Low vs. High Intensity Workout Benefits

On our recent hiking trip to Oregon I was reminded of the difference between challenging elevation gains in a short distance vs. challenging distance walks with not much elevation change.  On 3 days  of our trip we got killer workouts on trails that climbed up very quickly. 

Day 1 on Heceta Head trail from the highway that climbed 600ft. in 1.3 miles.  Day 2 on the St. Perpetua trail from the visitor center to the beach overlook then to the beach and back an 803 ft. climb in under 2 miles. 

Day 5 we tackled Garfield Peak trail at Crater Lake National Park a trail that climbs relentlessly 1115 ft. in 1.75 miles.  The average time for fit hikers on that trail is 2-3 hours.  We did it in under 2 hour and managed to get some yoga up there too!  These higher elevation hikes were also paired with additional warmup and cool down hikes.  Our vacations are all about hiking!

High Intensity Workout Benefits far outnumber the grueling time consuming marathon grind...

Then on the other days we hiked much longer trails with virtually no elevation gain.  The difference between high elevation days and little to no elevation days became most apparent when we walked 13.2 miles our last full day with only a very short break which is just slightly longer than a half marathon.   We managed to do that in under 3 hours.  Compared to the fastest half marathon record holder at 58 min. 23 sec. that isn't too bad but it felt awful afterwards!  

Here are the main differences between the two types of hikes:

Short High Elevation Hikes:

  • Felt super intense but fun
  • Experienced little to no fatigue during the workout
  • Felt a decrease in appetite
  • Felt energized at the end for yoga or more hiking
  • Experienced what felt like endurance gains overnight
  • Felt like we kicked ass and were ready to kick more ass
  • Had more time to see and do a lot more 

Long Low to No Elevation Hikes:

  • Felt easy at first but got more grueling each miles after the half way 
  • Increased appetite like crazy
  • Felt exhausted at the end of the day and next day
  • Experienced inflammation and what felt like stress fractures on feet
  • Did not feel anywhere near as rewarding
  • No time or energy to go do and see more 

Low intensity workouts vs. high intensity benefits and how it compares to marathon gym sessions vs metcon

There are countless research studies that explain how short intensity training is better for fat burning and endurance gains and how it boosts metabolism and even has anti aging effects

A great high intensity workout benefits article to read is here but an even easier to understand example is you on a 0 incline treadmill at the gym going 3.2 miles per hour for 3 hours vs. you on an 10 incline treadmill going 3.2 miles per hour for 30 min.  Try it out and see for yourself how that feels.  No thank you?   Yeah I thought so. 

The reality is that nobody has time for a 3 hour workout that leaves you hungry, exhausted, in pain and disappointed.  The truth is we all want the results and rewards of the high elevation hike which is exactly what you get when you do quick intense workouts like bodycon metcon

So the point of this blog post is that if you have time and you enjoy spending hours on grueling workouts that tear down your body considerably then do it because you love it and find ways to take care of your body to avoid injury.

I do enjoy an occasional 13 mile walk even if my feet feel broken afterwards. I swam in very cold pool, iced my hips and stretched forever after this day by the way.  But if what you want is a leaner fitter body faster that doesn't break down as easily then stick with the higher intensity quick workouts like all the bodycon style metcon circuits in YBFF plans.