Your Outcome: Just as you’ve learned to condition your nervous system to produce the behaviors that will give you the results you want, the physical destiny you experience depends on how you condition your metabolism and muscles to produce the levels of energy and fitness you desire.
His goal was to break a world record. For eleven straight days, he had been running twenty-one hours a day and sleeping a mere three hours a night. The mental challenge was as great as the physical challenge: he had to travel from the everyday world he’d lived in his entire life into one where his primary objective was the next step. He devoted years of training not only to his body, but also to his mind. His objective? To demonstrate the unlimited physical potential that lies locked within us all. By breaking the previous record and running over 1,000 miles in eleven days and nineteen hours, at an average of eighty-four miles per day, Stu Mittleman demonstrated that by understanding how to condition both the mind and body, one can produce results far beyond anything society would consider possible. He has proven by his example that the human capacity is incredible, and that we can adapt to anything if we make the right demands upon ourselves incrementally. The purpose of this chapter is to share with you the fundamental secrets that empowered Stu Mittleman to train himself to accomplish this unparalleled task.
For years I have pursued those I’ve considered to be masters in their areas of expertise, and physical fitness and health have been a major focus in my life for over a decade. When I first began my research in this area, I became confused by the maelstrom of conflicting viewpoints expressed by experts all supposedly equally qualified. For negotiating my way through the maze of opinions, my number-one criterion was results.
Those who consistently produced quality results were the ones I emulated and learned from. Just as I had a hard time giving credence to a doctor who was counseling patients about health but who himself was forty pounds overweight, so, too, did I question the validity of so-called fitness experts who appeared emaciated and had a host of injuries and low energy levels. When I first heard about Stu Mittleman and his accomplishments, I became fascinated, particularly when I heard further that all those who had witnessed his amazing feat said he looked better at the end of his 1,000-mile run than he did when he left the starting line! He experienced no injuries—not even a blister! What gave him the incredible capacity to stretch his body to its limits and still maximize his potential without injuring it?
Certainly, Stu was well-prepared for his run. He has master’s degrees in sports psychology, sociology, and social psychology, and is working toward a doctorate in exercise physiology at Columbia University. But the knowledge that proved most invaluable to him was the distinction that health and fitness are not the same. This is a distinction that Jim Fixx, the famous running-book author, did not have. He was clearly fit, but also unhealthy.
The failure of most individuals to grasp the difference between fitness and health is what causes them to experience the frustration of working out religiously and still having the same five to ten pounds stubbornly clinging to their midsection. Talk about learned helpless-ness! Worse than that is the plight of those who make exercise the centerpiece of their lives and believe that their actions are making them healthier, yet each and every day they are pushing themselves one step further toward fatigue, disease, and emotional upheaval.
What exactly do I mean by the difference between health and fitness? Fitness is “the physical ability to perform athletic activity.” Health, however, is denned as “the state where all the systems of the body—nervous, muscular, skeletal, circulatory, digestive, lymphatic, hormonal, etc.—are working in an optimal way ….” Most people think that fitness implies health, but the truth is that they don’t necessarily go hand in hand. It’s ideal to have both health and fitness, but by putting health first, you will always enjoy tremendous benefits in your life. If you achieve fitness at the expense of health, you may not live long enough to enjoy your spectacular physique.
The optimum balance of health and fitness is achieved by training your metabolism. Just as we train our minds, and just as we train our muscles, Stu and one of his trainers, Dr. Philip Maffetone, have proven that we can in fact train our metabolism. Stu’s results definitely bear this out: while he was on his 1,000-mile run, he certainly should have “hit the wall.” Yet he never experienced this in spite of running eighty-four miles a day. Understanding the simple yet profound distinctions that Stu used can change not only how you look, but also your level of energy, the quality of your life, and ultimately the physical destiny you set in motion.
