As enjoyable and invigorating as a good cardio workout can be, it’s often much longer than sprint training or weight training, and they can take their toll on the system, especially for such athletes as long-distance runners and cyclists. However, it’s not just the professional athletes who can benefit from reducing the impact on the body without cutting the workouts short. So what is this magic formula that can keep us exercising safely right into our later years?

Many thousands of years ago the technique of pranayama, or yogic breathing, was formulated to still the mind and relax the body in preparation for long sessions of meditation. These same techniques can be used today for easing into a workout in a blissful, relaxing way so that the heart rate is considerably lowered to allow the body to make less effort for the same amount of activity.

Apart from being a very good tool to make your cardio sessions far more enjoyable, imagine what it can do for your maximum efforts? Did you ever see Miguel Indurain’s heart rate monitor on the handlebars of his bike during the Tour de France one year during the time he ruled the roost, and it read about 90bpm very soon after a huge climb in the Alps? Incredible!

Of course, it was said that Indurain had a resting heart rate of about 28bpm, so he’s a bit of a superman, but imagine being able to lower yours significantly enough to make difference to even your maximum performance levels.

So, where to start?

Dr John Doullard coined the phrase ‘three-phase workout’ for a system he devised to do just this. After determining your Ayurvedic body type and your optimum training heart rate (OTR), the basic idea is to have three phases to your workouts…

1. The resting phase (5-10 mins) where you maintain a minimum effort at least 30bpm below your OTR, focus on your breathing, which should be slow, deep and steady and through your nose at all times! Set a breath rate per minute that will remain constant through the workout in all but maximum efforts.

2. The listening phase (15-20 mins) where you check all bodily systems and work up to your OTR. Maintain nose breathing, and be amazed at how, gradually, you are able to increase your intensity without raising your breathing rate or heart rate. What’s being aimed for is breathing more efficiently and using more of the lungs rather than breathing faster.

3. The performance phase (no time limit) where you carry the coordination of mind and body developed in preceding phases into more vigorous activity. If you are in a race or competition of some sort, this should be coordinated with the start time. Stay as much as possible in the comfort zone and only pull your maximum efforts out of the bag when it’s absolutely necessary. After a while you will be amazed at how much energy we actually waste, and how much can be accomplished with a lower heart rate and perfect form.

So, that’s a very short introduction to the three-phase workout and what’s actually possible. Of course, there’s much more to it, including how to warm up, how to stretch out etc, but these ancient techniques can work absolute wonders in not only prolonging the years in which you can be active by reducing the physical stress of exercise, but actually make you more efficient in the short term. What could be better than that?

To find out more, see my book Pure Activity .




Originally posted 2014-02-10 14:07:09.