Part 2: Intensity
Last week we Initiated our dissection of the FITT principle by talking about Frequency of exercise for Aviators.
The next chapter of the FITT principle has to do with how “hard” you work during exercise. Of course , we feel so exhausted after a flight that we do not want to hear the word “HARD”. Having your head spinning from the constant aircraft vibration, turbulence noise, sore feet and legs, lower back pain that has become chronic, only leads us to these thoughts: bath, couch, bed, pizza, ready-meal lasagna, big mac, relaxing, silence, wine, sweet treats. Again, we are talking about the ACSM ( American College of Sport Medicine)guidelines, which I have enormous respect for.
Let’s remind ourselves, we are not the general population and when we say that we are tired we are actually “fatigued”!
We talk about the deeper symptoms of our specific work condition. It is NOT just a word commonly used to describe when you are simply tired or a little worked-out. It is not one feeling alone, but a series of many diverse feelings at both “mind and body” level.
Fatigue is the continuous accumulation of sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, early starts and late finishes, cabin pressure, noise pollution, dehydration, oxygen starvation, stress, and much more….( i.e CRM & Human Risks Factors in Aviation)
These are the daily environmental “normalities” for Aviators. Expecting to work hard in the gym on top of fatigue can be realistically ‘a killer’ for an Aviator. Add also that some of us are coming back to a family that needs your full attention and love, and sometimes it is not always a welcoming environment to return to, if there are financial or relationship issues.
Let’s then stop thinking how “hard” we need to exercise( which can be mentally detrimental if we are exhausted) in terms of gaining more energy in the long term, but simply how much we “feel” our body wants us to be “intense”.Remember, our goal is to improve energy and reduce the symptoms of fatigue in Aviation, not to win a power lifting competition! Not yet at least!
This require the human ability to truly listen to yourself and not let the media or fake advert, influence our mind, thoughts and perception regard our reality as Aviators. Our Intensity as Pilots & CCM, will differ from the general public, depending on; late or early shift – day 1 or day 5 – long or short haul, being a Pilot or Cabin Crew( seating v standing), age and length of time working in the Aviation Industry.
For cardio: by “ACMS”, we usually monitor intensity by heart rate, perceived exertion, the Talk Test, a heart rate monitor or a combination of them. “WHAAAAAT?? Too complicated ? ”
The general recommendation is to work at a moderate intensity for steady state workouts. That’s good for us! But, if you’re doing something like interval training (which is an advanced method of training) I would recommend about once or twice a week, you’ll work at a high intensity for a shorter period of time. It’s a good idea to have a mixture of low, medium, and high intensity cardio, so that you stimulate different energy systems( the way we use energy at diverse level) and avoid “overtraining”.However, we will hardly overtrain and all we want is to feel the sense of being out of the fuselage and the post-feeling of mellow, happy de-stress that only physical exercise can give us!
For strength training: Monitoring the intensity of strength training ( weights, TRX, resistance bands etc..) involves a different set of parameters. Your intensity is made up of the exercises you do, the amount of weight you lift and the number of reps and sets you do. The intensity can change based on how you’re training – and I would add how fatigued you feel deep down. The general idea is to lift enough weight so that you can only complete the number of reps you’ve chosen. However, if your goal is to lose weight or build endurance, you might lift lighter weights for more reps. Remember that lifting heavy weights doesn’t mean you are activating your muscle properly. Using small weights and proper activation of muscles is our aim to become stronger, leaner and increase energy level.
Once again only Aviators understand Aviators!
My real life experience as an Aviator, CRM Instructor and education in the fitness Industry helped me to formulate some real responses.
Early morning shift long day: Once at home, eat a light meal. Choose between 15-20 minutes outdoor moderate pace walk, or an in-house 3-sets of 1 minute planks. 3-sets x 15 reps of shoulder bridges alternated.
Early morning shift short day: 30-minutes in the gym if you can, focusing on lower back strength, core exercises, muscle activation and some cardio at moderate pace.
Late shift long day: get up and have your coffee. Push-ups half way or full way – as many as you can get. Let’s start with 3-sets x 12 reps for the boys and 3-sets of 6 reps for the girls. Crunch as much as you feel, let’s start with 3-sets x 15 reps for boys and girls. You will build strength!! Trust me!
Late shift short day: If your shift allows – the gym, 30-minutes of over all-body muscle activation, or at home you can repeat the push-up switching to press-ups and lateral abdominal work-out.
All we are doing is to wake-up our muscles and tendons by creating activation and let the blood circulate. The intensity should be decided only by your level of fitness and working hours.Most important thing is to do something 3-days during your working week, and use a higher intensity and a more substantial work-out during 1 or 2 of your rest days.
Let’s create our path to decrease fatigue by tuning-in with our own intensity!!