The biggest difference between health and fitness comes down to understanding the distinction between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, between endurance and power. Aerobic means, literally, “with oxygen,” and refers to moderate exercise sustained over a period of time. Your aerobic system is your system for endurance, and encompasses the heart, lungs, blood vessels, and aerobic muscles. If you activate your aerobic system with proper diet and exercise, you bum/at as your primary fuel. On the other hand, anaerobic means, literally, “without oxygen,” and refers to exercises that produce short bursts of power. Anaerobic exercise bums glycogen as its primary fuel, while causing the body to store fat. Genetics plays a part in your body’s ability to bum fat and, in fact, some people are born with a highly aerobic system already in place.
These are the people we envy who seemingly can eat anything and not gain an ounce. Most types of exercise can be either aerobic or anaerobic. The level of intensity determines whether you are using your aerobic or anaerobic system. Walking, jogging, running, biking, swimming, dancing, etc., can provide either benefit. Lower heart rates make these activities aerobic, and higher heart rates make them anaerobic. . . . Usually, tennis, racquetball, basketball, and similar sports are anaerobic. Most Americans today have a lifestyle that causes them to live in a constantly anaerobic state, inundated with stress and demands, compounding it with the way they choose to exercise. As a result, they train their metabolism to continuously be anaerobic, i.e., bum glycogen as a primary source of energy. When levels of glycogen become excessively low, the anaerobically trained metabolism turns to blood sugar as its secondary source of fuel. This immediately disrupts your level of health and vitality.
As your anaerobic demands rob your body of blood sugar you could be using for other tasks, you immediately begin to feel the negative effects. Since your nervous system demands the use of twothirds of your blood sugar, the deficit created by anaerobic exercise can cause neuromuscular problems like headaches or disorientation. Here is a list of some telltale symptoms directly related to excessive anaerobic training of your metabolism: fatigue, recurrent exercise injuries, low blood sugar patterns, depression and anxiety, fat metabolism problems, premenstrual syndrome, or circulation problems and stiff joints.
We live in a society that is anaerobic-excessive and aerobic-deficient, and it’s negatively impacting the quality of health across the nation. In modem, industrialized society, people become less physically active. Only a few decades ago, most people accomplished their daily chores in a physical way. Today, though, we have designed active demands for our bodies to replace the inactivity that our day-to-day life no longer creates. This forced activity we call exercise. Unfortunately, many people with positive intentions, including skilled athletes, are becoming less healthy with exercise. Out of our drive to produce the greatest results in the shortest period of time, most of us create an improper balance between health and fitness, and suffer the consequences.
The solution, however, is simple. Stu Mittleman’s secret is that he understands that health and fitness must go together. According to Dr. Maffetone, this is accomplished by understanding that all exercise programs require that you begin by building an aerobic base—a period of time during which your entire exercise program is exclusively based upon aerobic activity without any anaerobic exercise at all. This base period may last from a minimum of two to a maximum of about eight months, during which your aerobic system is developed and maximized. This base period is then followed by anaerobic workouts of one, two, or sometimes three per week. Properly developing your aerobic system will not only make you a better athlete, [but] it will also bum off the extra fat from your hips, improve your immune system, give you more energy, and keep you relatively injury-free. In other words, it’s a way to build your total health and fitness through both the proper conditioning of your metabolism for aerobic and, when appropriate, anaerobic training .
By creating an aerobic base, you’ll also create a tremendous amount of energy and endurance. Remember, by expanding your aerobic capacity, you’re expanding your body’s ability to deliver oxygen (the source of energy and health) to every organ and system of the body. The problem is that most people try to push themselves beyond their ideal heart rates, and they spend all their time exercising in an anaerobic state. If you have not yet built an aerobic base, then all of your anaerobic exercise is at the expense of endurance. Many people, out of their desire to “whip” themselves into a state of fitness, try to exercise at their maximum heart rates. Traditionally, the formula for maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. For a thirty-year-old, this would mean aiming for a heart rate of 190. Surely exercising at this intensity for long periods of time is one of the most destructive things you can do to your body: it may make you “fit,” but it will do so at the cost of your health.
By the way, guess who was guilty of this for several years. I pushed myself to “achieve” maximum heart rate: I would jump onto my Stair-Master and crank it up to the highest level, and go for twenty minutes.
