If you've been reading my site for some time now, you probably know how much I value having a comprehensive and regular exercise routine.
Exercise is one of the major factors that will help you become optimally healthy and
will give you profound benefits as you age. Being physically active helps you:
I have been exercising regularly for over 45 years now. I used to be a former sub three-hour marathon runner.
Back then, I, along with many people, believed that completing a marathon is the epitome of health.
But what I didn't know is that I was committing a major exercise mistake – one that could have severely damaged my health.
I understand the drive that pushes many athletes to compete in strenuous marathons. However, if you examine the research, you will see that these strenuous activities may actually jeopardize your cardiovascular health.
You've probably heard stories of how physically fit marathon runners suddenly die in the middle of long-distance running events. According to one study, the rate of sudden cardiac deaths during a marathon is 0.8 per 100,000 participants – it's rare, but not unlikely.
Here's one notable example: a total of 11 runners have died while competing in the London Marathon since it began in 1981.
There are also reports of Olympic athletes who have died in the middle of strenuous training.
This is because excessive cardio training such marathons or triathlons may actually pose a seven-fold increase in your cardiac risk. Extreme cardio puts extraordinary stress on your heart, one that your body is not designed for.
This is a powerful lesson to anyone who engages in large amounts of cardio exercise.
But, here's good news: I have discovered a simple, high-intensity exercise routine that not only beats traditional cardio workout in terms of common exercise benefits, but also improves your human growth hormone production and helps delay aging – and you can do it in just 20 minutes, too!
I have recently developed a technique called Peak Fitness, a form of high-intensity exercise that offers superb benefits to your overall health. It's a type of interval (anaerobic) training where you alternate short bursts of high-intensity exercise with gentle recovery periods.
Peak Fitness is patterned after fitness expert Phil Campbell's Sprint 8 workout. Phil, author of Ready, Set, Go!
Synergy Fitness, is a veteran in the field of fitness, and has over 35 years of experience in training professional athletes. He has worked with over 18,000 athletes, teaching them how to run faster using the proper speed technique.
Phil helped me understand how to practically change my primarily cardio aerobic exercise program to one that actually increases growth hormone and provides more health benefits.
I have been doing Peak Fitness since April 2010, and it's really made a remarkable difference in my fitness level.
To understand how Peak Fitness works, you must first familiarize yourself with the three different types of muscle fibers:
If you fail to actively engage and strengthen all these muscle fiber types and energy systems, then you're not going to work both processes of your heart muscle.
A common misconception among many people is that cardio works out the heart muscle. Unfortunately, what you're really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers. You're not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart.
This is why you may not see results even though you spend an hour on the treadmill a few times a week. You're basically denying the natural physiology of your body because you're not working the other half of your muscle fibers, which are your fast-twitch muscles.
What's more, focusing on just traditional aerobic cardio and strength training, which only work your slow muscles, may cause your super-fast twitch muscles to decrease, leading to muscle atrophy.
This is what makes Peak Fitness superior to typical aerobic cardio exercises – it engages your fast and super-fast twitch muscle fibers, which has many beneficial effects on the metabolic systems in your body.
By engaging these fast and super-fast twitch muscle fibers, Peak Fitness promotes the production of human growth hormone (HGH), a synergistic, foundational biochemical underpinning that helps support your strength training and other exercises, so that they work to your advantage and help you burn off calories effectively.
Once you incorporate high-intensity interval training into your workout routine, you will feel immense benefits such as:
One of the major reasons why Peak Fitness is a phenomenal exercise is it promotes longevity. The anti-aging benefits of Peak Fitness can be attributed to its ability to:
One of the major advantages of Peak Fitness exercises that I'm sure most of you will love is that it can be done in just 20 minutes. Take note that in those 20 minutes, 75 percent will be spent on warming up, recovering, or cooling down – this means you're working out intensely only for four minutes. That's pretty amazing, considering the many profound benefits that you can get in that short span of time.
The key to performing Sprint 8 exercises properly is to raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold. Keep pushing at maximum effort for 20 to 30 seconds, and then rest for 90 seconds.
Here's a summary of what a typical Peak Fitness routine might look like:
Recover for 90 seconds. Repeat the high-intensity exercise and recovery seven more times.
If you're out of shape, start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight – this is where the magic really starts to happen.
Always be mindful of your current fitness level, so you will not overdo the exercise when you first start out.
Remember, there's no "magical speed" when doing Peak Fitness – it's entirely different from one individual to another. Everything depends on your current level of fitness. Some people may reach their anabolic threshold by walking at a quick pace, while others may need to perform a mad dash to get the same effect.
