Located in Sterling, VA (703) 421-1200

Time is of the Essence

Time is the one commodity that always seems to be in short supply. We always think we have more of it, that the future lies far off in the distance, but then you wake up one day and realize that you are much closer to the end of your life than you are to the beginning. Time is precious, and as we come to grips with the fact that life doesn't last forever, most of us can feel a sense of urgency that we want to be able to make the most out of the time that we have on earth. We want to have meaningful experiences, make a positive impact on others, and do the things in life that we are passionate about. Nothing in life is worse than regret, and if we do not take the initiative to focus on the things in this world that we can control we can find ourselves looking back on our lives with disappointment.

Time is an important factor in exercise, in several ways. Most of us do not have hours each week to spend working out, so an exercise philosophy that involves brief and infrequent workouts is very appealing. Establishing good habits entails implementing a regimen that is not overly time consuming, because a large time commitment will provide an obstacle and excuse for many. It is no surprise that most people who start traditional "gym" workouts with a high frequency and many hours to invest generally flame out pretty quickly. Brief workouts are not only important from a scheduling standpoint, but also from a biological perspective. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is released by the adrenal glands during times of stress and physical activity. If your workout proceeds for too long, too much cortisol is released and can have harmful repercussions. 20 minute, high-intensity sessions will properly stimulate physical improvements while not resulting in excessive cortisol production.

Time under load (TUL) is another way in which time plays a role in exercise. Rather than count and record the number of repetitions that are completed in an exercise, we make note of the total TUL that was achieved. This is advantageous for a couple of reasons. First, counting repetitions is merely a step function. Let's say that you complete six repetitions and get halfway through a seventh before reaching failure. If we merely recorded repetitions you would not credit for the partial repetition that you attempted, but if we record TUL you will get credit for that additional ten to fifteen seconds that you continued to push or pull while your muscles were still under tension. Second, an additional fifteen seconds means more stress for the musculature, which will result in a measurement of progress and a higher quality of stimulus. If we increase our TUL on an exercise compared to a previous workout (assuming standardized form) while using the same weight, we know that we have increased our muscular endurance. Bear in mind, however, that TUL is just one measurement of our progress. Never sacrifice form for an increased TUL.

The amount of time between exercises is important as well. We set up all the machines for your workout in advance for a reason. That is because we want to move as quickly and efficiently between exercises as possible. Minimizing time between exercises is critical for making metabolic and cardiovascular improvements. In order to improve the cardiovascular system, we need to perform quality work with the skeletal muscles, and working to and beyond muscular failure ensures that we have given a maximum effort. However, if we rest between exercises we give our circulatory and metabolic systems a chance to recover, and that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to achieve. Stalling only drags out the workout and shortchanges you of benefit. We don't want you to rush through your workout, but we do want you to be as efficient as possible.

The most important factor in your body's ability to recover and stimulate physical improvements is time. Sure, proper sleep is necessary to aid in tissue repair, and nutrition is critical to have the raw materials and essential fuel, but you can satisfy those requirements while still not giving the body enough time to build upon its previous levels of strength and conditioning. There is an inverse relationship between intensity of effort and the time it takes to recuperate. We want the minimum dosage of exercise that is necessary to stimulate physical improvements, because exercise has a narrow therapeutic window. Too much exercise creates a toxic effect, while not enough exercise provides little benefit. It takes between 48 and 72 hours for the body to replenish glycogen stores (your primary fuel source during intense exercise), which is why our clients exercise no more than twice per week with at least three days between sessions. This is not just something that we can get away with, but rather a physical necessity. You must give the body adequate time to repair itself and not interfere with the process by overexerting yourself between sessions.

As former Navy SEAL Mark Divine notes in his book "The Way of the SEAL", it is important to understand your purpose. Are you truly interested in accomplishing meaningful change, or are you just marking time? Most people spend a lot of time in the gym but perform very little (if any) exercise. There should be a sense of urgency when it comes to your health. The Total Results philosophy saves you time so that you can focus on what is important to you, and every session is an opportunity for tangible improvement. Do not put it off until tomorrow, for we do not know what tomorrow holds or if it will come at all. Start today. Time is of the essence.

Posted June 14, 2024 by Matthew Romans