-back to similarminds.com &npsb&npsb&npsb &npsb&npsb&npsb&npsb&npsb&npsb &npsb&npsb&npsb [archive]  

Personality Research articles on personality


The Altus Regime


The last year of college when I was thinking about what to do in the future, it occurred to me that being an unreliably happy low energy person, I wasn't going to ever really enjoy life that much until I figured that out, solved that problem. Eventually, I found running every day made me reliably happy and productive and I had a good ten years until that stopped working. I couldn't run as far, started having chronic injuries, started becoming less happy, less productive. Was I exercising too much, too little, I wasn't sure. I became interested in figuring out reliable indicators of undertraining vs. overtraining (the scientific research on which is still very unclear). I've also always enjoyed drinking, smoking, and occasional recreational drug use. I always found it interesting that some very healthy people seemed to engage in those activities to excess for many years without health repercussions. Sigmund Freud was an unproductive depressive until discovering cocaine and relied on it for at least twelve years (source). Certainly, some people have serious consequences from chemical abuse/addiction. But the reality is many people utilize drugs of many different kinds (antidepressants for the depressed, amphetamines for the ADD/ADHD, caffeine, etc.) to enable them to live functional lives or just to better enjoy/experience life. In fact there has been some notable progress on an exercise pill that would provide the same benefits of exercise.

This got me on to the idea of the utility of physical and chemical exercise. Drugs act on the body, stimulating, causing changes in functioning, not entirely unlike physical exercise acts on, stimulates, causes changes in the functioning of the body. Certain types of exercise, in certain doses can cause alternately better health, injury, or even death in the moment or over the long term just as certain types of chemicals in certain doses can cause better health, injury, or even death in the moment or over the long term. The art of physical health is the selection of the right type of stimulant and the right dose, consistently, avoiding under stimulation or over stimulation, undertraining or overtraining. While I think physical exercise is the healthiest and safest type of stimulation, and should be the primary means of maintaining health, I think chemical exercise can be used as well supplementally, to maintain health, to enjoy life.

The human body has two energy systems, aerobic (endurance; low intensity) and anaerobic (strength/speed; high intensity). Activities like walking, hiking, light jogging, housework fall more under aerobic activity, whereas activities like short distance sprinting (100m, 200m) and heavy lifting far more under anaerobic activity. Somewhere between 400m and 800m sprint distances (probably about 525m) appears to be the sweet spot of aerobic and anaerobic system balance (source). If you look up youtube videos of athletes that run below or above that you will see the different body types that a more anaerobic or aerobic fitness bias will yield. (In fact, untrained athletes have more anaerobic power than long distance runners). Of course the physiological response of 525m in a trained athlete is likely different from that of an untrained one.

For example, the anaerobic response in untrained athletes to a 1500m run is about ten percent greater. Another research study concluded 75 seconds of all out sprinting is the best balance of aerobic and anaerobic energy systems (source). Coincidentally, an elite athlete's 525m sprint time will be around 75 seconds. However, the vast majority of the population is much slower. This prompts the question if you are looking to design an optimally balanced aerobic/anaerobic workout and are not an elite athlete, do you do 525m sprint repeats, 75 second sprint repeats, or something in between? Since untrained runners use more anaerobic energy travelling the same distance as trained runners, I'm inclined to select 500m-ish interval lengths as 75 second duration intervals will be too short (distance-wise) and thus too anaerobic heavy.

In the absence of more definitive research/answers, selecting the right exercise amount, frequency, and type (aerobic or anaerobic) gets back to the art of physical health question. And like all art, that means you are left to experiment for answers. Beyond picking the right training distance/duration, you have to determine the right training frequency, rest time. The most objective measure of training effectiveness is speed and volume. If your exercise volume and/or speed don't increase, or if they decrease, then it's more likely you are overtraining.

Some people can only do an intense exercise session every few days, and some elite athletes can do two or more intense sessions per day. But whatever your intense exercise dosage, it's important to get a lot of active recovery, i.e. light exercise (walking, hiking, etc.) the rest of the time as that helps aid / speed tissue repair.

Beyond that, I've also experimented with various physical markers (like the feeling of soreness in specific parts of the body, however minor) in an attempt to find a reliable, observable real time undertraining/overtraining metric. My current metric is soreness in both foot pads at rest or soreness in both footpads and both heels while active. If I have dual foot pad soreness at rest, I take it easy (rest/recovery mode), otherwise I stay active until I have dual footpad and dual heel soreness.

So, my current regime...

One major exercise session every day, either aerobic (slower static recovery run) or more anaerobic (.3 mile speed intervals with .1 mile recovery breaks in between). I found a study that saw more benefit to putting aerobic and anaerobic exercise on different days (i.e. daily exercise sessions of either aerobic or anaerobic vs doing both every other day) (source).
Additionally, I do recovery walks/activity till I have dual footpad and dual heel soreness whenever I don't have dual footpad soreness at rest.

It took me a long time to learn the importance of sufficient rest, active recovery, and utilizing performance improvement or decline to adjust exercise frequency. Everyone is different, and your body's ability to repair can adjust as your fitness improves. Obviously, it's best for people to find and adjust to a rest period frequency system that consistently results in performance improvements (and that may be different from what's typically recommended). I also think that will vary over the long term so I think it's important to experiment finding the sweet spot in the exercise frequency options below and then occasionally move up or down from that once you find one that works. Follow the wrong one and you will waste your time overtraining or undertraining.

As to why strength training exercise is not enough, HRV (heart rate variability) and also VO2 max, which are both predictive of mortality, improve more with cardiovascular training (source). Strength (anaerobic) training still has value as it improves aerobic capacity via better efficiency (source). However, I think that an HIIT approach to training (alternating between high effort and low effort) may effectively develop both anaerobic/strength and aerobic/endurance capacities in one exercise (source). To point out the obvious, the less in shape you are the less you can do high intensity exercise and the more you should rely on a higher percentage of low intensity exercise. However, it is best to engage in hard and easy exercise. The former conditions your anaerobic/strength system more, the latter conditions your aerobic/endurance system. Following only a high, medium, or low intensity exercise approach leaves you less or undeveloped across one of your systems, and also more likely to overtrain in the one system you favor (often to that system's detriment). If you are were only going to do one type of exercise, then aerobic exercise is best, but people who do aerobic and anaerobic exercise are the healthiest / have the lowest rate of death (source).



Recent Articles