3 Common Habits
Successful exercisers often practice the same three habits: Mindfulness, Time management, and Pushing themselves. Mindfulness is about using your body consciously. Time management is about, of course, the ability to manage our time well. This includes not just exercising for too long, but also getting enough sleep. Pushing yourself, when it’s the right time, is the third habit. Many people do not go easy enough during aerobic exercise (walking/jogging) and most do not concentrate enough (push themselves) during anaerobic exercise (sprinting).
Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise
Before we dive deeper into these three habits. I’d like to go over the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise and their different benefits to our health.
Aerobic exercise1 is defined as physical exercise of low to high intensity that depends primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. Aerobic literally means “relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen to adequately meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. This type of workout requires some of your concentration, you could think of this as mindfulness. Aerobic exercise releases endorphins, our own endogenous opioids, or put in other words – chemicals your body makes that activate the reward center of your brain. The feel-good effects that endorphins cause could be why studies show that exercise is at least as effective as the best antidepressant medications for people suffering from depression.2
Anaerobic exercise has been defined by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)3 as “intense physical activity of very short duration, fueled by the energy sources within the contracting muscles and independent of the use of inhaled oxygen as an energy source.” Though it could be more simply described as exercise that does not require muscles to use oxygen, this would be a very broad description. What’s the main thing that distinguishes aerobic and anaerobic exercise? That would be the level of intensity. Anaerobic exercise requires a single-minded focus, a higher degree of concentration, as you would need to while sprinting. Just imagine doing a hill sprint while also trying to solve a math equation, which would be very hard or probably impossible, depending on the problem. A couple major payoffs of this type of exercise is a whole new level of muscular coordination and capability. Anaerobic exercise also releases our endorphins, which not only improve mood, but also, act directly on muscles to help them burn more energy (ATP) and cause a more powerful contraction.4 Our bodies respond immensely to this run for your life style exercise (high-intensity anaerobic exercise) producing astonishing gains in performance.5 How? Simple, by increasing our metabolism6 and the set of synchronized responses it produces. When stimulated to build more muscle, the body increases enzyme activity in the muscle to handle the increased workload, it increases blood flow to handle more nutrient and oxygen traffic, and produces more mitochondria (powerhouses of our cells) to generate plenty of energy.
Mindfulness, Time Management, and Pushing Yourself
Now let’s move on to the three common habits of successful exercisers. First up, let’s talk about mindfulness. This is a great habit that requires you to listen to your body and use it consciously. That means if your body is giving you signs such as pain and is objecting the exercise we are doing, we need to take time off or change what we’re doing. We also need to know and remember that exercise builds more than just muscle, it builds just about every type of functional tissue. It increases their investment with nerve endings and blood vessels, it builds bone, strengthens ligaments, and more. Time management, the second habit of many successful exercise, is primarily related to aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise takes time and the more time you give it the more it gives you. Up to a point of course, a reasonable cap is an average of thirty to forty minutes per day. Time management also includes plenty of sleep, which is even more important than the exercise itself, since recovery is what really matters. Lastly, a successful exerciser knows when and how hard to push themselves. Mainly I am speaking about anaerobic exercise, which demands more concentration. A successful exerciser can distinguish between a healthy burn in their muscles and the pain of an over-stressed muscle. It’s good to keep in mind, even an aerobic workout (a jog) can include elements of anaerobic strain (running intervals), which will help build healthy tissue faster. Knowing when to not push yourself and take a needed break is also an essential part of this habit.
Fact of the week
Tumor Necrosis factor (TNF) is a powerful, pro-inflammatory signal that increases sensitivity to pain. It also inhibits muscle growth and makes blood clots form more easily.7,8
Exercise helps clear the bloodstream of this TNF chemical, which makes us feel bad. Making you feel less pain, which I would guess could improve you mood. So aerobic exercise not only pumps up your muscles, but also pumps up your mood!