Cardio sprints will kick your ass

For the past couple of months I’ve been lifting weights three days a week and doing cardio sprints the other two or three days a week. “Cardio sprints” is my coined phrase and seems pretty applicable to the exercise but also pretty generic, hence this descrption.

Requirements for Casey’s Cardio Sprints: treadmill (or decent outside running weather) and a heart-rate monitor.

I start out with a 5 minute walk to get warmed up. Then I bump up the speed to 8.5 MPH and run until my heart rate is at 170 BPM (~90% of my maximum heart rate). After my heart rate reaches 170 BPM I run for 2 minutes then lower the speed to 2.5 MPH. After my heart rate drops below 160 BPM (~85% of my maximum heart rate) I continue for another minute, then ramp up for the second sprint at 9.0 MPH. The “2 minutes run at > 170 BPM” followed by “1 minute walk at < 160 BPM” pairing is one sprint. I do 5 of these at different running speeds finished off with a 5 minute cool-down. Note that during the running phase my heart rate goes way above 170 (between 180 and 200 depending on the speed and the day) and during the slow phase my heart rate goes way below 160 (usually down to the 130s).

When I first started I was doing all the running at 8 MPH and it would take me a while to both get my heart rate up to > 170 and then a bit to get it back to < 160 so the entire workout took at least 45 minutes. [Odd observation: initially my heart rate always seemed to get ‘stuck’ at 166 on the way up to 170. Not sure what the deal was but it would never fail to pause for a bit at 166.]

Now I’m doing my first run at 8.5 MPH and incrementing up 0.5 MPH until my last run is at 10.5 MPH. My heart rate ramps up and down much faster now so my entire workout is much closer to 30 minutes including warm-up and cool-down. The last 2 minutes at 10.5 MPH is killer and the first time I tried it I was only able to wheeze out 1 of the 2 minutes. Now I’m able to finish the entire 2 minutes with less wheezing at the end.

I feel like I’ve “mastered” this variation of the sprints — next week it’s time to mix it up a bit. I haven’t decided if I want to aim for a higher BPM threshold (180 BPM would be 95% of my maximum heart rate), increase the speed, or just do something else altogether.

Maybe it’s time to get back on the rowing machine…

New workout routine

The last week of 2008 I started a new workout routine and I’m excited about carrying forward to at least the first quarter of 2009. In the last several months of 2008 there was a new guy at the gym (Paul) who was doing some circuits and had recruited another gym regular (Steve) to join him. Mid-December he and I got to talking and he invited me to join them as well. Their circuits are different enough from my boring old routine that it sounded interesting.

The workout is 6 of the following circuits:

  1. wide-grip pull-ups
  2. seated rows
  3. dips
  4. overhead triceps extensions
  5. close-grip push-ups
  6. bicep curls

Ideally you’d do 12 reps for each set and increase the weight on each trip through the circuit. My very first time through I only made it through 4 circuits with about 8 reps for each set. The second time I made it through 5 circuits at 8 reps per set. Today I made it through all 6 circuits with between 6 and 8 reps per set. Now that I have an idea of the weights that I should be using and the number of sets needed to make it through all 6 circuits I can start working up to 12 reps.

One of the big changes between this routine and my previous routine is the amount of rest. In my previous routine I would superset two exercises of opposing muscle groups and rest between each superset. For this routine you rest very little and only between each circuit.

I was happy with today’s workout — now lets see if I can drag myself to the gym tomorrow for some lower body exercises, which I hate with a passion.

I have to eat HOW much?

Over the past four years I’ve been trying to gain muscle mass, to no avail. Benjamin keeps telling me that I need to eat more. Little did I know how much more.

I spent some time googling this weekend and realized that according to a best-guess estimate, I should be consuming rougly 2200 calories a day to maintain my current weight based on my usual physical activity (which doesn’t include marathon training, just going to the gym and lifting 5 days a week). Furthermore it appears that to gain muscle mass I should be consuming between 3000 and 3300 calories a day.

Those numbers didn’t mean too much too me – while I always read nutrition labels, I’ve never been a calorie counter. A quick calculation of what I ate yesterday shows that I consumed under 2000 calories. That will never do.

So today I’ve been trying to eat more than usual and keep track of it all. Thus far: my usual post-workout protein shake, low-fat yogurt, Clif bar, whole-wheat spaghetti & meat sauce (that would have been lunch), a coke (I went for the regular instead of the Coke Zero that I usually have), a meal-replacement shake, a package of All-Bran Bites, and another coke (two cokes in one day is an oddity). Total calories thus far at 4pm: 1441. At this rate, I won’t make it past 2000 calories today either and I’m already stuffed!.

Granted, maybe since, apparently, I’ve been getting along with a bit less than 2000 calories a day up until now that I probably don’t need to get all the way to 3300 to gain some mass, but even the upper 2000s look like they might be a challenge.

On a related note: today’s workout rating: 6 out of 10 — not one of my better days.