over 13 percent in twelve weeks—and most people can’t increase their maximal capacity by more than 25 percent total, no matter how much or how long they train. Almost unbelievably, the participants in this study experienced major gains in their aerobic capacity by doing only six to eight minutes of harder exercise a week.

Perhaps studies like these explain the sudden interest in the ROM Time Machine, an exercise machine available in specialized gyms that you work on for only four minutes at a time, but at a near-maximal pace. It’s definitely not going to get you as fit as longer sessions of aerobic exercise, and it certainly won’t prepare you to run a marathon, but it has its benefits. The same intensity principle applies to almost every kind of exercise you do, from walking to cycling to gardening. In fact, even competitive athletes generally plateau at a certain level unless they do some version of this heavier “interval” training from time to time.

More recently, a research study in the July 2006 issue of Diabetes Care tested out the exact regimen that I always recommend on people with type 2 diabetes, which is to increase your exercise intensity at least during part of your normal workouts. In that study, they took individuals with type 2 diabetes who were already walking over 10,000 steps a day (good for them!) and added a “Pick Up the Pace,” or PUP, program to their training that involved increased walking speeds. The participants wore pedometer and determined their usual walking pace as the number of steps they took during a 10-minute walk; then they established a training cadence that was 10% above their usual pace 30 minutes per day three days a week. For example, if your usual pace is 90 steps per minute, you would increase your walking pace to about 100 steps per minute during that time. As a result, after 12 weeks of PUP training, participants increased their fitness beyond what they had already achieved walking 10,000 steps a day without walking any extra, but simply walking faster for 90 minutes a week.

To get the most out of your aerobic exercise, keep the PUP study in mind. During any activity, you can simply increase the intensity of your exercise for short periods of time (so-called “interval training”) to gain more fitness and health benefits from it. To start with, if you are out walking, speed up slightly for a short distance (such as between two light poles or mailboxes) before slowing back down to your original pace. During the course of your walk, continue to include these short, faster intervals occasionally, and, as you are able to, lengthen these intervals so that they last two to five minutes at a time (or even up to 30 minutes, like was done in the PUP study). Not only will you become more fit and use up extra calories doing so, but you also will likely feel more tired when you finish your walk (which is actually a good thing). Over the course of several weeks, you may even find that your general walking speed has increased due to the extra conditioning from your interspersed bouts of faster walking.

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2 thoughts on “Pick Up the Pace

  1. Bubba

    This article helped but where can I find information on training for a 1/2 marathon or more? I am trying to find out how to mange my pump, calorie intake, recovery for extended runs.

    Reply
  2. Sheri Colberg PhD

    Bubba,

    I’m afraid there is not much diabetes-specific information available on running marathons or half-marathons. One resource you can access is my first book, The Diabetic Athlete, that gives guidelines for doing extended bouts of exercise. Other than that, you may try contacting my friend, Bill King, a type 1 diabetic marathoner and Board of Directors Member of the Diabetes Exercise & Sports Association (www.diabetes-exercise.org). He may have some ideas for you from his own training. You can reach him at the address below:

    Bill King
    Manager of Patient & Professional Relations
    Animas Corporation
    a Johnson & Johnson Company
    200 Lawrence Drive
    West Chester, PA 19380
    Tel: 610.644.8990 x1132
    Mobile: 215.704.7473
    bking@anmus.jnj.com

    Sheri Colberg, PhD

    Reply

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