"Faster!!!" he commanded.
"I can't..." she said.
"YOU CAN! Faster!" he bellowed.
She breathed heavily as every muscle in her body seemed to clench and quiver, obeying his commands, and the strange mix of pleasure and dread awed her.
"C'mon now, all you've got." She bit her lip and let loose, shocked that she was able to maintain the rhythm, surprised that her body was able to withstand the actions. The sweat rolled into her eyes, covered her shoulders and chest, and she let out a sigh allowing everything to come into focus when he smiled and said, OK, that's it."
He is a personal trainer. She is a client going through the A.L.I.V.E. program, a protocol I developed that serves to bridge the gap between therapeutic fitness and medicine. The protocol has allowed me to make the statement in front of groups of educators, trainers and medical professionals: Personal trainers can cure dis-ease.
No, he never violated the rules of morality. No, he didn't do anything illegal or even unethical. He didn't torture her, abuse her or go anywhere near an interaction that might be viewed as sexual. He helped her reverse inflammation. He helped her recover. He helped her send fat into the bloodstream to be burned. He coached her, guided her, pushed her as necessary and gave her genuine response-ability for her outcome.
A.L.I.V.E. is a comprehensive program that combines elements of science with foundational precepts of exercise physiology, and I daresay it challenges mainstream medicine in its ability to reverse (not just prevent, but reverse) the onset of the most diagnosed conditions of the 21st century.
It would be futile to attempt to provide even an overview of the eight-week protocol in a single article, so I'll share a piece of it, a small but unconventional piece that allows me to tell clients that even if they've been on an aerobic exercise binge, they need not do more than six minutes of cardio each day if they seek measurable betterment.
No, that wasn't a typo, and it isn't a mistruth.
I, like you, learned early in my career the acronym FIT, the parameters for effective aerobic exercise. It had to be performed with a Frequency of at least three times per week. Intensity is determined by heart rate. The exercise sessions had to elevate the heart rate into a range somewhere between 60% and 85% of age estimated maximum heart rate.
Here's the question that plagues most trainers: Why do we see often people who have excessive body fat mastering the most challenging aerobic and step classes without finding leanness?The easy answer is, they aren't eating right," or they're catabolizing muscle by doing too much aerobic exercise." There's also, they aren't doing resistance exercise."
All of those responses may be legit, but they fail to offer a genuine solution. Questions loom such as how much should they eat," what is considered excessive" and where's the ideal aerobic/anaerobic balance?"
Let's put things into perspective. The answers to those questions lie with examination of the individuals considering factors such as genetics, lifestyle, total stress load, recovery, sleep habits, metabolism, appetite and food preferences. To make an assumption that eating more, lifting weights and adding resistance is going to be a solution is the best generalized assumption we can make, but far from perfect.
Suppose you could back everyone off on their aerobic exercise, bring it down to a minimum duration, compensate with intensity and ensure that the total contribution to load is safely conservative. That's the beauty of the aerobic component of the A.L.I.V.E. protocol.
There are 24 seconds of aerobic exercise that do the trick. Twenty-four seconds of movement that stimulates fat release and increases in VO2 max through increases in stroke volume, contractile power and cardiorespiratory efficiency.
Don't misunderstand. You cannot take someone who does 45 minutes of aerobic exercise daily, back them off to 24 seconds, and expect to see change. The 24 seconds is strategically housed in a six-minute session. The theory evolved from new discoveries in the realm of the Flight or Flight Phenomenon.
The Fight-or-Flight belief decades ago was as follows: Sudden activity of the adrenals allows an organism greater immediate access to glucose, fat, and phosphagens for a surge of power, strength or speed. The old thinking was, you're prepared to make a choice, run or fight.
More recently scientists have learned it isn't that simple. There are four stages that may all take place in a matter of seconds. The first is Freeze," where the skeletal muscles literally stop motion and the senses are heightened (think deer in headlights). That allows you to determine whether there is danger. If, in fact, danger is sensed, you shift into the Flight state, where your sympathetic nervous system elevates heart rate and hormonal messengers provide greater access to fat and glucose by prompting release of the catetcholamines, adrenaline (and noradrenaline) and epinephrine (and norepenephrine). If there isn't an opening allowing you to flee, you shift info the Fight state. In this state, cellular substrate genesis ensures that you have greater abundance of creatine phosphate and ATP to allow for an uncharacteristically powerful strength effort. The final phase is Fright (think mouse captured by cat) where the body goes limp, perhaps offering a chance to run.
Following the process, assuming you do actually run or fight, the parasympathetic recovery system coaxes the 11 bodily systems to work together to produce healing compounds that allow for enhanced recovery (failure to provide a release for the molecular adrenal compounds is detrimental, but that's an entirely different article).
Here's the exciting conclusion. If we can simulate the Fight or Flight process, we can kick up sudden release of catecholamines allowing for greater access to stored fuel (including fat). If we take the body through a ramp up and recovery before and after the adrenaline-stimulating episode(s), we can enhance recovery.
The science gets deep and revealing as you delve further into it. It demonstrates that the parasympathetic nervous system is instrumental in reducing activity of inflammatory cytokines which may result in a reduction in systemic inflammation. Since all diseases have their root in the inflammatory process, this can be significant in trending the unwell back toward health.
So how does the aerobic session work? We begin the client at a modest pace, trying to find a workload that brings them to 60% of age-estimated max and allows for a steady state. At the three-minute mark, we instruct the client to go all-out," a 100% burst (perceived exertion) for 12 seconds. To enhance the experience we get in the client's face and yell, taking on the posture of a marine drill sergeant. It may seem strange at first, but it is fun. The article began with a description of the trainer and client going through the all-out burst process (I know your mind took you somewhere else, but now you understand). At the 4:30 mark, another 12-second burst, and then, recovery. Endorphins go to town in the client's brain and you'll find your client almost giddy after the session.
This brief aerobic commitment allows for a more reasonable food intake to sustain metabolic need, and it also allows for an added resistance session (brief but challenging) prior to the aerobic segment without requiring a burdensome or unrealistic time commitment.
In my Be Better Project, I share the science, and, based on the response I receive from this piece, I may make more of the scientific data accessible to PFP readers. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts.