Vail Daily column: Tips for easy workouts |

Vail Daily column: Tips for easy workouts

Embrace easy workouts. This is a theme that I revisit with students on a regular basis. Why is it that we feel like we must enter the torture chamber every time we hit the pavement, climb the mountain or lift weights in the pursuit of fitness? Last week, I discussed the importance on why we must consider the alternative to bone crushing workouts. Let’s investigate ways to go about taking it easy while increasing fitness along the way.

The simplest advice is to consider taking a week off every four to eight weeks. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys pursuing the mountains, consider flat road rides, downhill only mountain biking, taking short hikes and skiing green cruisers in lieu of traditional harder pursuits that might consume most of your activity. For the gym-goer, cut the amount of weight by 30 percent and continue going through the motions. Or, keep the loads equally high, but cut the reps and sets in half. Your body will thank you for the downtime.

This past spring I was out of town for five days without exercise. I came home to the strongest workout I had all year and set two personal records on two lifts. By the way, you will feel un-productive during the down time. This forces you to come back harder because you may feel fat, lazy or shortsighted while taking it easy. This is a great way to recharge your mental reserves.

From a technical perspective, a great way to improve fitness while dialing back perceived, or literal intensity is to focus on the details.

Last week, my family went camping in celebration of my son’s fourth birthday. After a grand overnight adventure, I was tearing down the tent and I couldn’t find the nylon sack to store away the poles. After looking around for 10 minutes, I gave up and placed the poles in the large compartment with the tent and rain cover. Once I put the contents into the bed of the truck, I found the pole sack in the backseat. In a moment of impatience, I threw the sack into the tent bag and drove off. It really bothered me that the poles weren’t in the sack. The sack was floating around in the tent bag aimlessly. As dramatic as this sounds, and as much of a non-issue this really was, I had to stop the truck and take everything out and put it back the way it was meant to be. If I hadn’t, the pole sack would have likely been lost on the next camping adventure.

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Details matter in everything. Why are you so worried about rushing off to the next minor league exercise to get your heart pumping when you haven’t even stopped to learn, and truly master the basics first? The kettlebell get-up is one of these basic exercises that most people can’t do at all, or they perform very poorly even on their best execution. The scope of this article isn’t about the get-up. Look up this movement and try mastering it. Attempt to own this exercise with a light weight. It won’t punish you into a hot and bothered mess, but you’ll be giving your body a break while using an exceptionally light weight during this difficult task.

Try focusing on doing a few exercises well instead of performing a bunch of non-sense exercises half successfully. Practicing exercises like ring pull-ups, one-arm pushups, kettlebell get-ups and one-legged squats requires attention to detail, and a fatigued state will shipwreck your attempts to successfully complete the movements.

Another great monitoring tool is using a basic ratings of perceived exertion. For example, being chased by an angry moose would likely cause the potential victim to run as fast as possible. Yes, if you stumble across a moose in the wild and it chases you, run fast. If the moose doesn’t kill because you escaped, and your legs are so sore for five days after the fact because the run itself almost killed you, that would constitute an intense effort. Let’s call that a 10. Sitting on the couch is a 1. Your workouts should rarely be harder than a 7 or 8. Most of the time they should be a 4 or 5. If you exercise three day per week, then Day 1 should be an 8, Day 2 a 3, and Day 3 a 5 for example. Once a quarter, cut loose and see what you’re made of.

Finally, remember the best training program is the one you will stick with. If the effort is so largely intense most of the time, you will ultimately break down physically and mentally. Sustainable, compliant fitness programs are what deliver the results over time. Let’s keep talking!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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