Its never ideal to generalize, so keep in mind that this is not an “absolute”
Over the years one of the most common tendencies I’ve observed, is a tendency for people to go “steady” when they should be going EASY. The more often we workout, the more important it becomes to add in workouts that are easy, at low intensity.   Here we will define “easy” as any activity performed at less than 70% of threshold (heart rate, power, or pace).  

BENEFITS of going easy:

1. Fat: when we go easy, we push our body into a “zone” that shifts our substrate utilization towards metabolizing fat as a source of fuel, and away from its tendency to utilize glucose and glycogen (we can think of both as blood sugar) as the primary source of fuel during exercise. Fat is a very energy dense substrate, and training easy forces our body to become more efficient at lipolysis (breaking down and utilizing fat)
*remember, a calorie is a unit of energy. its the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius at a pressure of 1 atmosphere.
*1 gram of FAT= 9 calories *
*1 gram of protein= 4 calories
*1 gram of carbohydrate (CHO)= 4 calories

2. Recover: Reducing the load and intensity allows the body to truly recover from more intense and demanding sessions. It enables us to remove metabolic waste and engorges the tissues allowing more effective delivery of nutrients to the tissues and organs of the body (including the brain).

3. Foundation: Easy, and light aerobic sessions promote the development of both mitochondrial density and capillary density, both of which greatly enhance the body’s ability to go harder when its time to exercise intensely. Light exercise helps to maintain the strength of our skeletal system, and connective tissue, which are the underlie structural integrity.

4. Form: Easier/recovery oriented sessions are a great time to focus on, form, rhythm, and timing of a particular activity. Its a great time to really focus on integrating the ideal mechanics we are trying to employ. “Easy” allows us to develop desired muscular neurological patterns associated with proper “form”.

5. Mental: Easy sessions are a great time to rehearse the mental aspects of our training and acknowledge that we are intentionally “holding” back, so that we can truly “let-it-rip” the next challenging session. Light bouts often require discipline and restraint, two cornerstones of sound character. It also helps create space for us to “drop in” to the moment, and immerse our self in what we are doing, ultimately pushing is towards a state of flow. The more often we engage in flow, the more likely we are to be able to re-create flow when we really want to (more challenging sessions).

If we gravitate towards steady state exercise we don’t realize the benefits of easy training, and it becomes more difficult for us to dig as deep as we should during harder sessions.
Steady sessions have their place, but generally speaking, people find them-selves in this grey area too often.

Keep this in mind throughout the week and down the road. 2016 is our year to get FIT, and really become FULLY INTEGRATED TODAY.    Its about how our cognition works with our emotional state and our physical body to produce what the world sees as “I”.


One Response to “Why “easy’ sessions are important too.”
  1. Chris Scott

    Shane, this is a great article. I do light cardio in the mornings and go hard (usually sprints or heavy lifting) in the evening.

    I think the exercise-induced “flow state” you describe is key to mental health. For me, it’s stress release and self-actualization at the same time. It’s like a full-body state of awareness, minus all the extraneous information/thoughts that I don’t need at any given moment.

    My workouts helped me beat alcohol addiction and it’s been nearly 3 years since I had a drink. I’m in the best shape of my life and I’ve realized that fitness was the drug my body really wanted all along.


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