Or, after not having run in several weeks, I would go out and run five miles with absolutely no warmup. I wouldn’t be able to walk for several days afterward, but I believed that through this “no-pain, nogain” discipline I was making myself more healthy! All I was doing was establishing a love-hate relationship with exercise. My mixed associations of pain and pleasure made me put it off as long as my conscience would allow, then try to make up for lost time in just one session.
Since then I’ve learned that when you begin to work out at a pace which immediately throws your body into anaerobic capacity, a very dangerous thing can occur. In order to supply the immediate demand for blood that anaerobic exercise requires for the muscles that need it most, your body shunts blood from critical organs like your liver and kidneys. As a result, these organs lose a large amount of oxygen, which significantly impairs their vitality and health. Continually doing this results in their weakness, damage, or destruction.
The key is to train your metabolism to consistently operate in aerobic fashion. Your body won’t bum fat unless you specifically train it to do so. Thus, if you want to lose that persistent layer of fat around your midsection, you must train your body to bum fat, not sugar. Remember that both Stu’s and Phil’s criterion for aerobic function is the burning of fat. One of the biggest benefits of aerobic exercise is that it prevents the clogging of arteries that leads to heart disease, the top cause of death in the United States (responsible for killing one out oft every two people).
Some individuals, in their zeal to eliminate all fat from their diet, actually induce their body to enter an “emergency” mode in which it begins to store fat even more efficiently. They compound the mistakes by starving themselves, and when they inevitably return to old eating patterns, even more fat is stored from the same amount of food they had been eating before the diet—and they gain back more weight than they lost! This is why our culture is so obsessed with losing “those last ten pounds.”
When people tell me they want to lose ten pounds, I ask them, “Ten pounds of what?” Most often they’re exercising in a way that causes them to lose water or muscle, not fat. You can weigh the same amount today as you weighed ten years ago but be much less healthy because your muscle has been replaced with fat. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you weigh the same as you did ten years ago and your body is made up of even more fat, you’re in deep trouble!
While it’s true we want to limit our fat intake so it’s not excessive (20 percent to 30 percent of your caloric intake), nothing can compare with aerobic exercise for training your metabolism to bum fat. There is no one “right” percentage of fat intake for all individuals; it depends on how you metabolize the fat you do ingest. Wouldn’t you love to have the same capacity that you envy in others who seem to be blessed with metabolisms that bum fat? You can! It’s all a matter of conditioning.
So how do you train your metabolism to bum fat so that you have the energy, endurance, and vitality to put into practice everything you’ve learned in this book and live life to the fullest? I have some good news and some bad news. First the good news: you can accomplish this through some simple steps each day. Now the bad news: you won’t be able to use the traditional American method of filling the bathtub, pulling the plug, and fighting the current! Neither will driving a golf cart from hole to hole do the trick. These are not forms of aerobic exercise. Throwing your pendulum to the other extreme won’t work, either. Wind sprints are an anaerobic exercise. They create an immediate oxygen deficit in the cells and begin to cause you to train your metabolism to bum glycogen and/or blood sugar; thus, the fat continues to be stored.
Probably the most important element to one’s health is oxygen. Every day, we breathe approximately 2,500 gallons of air in order to supply our tissues with oxygen. Without it, cells become weakened and die. There are about 75 trillion cells in your body, and they provide you with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the basic energy for everything that your body does, whether it’s breathing, dreaming, eating, or exercising. In order to survive, cells must have oxygen in order to bum glucose and create ATP for continued growth.
The point is that you don’t want to deplete oxygen during exercise. If you want to know whether you’ve moved beyond aerobic into anaerobic, here’s a simple test: when you’re exercising, can you talk (aerobic)? Or are you too winded (anaerobic)? Your breathing should be steady and audible, but not labored. What does it feel like when you’re working out? If you’re exercising aerobically, it should be pleasurable though tiring. If you’re exercising anaerobically, you definitely feel pushed. On a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being minimum exertion and 10 being the most intense, what’s your score? If you’ve exceeded 7, then you’ve gone beyond aerobic into anaerobic; ideally, you’ll evaluate yourself between 6 and 7. Tapping your aerobic capacity requires a very specific form of training. First, it’s advisable to wear a heart-rate monitor. Then warm up gradually to reach your optimum aerobic training zone. (See box below.)