The wonderful thing about Peak Fitness is that you can do it using different cardio equipment. My favorites are the recumbent bike and the elliptical machine.
If you do not have access to any cardio equipment, you can do high-intensity exercises by walking or running on flat ground, or even swimming. However, make sure you stretch properly and start slowly to avoid injury.
Sprinting is one way you can do Peak Fitness, but I only recommend it for individuals who are ready to venture into a more challenging, high-intensity workout.
Remember, sprinting is NOT for everyone. In fact, I advise against it unless you are in phenomenal shape and have special training in sprinting. I know several people who became injured after trying sprinting as their foray into high-intensity interval training.
I also do not recommend sprinting on a treadmill, because it is very risky. Getting the treadmill up to speed takes time, and if you become exhausted, you can fall or get flung off the machine, leading to injury. If you want to try sprinting, I recommend doing it outdoors.
Doing warm-ups is very important before sprinting. In fact, I ended up tearing one of my hamstring muscles many years ago when I failed to follow this advice.
I advise you to do active isolated stretches (AIS) as your sprinting warm-up. The stretches include:
Phil's technique is called Sprint 8 because if you graph your heart rate, you will see that it peaks eight times during the workout.
It's very important to monitor your heart to help optimize your workout. Most recumbent bikes and elliptical machines have timers, and even have heart rate monitors you can connect to. But if you're doing Peak Fitness outdoors without access to these equipment, you will not be able to measure your time and heart rate.
I strongly advise you to invest in a heart rate monitor to make sure your intensity is on target. If you are able to exceed your calculative maximum heart rate (220 minus your age) by five or 10 beats, then you know you have trained.
Accuracy is very important to the success of your Peak Fitness exercises. There is a very large difference between 166 and 168 beats per minute, and you cannot calculate that manually. You need to be really accurate within a few beats per minute to ensure optimal results – this is what the heart rate monitor is for.
An electronic chest strap heart rate monitor is your best option, because it is very accurate.
Don't be alarmed if you feel lightheaded and/or very short of breath when you've reached your maximum heart rate. In about 30 to 60 seconds, your body will catch up, and you'll be back to normal.
I want to point out that even though Peak Fitness is a crucial element of any exercise training program, it should NOT be done on a daily basis because your body needs more time to heal in between sessions.
Phil Campbell says fast muscle fibers require at least 48 hours to truly heal and recover. "Sprint 8 is one of these programs that you really don't want to do every day. We recommend three times a week," he says.
It is best to stick to just two or three Peak Fitness workouts every week. Not only will this allow you to better work your fast and super-fast muscle fibers, but it also helps increase your growth hormone with each session.
The two to three-hour recovery phase after your intense Peak Fitness routine is very important. During this time frame, you must be very careful in choosing the foods you eat. If you aren't careful, then you could suppress the stimulus and you won't get the growth hormone benefits.
In order to promote HGH release, you must restrict your carbohydrates and sugar consumption after exercise. This will help prevent the production of the hormone somatostatin, which inhibits the production of human growth hormone.
There is a very small group of professional athletes who do not consider increasing their growth hormone a primary goal in their fitness plan. For these people, carb consumption (preferably dextrose-based) during the recovery period is recommended to help improve their recovery time, as they are competing and are not highly concerned about long-term growth hormone levels.
However, if you're part of the majority whose primary purpose is to increase your human growth level naturally and improve your health, then you need to restrict your sugar and carb consumption after workout.
The most common sugar traps that many exercisers fall for are fruit juices and commercial sports drinks, which are loaded with large amounts of sugar in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Avoid these products at all costs!
Although the benefits that Peak Fitness exercises are unparalleled, you still need a comprehensive approach to exercise.
Ideally, you have to include a variety of exercises in your routine. By switching it up and avoiding doing the same exercises all the time, your body will get the variety of stresses it needs to continuously adapt, improve, and grow stronger.
In addition to Sprint 8, here are other exercise routines to add to your Peak Fitness regimen for you to have a truly comprehensive fitness plan:
As I've always stressed, it's very important for you to listen to your body. Start with a few intervals and slowly increase your intensity as you go along.
You can also adjust and change the cardio equipment you use. Start with a recumbent bike or an elliptical. When you feel ready for a more challenging Peak Fitness workout, try sprinting outdoors.
You should also learn how to adjust and set your fitness goals. By doing this, you will come up with a feasible workout strategy that will provide you with the most efficient and effective benefits.
Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola
Sources and References: