Health Education

Training Variables: Speed and Time

Our bodies are hardwired for stimulus, it’s how we learn!  Activities, sports, and exercise create hundreds of combinations of input for our muscles and brains to coordinate.  Learn how to appreciate changes in speed and time (duration) during your exercise choices to maximize long term benefit.

A baseball player waits patiently at the plate for a pitch, makes contact with the ball, then has to run at an all out speed.  Then the player may speed up or slow down depending on whether or not he can make it to second base.  Reading situations, calculating chance of success, and assessing the energy demand are all components involved.  Our brains and muscles must work together to provide the right speed to get the job done.

Speed changes are an integral part of all activities.  Our neuromuscular system is essentially the nerves and muscles working together, linking our brains and our bodies.  If we don’t use neuromuscular pathways often, we lose optimal function over time.  By not practicing changes in speed when we walk, run, or exercise we leave ourselves at risk of injury when we need to change speeds.  A pickup game of basketball, weekend tennis, or the family Thanksgiving football game can all be hamstring strains waiting to happen.

Duration of movement is another key exercise variable.  Stamina and strength are relative to how long you can perform for.  Our bodies work best when getting several hours of movement and exercise over the course of the day.  That could be walking for an hour, running for 20 minutes, cleaning the house for 15 minutes, and getting in 10 minutes of pushups and squats.  Studies consistently show that more movement results in healthier muscles, joints, bones, minds, and weight.

Marathon runners better prepare for their big day but running for hours at a time.  A tennis match could last an hour, but has many 20 second sprints spread throughout.  Giving thought to duration as an interchangeable variable opens up a lot of doors for your exercise routine, especially if you are short on time.  Think about your fitness goals and what’s important to you.  Most activities require some combination of cardiovascular stamina, strength, and flexibility so divide your time between the three.  If you want to play tennis for an hour, or golf for three hours, your fitness plan needs to have you ready for that.

Making some simple acknowledgements and adjustments to your routine can have a tremendous impact.  Keep your mind and body connected, active, and dynamic by mixing up speeds and duration in an appropriate fashion.  Here’s some suggestions:

  • Change speeds when you walk or add in the occasional sprint.
  • Dedicate a fitness routine to “speed training”, where your focus for the day is an increased tempo for your lunges, squats, and exercise choices.
  • If you’re going to participate in an activity that requires speed, you better warm up with some speed!
  • Switch up the length of time you do exercises for.  It doesn’t have to be the same hour every single time.
  • Take notice of what time frames you’re comfortable and work on increasing your stamina.
Sean Fitzpatrick

Author Sean Fitzpatrick

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