Your warm-up will accomplish at least two things: 1) You will be gradually mobilizing the fatty acids stored throughout your body to your bloodstream so that you can use your fat instead of your vital blood sugar. This is critical. If you don’t warm up, you may exercise aerobically, i.e., with oxygen in the cells, but not burn the fat. During warm-up, you should count your heart rate at 50 percent of the maximum using the standard method of calculation (see footnote for the heart rate box). 2) You will prevent cramping. This warm-up period should take about fifteen minutes. This allows your body to gradually distribute blood to those areas that need it rather than immediately diverting it from vital organs—a critical distinction to make sure that your workouts build health and fitness without injuring your system. Second, exercise within your aerobic training zone for at least twenty minutes, ideally working up to thirty to forty-five minutes.
The best way to find your optimal training heart rate is to apply the following formula:
COMPUTING YOUR IDEAL HEART RATE
180 – your age = your ideal heart rate (the rate at which you can exercise aerobically before going anaerobic).
If you are recovering from a major illness or are on medication, subtract an additional 10 points. If you have not exercised before, or have an injury or are gearing down in your training, or if you often get colds or flu or have allergies, subtract 5 points.
If you have been exercising for up to two years without any real problems, and have not had colds or flu more than once or twice per year, keep your score the same.
If you have been exercising for more than two years without any problems, while making progress in competition without injury, add 5 points.
Before beginning any program of physical exercise, consult your physician.
Third, take twelve to fifteen minutes to cool down appropriately by walking or some other form of mild movement. In this way you prevent your blood from pooling in your working muscles. If you abruptly stop movement after exercise, there is no way for the blood to be returned for cleansing, reoxygenation and redistribution. It will stay in the muscle, engorging it, and increasing toxicity in the bloodstream. People are often reluctant to commit to a workout because they link too much pain to it, either physical pain or the pain of not having enough time. But if you just give it a try, you’ll make two pleasant discoveries:
1) You’ll love working out this way because it produces pleasure and no pain.
2) You’ll experience a level of physical vitality you’ve never felt before.
If you’re concerned about the amount of time it takes, think of ways in which you can maximize your time. For instance, while you’re warming up you can listen to tapes, read, watch the news, do your Morning or Evening Power Questions, read your values and rules hierarchy, and make other productive uses of your time. When I asked Stu Mittleman what he recommends as a workout schedule, he suggested starting out with at least three sessions a week, with fifteen minutes of warm-up, twenty minutes at your aerobic training zone, and fifteen minutes of cool-down. Then graduate to longer sessions as you see fit.
Am I suggesting to you that aerobic training is the only type of exercise worth doing? Of course not. Having health and fitness is the goal; we want to enhance performance as well as endurance. (Just remember that any time you work out at an anaerobic pace, you do so at the expense of your endurance.) So as you begin to develop your aerobic capacity, once you reach a plateau (somewhere in your second to fourth month of exercise), you can build power by adding anaerobic exercise to your regimen, such as by East repetitions with weights. This differs from person to person, and the best test is to just listen to your body. If you’re running on the beach, and suddenly feel like sprinting, do it! Develop body wisdom; learn to notice your body’s ability to handle more challenging physical tasks. In fact, Stu assures us that we can maintain and improve endurance into our golden years. We do not have to be frail in our old age! Chronology is not so much the arbiter of our health as is our commitment to a health-enhancing lifestyle. Even though some people are born with a predisposition to bum fat, or are blessed with a gift of speed or power, anyone can achieve endurance and vitality by consciously deciding to condition their body’s chemistry.
“We are not limited by our old age; we are liberated by it.” STU MITTLEMAN
The most exciting news of all is that, like all patterns that give us pleasure, exercise can become a positive addiction. As much as you may currently avoid exercise, you will probably be more powerfully drawn to it once you discover how pleasurable it is to work out properly. Research has shown that if you exercise consistently for over a twelve-month period of time, you will form this positive addiction for a lifetime. Even if you get off track for a period of time, you’ll always return to a consistent exercise regimen throughout your life. Your body will be driven to the pleasure of health, to the natural high of maximizing your physical potential. Why is this? You will have trained your nervous system by conditioning your metabolism to thrive on this experience. We all deserve the physical vitality that can transform the quality of our lives. Your physical destiny is intimately related to your mental, emotional, financial, and relationship destinies. In fact, it will determine whether you have a destiny at all!
THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH
An undeniably powerful totem in our culture is youth and physical vitality. Think of the old men and women who got a new lease on life in the movie Cocoon. So many people chase after whatever they think will prolong their “youth,” while the real fountain of youth already exists within them. It’s known as human growth hormone (HGH). HGH stimulates tissue growth, increases muscle tone and lean mass, enhances flexibility, thickens muscles, stimulates the growth of bones and organs, and helps maintain healthy tissues. From the time you’re born to approximately the age of thirty, HGH is naturally released into the bloodstream about an hour and a half after you go to sleep and also once before you wake up in the morning. (I just turned thirty-one this year, so I don’t buy that time schedule!) High levels of HGH naturally drop over time. By age sixty, about 30 percent of men produce little or none of the substance. It is conjectured that women continue to secrete growth hormone into their old age, and that’s one of the reasons they live longer. We also receive human growth hormone bursts after heavy exercise and/or after a serious injury because HGH is a healing substance. HGH is now being synthesized in laboratories and administered to children who have dwarfism to stimulate their growth. But how can you enhance your own natural abilities to release HGH into your system? The one way to trigger it instantly and continuously is through explosive exercise. This means performing repetitions of an activity which you can maintain for thirty-five to forty-five seconds only, such as heavy weight lifting. Laboratory tests in Miami, Florida, have produced exciting results. People in their sixties who’ve gone at least ten to fifteen years without any muscle tone are learning to lift weights and create muscle mass equivalent to that of twenty-one-year-olds, with energy levels to match.
What does all of this mean? It means that you can be as strong in your seventies and eighties as you were in your twenties and thirties! Not only can you continue to build your endurance factor with aerobic exercise, as we’ve already discussed, but you can continue to boost your power with short, explosive bursts of anaerobic exercise. Just remember the other factor in the equation: give your body the nutrients it needs. Make sure you aren’t poisoning your body with excess sugar, fats, salt, or meat. All of this is great news, since as we enter the twenty-first century, estimates are that 24 percent of the American population is expected to be over the age of sixty-five. If we take control of our bodies now, one out of every four Americans will not be a drain on society, but a strong and vital member who makes valuable contributions and enjoys life to the utmost!
“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.” LUDW1G WITTGENSTEIN
1. Make the distinction between fitness and health. You’ve done this already.
2. Decide to become healthy. I hope you’ve done this already, too.
3. Know where you are. Are you currently exercising aerobically or anaerobically? Are you burning fat or glycogen? Either visit somebody who can test you, or answer the following questions:
Do you wake up in the morning feeling tired? Do you feel famished after working out? Do you experience wild mood swings after working out? Does that same layer of fat hang in there despite your most diligent efforts? Do you feel aches and pains after exercising?
If you answered yes to these questions, chances are that you’re exercising anaerobically.
4. Purchase a portable heart-rate monitor (they cost in the range of $175 to $200). It’s one of the best investments you’ll ever make.
5. Develop a plan. Condition your metabolism to burn fat and produce consistent levels of energy by beginning a ten-day program of aerobic exercise according to the guidelines I outlined above. Begin immediately.
6. Part of your ten-day challenge, if you want to extend it, is to read the chapter “Energy: The Fuel of Excellence” in my first book, Unlimited Power.
7. Decide to make exercise pan of your identity. It is only through a long-term, lifelong commitment to exercise that we can truly reap the rewards that life has to offer us.
Now, let’s hold ourselves to a higher standard by increasing the quality of our . ..
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