Exercise Mythbusters for Vistage CEOs

Motivation / 09.03.20160 comments

I meet with over 70 CEOs, Business owners, and executives every month in the four Vistage CEO private advisory boards I lead.  Most of the CEOs in my groups understand the importance of regular exercise for keeping them at the top of their games, however, a majority of them, including myself, have bought into several myths about how to exercise.  Many CEOS made New Year’s resolutions about improving their health, but like most of us, have fallen off of their good intentions 30 days into the new year.  Some of the CEOS who have been successful in developing a discipline of exercising daily don’t realize that they are wasting a lot of precious time due to fitness myths, and they are being counterproductive in their efforts.

images_people_luke_2Luke Carlson is a Vistage member and speaker, exercise physiologist, former NFL strength coach, competitive marathoner, and one of the most respected experts in evidence based resistance exercise. Luke recently met with my Vistage groups to help us dispel some fitness myths and design an intelligent exercise program that would require no more than two 30-minute exercise sessions a week.  I have worked with Luke to outline a few of the most dangerous myths below.

Myth 1.  “Cardio” is the key to weight loss.

Mythbuster 1.  If your goal is weight loss, the most effective approach is always a combination of improving your eating habits and then recharging your metabolism by increasing muscle mass via strength training.

Go to any health club and you will see scores of people laboring on treadmills, elliptical machines, and spin bikes.  Ask them what their goal or objective is and they will tell you that they are trying to burn calories or lose weight.  What they fail to understand is that while they are burning more calories during the one-hour that they are exercising, their body is actually burning fewer calories for the remaining 23 hours of the day following their workout.  The reason?  After we perform a bout of cardio or aerobic exercise, the number of calories we burn the remainder of the day, known as Energy Expenditure due to Physical Activity or simply “EEPA” decreases.  Stated otherwise, after we perform a bout of cardio, we find a way, both consciously and subconsciously to be less active and expend less calories the rest of the day.  In controlled experiments, subjects who exercise 60-minutes per day expend no more calories at the end of the day compared with subjects who perform no cardio whatsoever.

1b5461aDon’t believe it?  Here is another factoid: People who train for and then run a marathon (often with a hidden intent to lose weight), despite hundreds of hours of running (and literally tens of thousands of calories expended), on average, end up weighing the same or more on the day of the marathon compared to before they started their training.  Additionally, they fail to improve their body fat percentage.  This is in no way denigrating cardio. Instead, we simply need to understand that cardio isn’t very effective for weight loss; the primary benefit of cardio is improving your cardiovascular system and health, as its name suggests.

Myth 2. The best way to increase muscle mass and muscle strength is by strength training several times a week.

Mythbuster 2  Doing resistance training more than twice a week will generally slow your results, and for most executives, you will get 85% of the benefit doing resistance training only once per week.

We reap the many benefits of strength training not during the training session itself, but during the recovery from the training session.  The training session should be viewed as the stimulus, and in order to respond to the stimulus, we need to make sure we provide adequate rest and recovery.  As Luke explained, building strength is similar to building a callus.  If you rub a spot on the back of your hand with a piece of sandpaper every few days, you will soon build up a callus (the callus is a response to a stimulus).  If you were to rub your hand too frequently, you will gain a blister rather than a callus.  It is often our fervor for producing better results that impedes our progress.  With strength training, less is more.

images_images_services107Myth 3. The best way to increase your strength is to perform three sets for each exercise.

Mythbuster 3. One properly performed set of each exercise will stimulate all of the health and muscle building benefits of strength training.

Muscles can’t count, so it doesn’t matter if you end up with 7 reps or 17 reps; instead, focus on continuing each set to the point of “momentary muscle failure”; the point where another perfect rep can’t be performed. The main focus should be to lift and lower the weight slowly, thus eliminating momentum.  This makes the exercise more effective as it maximizes the tension on your muscles while also making the exercise safe because the forces your joints are exposed to are minimized.


Luke Carlson’s exercise prescription for the busy executive:

  • Strength train once or at most twice per week, with each workout consisting of one set of 8-12 exercises done to momentary mujscle failure and lasting approximately 30 minutes.
  • Strength train once or at most twice per week, with each workout consisting of one set of 8-12 exercises done to momentary mujscle failure and lasting approximately 30 minutes.
  • Perform one to two high intensity interval cardio training sessions per week, with each session lasting 30 minutes. You can walk/run or use an elliptical, bike or treadmill.  Warm up for 5 minutes and then do 10 two minute intervals where you exercise as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then rest for 90 seconds.  As your conditioning improves, exercise as hard as you can for 1 minute and then rest for 1 minute.  The key to improving over time is to keep increasing the intensity of your workouts by increasing your speed, the incline of your treadmill, or the resistance of your elliptical.   Finish off your workout with 5 minutes of light exercise or cool down
  • Lead an active lifestyle and do activities you enjoy and consider leisure rather than “working out.” It can be biking, walking, golfing, or playing with the kids.  The key is that it shouldn’t feel like a chore.  If you love to run or jog, do it.
  • This total time commitment of 1-2 hours of focused, intense exercise per week and an active lifestyle will maximize fitness, stimulate a myriad of health benefits, and bolster an executive’s performance.

Luke’s Mythbusters have inspired myself and eight of my Vistage members and several of their spouses to try out his methodology at the Discover Strength gym. We have been pleased with the results thus far and we are spending the extra time previously devoted to the treadmill with our families and friends.

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