Polyphasic Exercise

November 30th, 2005 by Steve Pavlina

Since polyphasic sleep has given me an abundance of extra free time each day, I’ve decided to devote some of that time to improving my fitness. I’ve been exercising regularly for over 15 years now (with some off periods never lasting more than a few months), but my focus has been almost entirely on aerobic and endurance training, especially distance running. Now that I have all this extra time, I’m working to put together a more balanced routine that covers aerobic fitness, endurance, strength, and flexibility.

Since I can exercise any time of day or night, I’m trying to design a polyphasic method of exercising that fits well with my new sleep pattern. I’d rather spread several smaller workouts throughout each 24-hour period instead of doing a longer workout once a day. Right now I’m aiming for five separate exercise periods in each 24-hour period: two periods each day for aerobic exercise (running, biking, stationary bike), two for strength training (weight training, calisthenics), and one for flexibility (yoga, stretching). Technically there’s a 6th period too (since I normally have six sleep-waking cycles in each 24-hour period), but I plan to use that one for meditation/relaxation. On weekends I may also do distance runs from time to time.

Aerobic Fitness

This area has always been my primary exercise focus. I started running at age 19 and have been hooked on it ever since. I’ve also done some biking and aerobics, but I still prefer running because it gives me a more intense workout (you can’t coast on feet). I don’t enjoy running in Las Vegas as much as I did in L.A. because of the temperature extremes, so when it’s either 35 degrees or 90 degrees at 5am (my preferred running time), I stay inside and do the stationary bike instead. Several years ago I used to live in Marina del Rey and would go running along the beach in Venice and Santa Monica, which was perfect any time of year. That was always a beautiful place to run, especially during sunrise or sunset.

Right now I just want to maintain my level fitness in this area. I wouldn’t mind pushing myself to get a bit faster, but it’s not that big a deal to me. The most important thing to me is to maintain abundant physical and mental energy around the clock. I always feel great after an 30-minute run, so I’m going to see what it’s like to exercise aerobically twice a day instead of just once.

Endurance

I haven’t pushed myself in the endurance area since doing the L.A. marathon in 2000, but I can still crank out a 10-mile run without difficulty. Usually I just run 3-5 miles now. I remember when doing marathon training I’d be running 10-12 hours per week. That can get rather monotonous unless you run with other people or have a very scenic place to run. I found that listening to audio programs or music would make long runs seem to go faster.

I’m happy to simply maintain my current level of endurance. I’m not interested in doing another marathon, as it takes a tremendous time commitment, and I honestly didn’t find it all that exciting. To be able to run farther than 10 miles doesn’t really do much for me anymore.

Flexibility

This has always been my weakest area. I’ve never been particularly flexible, even when I was training in Tae Kwon Do. Even so, this is one of the areas where I wish to continue developing.

Something important that’s related to flexibility is proper posture and body alignment. If you’ve never read The Egoscue Method of Health Through Motion, then you probably aren’t even aware of this area. I highly recommend this book, as does Tony Robbins, who benefitted greatly from this work when he was recovering from a car accident. Egoscue teaches simple non-strenuous exercises to improve posture and body alignment such that you stand up straight and tall in a way that eliminates joint pain and other structural maladies. Most people who work sedentary jobs really need these exercises because their bodies have become misaligned from being held in unnatural positions for too long. I would sometimes get knee pain while running more than 10 miles, but it goes away when I do the Egoscue exercises for a few weeks to restore proper alignment in my hips (which is what causes one of my legs to rotate slightly and create the knee pain).

Yoga is a great way to restore structural alignment and improve flexibility at the same time. I’m nowhere close to being skilled at yoga, but I do find it relaxing and restorative. I started learning yoga several years ago with video tapes and DVDs, but now I have a memorized routine I go through in about 20-30 minutes.

In order to improve my flexibility and structural alignment, I’m going to keep doing yoga each day and combine it with some extra Egoscue exercises. I had an X-ray exam done by a chiropractor early this year and verified that my spine has flattened out a bit, and Egoscue’s book has exercises to remedy this problem. These are the kinds of problems that won’t hurt me much at age 34, but if uncorrected for too long, I’ll be in trouble at age 84.

Strength Training

I’ve done some weight training at various times over the past decade, but it’s never been a huge focus of mine. When training in martial arts, I did lot of calisthenics (push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, etc). Today I can only do about 20 push-ups, so this is an area where I have plenty of room to improve.

In 2002 I worked with a personal trainer for several months and gained about 10 pounds of muscle, but I’ve really only done maintenance strength training since then and haven’t tried to become any stronger.

I know there are plenty of muscle-headed minions who think you can’t gain muscle on a vegan diet. Ignorance is bliss I suppose. How many of those meatheads have personally done any amount strength training while following a strictly vegan diet to see what their results would be? Pretty close to none I’d imagine. All talk and no action means that advertisers have free reign to fill your head will false thoughts like these, the kind that empty your wallets in order to fill your cupboards with useless powders and bars made from toxic animal byproducts that are illegal to dump into sewers. The last time I checked, all of the major muscle magazines were owned by supplement manufacturers.

The idea that you must consume animal protein to build muscle is of course nonsense. The strongest land animals on the planet are herbivores, and the evidence suggests that plant protein is more efficiently used to build muscle than animal protein. A vegan silverback gorilla can rip you in half without breaking a sweat. There are some vegan bodybuilders here and there, but you won’t find many of them just by looking around because vegans amount to way less than 1% of the general population, so they’re rare because vegans are rare. Chances are that if you look around your gym, not one person there will be a vegan. Jack LaLanne is perhaps the most well-known vegan who was into bodybuilding. Unfortunately even many vegans are brainwashed into thinking that strength training requires animal protein. The long arm of marketing…

Strength training hasn’t been a top priority for me, but I think this would be a good area to develop myself. I certainly got a lot stronger when I worked at it with a trainer. I’ve done so much on the aerobic/endurance side that it would be nice to do more strength training if for no other reason than to have more workout variety.

Putting it All Together

My goal is to develop a balanced routine that encompasses these four areas. I’ve got the first three already worked out, but haven’t yet figured out what kind of routine to assemble for strength training. While I can run or bike or do the same yoga workout every session, I can’t hit all the major muscle groups in just one 30 minute session, nor would I want to, as it would lead to overtraining. So I have to figure out how to intelligently hit all these groups while allowing enough time to rest each set of muscles. It may take a bit of experimentation to figure out how to divide these 14 weekly strength training sessions between my chest, arms, back, legs, shoulders, abs, etc. While 7 hours per week of strength training won’t turn me into Mr. Olympia, it should produce decent results within a year or two.

I have a very basic home gym and some free weights, but I think initially I’ll start with mostly calisthenics. I prefer working out in a way that doesn’t require elaborate equipment or a gym membership.

I’m curious to see how this polyphasic exercise routine works out. Perhaps somewhere down the road, I’ll report back on how I’m doing. I’ve only been at it for a couple days so far, and I already like how it fits my new sleeping pattern.


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