Learning to consciously control your body involves understanding, consciously, how it works. If you want to be able to control the amount of muscle tissue that hangs off of your body, say, you need to understand what movements will build the muscles where you want them.
Understanding this in detail means knowing at least a little about how muscle cells metabolise their fuel to stretch and contract. Once you understand that, you can visualise how it works and correlate those imaginary visions with the way your body feels, how it reacts.
You can probably do that by visualising Tai Chi energy, or dragon breath flowing around your limbs, but the Transcendence Institute prefers to use the best available model, the one which illuminates a map which matches as closely as it can our actual physical reality.
Never the less, we don’t have time here to describe a years worth of university lectures on the way muscle cells metabolise various sugars coming from various parts of the body in order to produce the energy needed to feed their contraction reaction.
We only have time to spend a single article giving you the best overall simplified map of the process that we can. Much, therefore, will be missed from our sketch, and of course these things aren’t yet necessarily completely understood at the molecular level.
Types Of Metabolism
In short, though, muscles cells burn different fuels, depending on a range of circumstances, in order to power their patterns of contraction. The muscles in different areas will be using different types of metabolism at any given time, depending on what supplies of the various cellular and intra-cellular molecules are available.
The way your muscle cells, and body in general, responds to the different types of metabolism is important for full conscious body control. When exercising in different ways, your body’s muscles perform in different ways as the rate of excercise changes. Understanding the way your body reacts to these types of excercises will help you change your body, to control it, to learn to listen to it and instruct it how to grow.
You will likely never be able to accurately, objectively, measure which kinds of metabolism are happening in which muscle groups in your body at any given time. You can, however, use your pulse rate as a rough guide. The heart-rate works as a sketch measure to indicate what types of metabolism your muscles are using on average at any given time. Be warned though, it really is just a rough guide. If you’re more practised at one type of metabolism, you’ll be better at it, able to use it more. The range at which you’ll use it will increase. These differences will be spread all around your body, your leg muscles maybe undergoing a different kind of metabolism to your jaw muscles, or your arm muscles, at any given time.
We can divide up the pulse rate into zones, starting at resting rate and measuring right through to the maximum pulse rate that an individual is likely to achieve. This is usually about twice as high as the resting rate, so we start at a resting rate of 50% of the maximum value, and divide into five groups:
Types Of Exercise
Resting Zone – 50-60% of maximum
If your heartbeat is slower than about sixty percent of that maximum, you’re really not exercising at all. You may be asleep or in a coma or something. Possibly watching television. Your muscles are likely shrinking away slightly, certainly if you maintain that level of inactivity for some hours.
Efficient Zone – 60-70% of maximum
If you manage to overcome your lethargy and actually move at all for any decent period of time, even just stretching, your heart is likely to speed up to over 60% of maximum speed. You should probably just be in this range when recovering, or warming up.
Your body is not really putting any extra demand on the system, fuel for your cells is generated as fast as it can be used up, a Just In Time system of production. That fuel, known as Glycogen, is burned to produce Glucose, which is used in oxidation reactions to fuel cell motion.
Aerobic Zone – 70-80% of maximum
As your rate of work increases, your cells eventually begin to run low on Glycogen, and have to burn fat instead. The fat burning process is less efficient than simply using Glycogen, and so it starts to feel harder to keep the muscles working.
The TI excercises last week should have seen you at the low end of the Aerobic Zone for most of your time, as would a yoga session, pilates, light step or weight excercises or short distance running.
Since you are increasingly having to burn fat cells to power cell movement, and since you’re using and so building muscle cells, the Aerobic Zone is good for weight control, not only burning off calories (which is still only going 20% faster than if you were sat around doing nothing, remember), but also because the new muscle tissue built will be more expensive to keep alive when you ARE resting than the fat that’s been burned was.
Because you are likely breathing deeply, and pulsing powerfully, you are using and so strengthening the heart and the diaphragm and core muscles used in respiration. This helps to increase the flow of air in and out of the lungs, and helps getting the oxygen in that air to the muscle cells where it’s needed to mix with the fuel you’re burning, be that fat or sugar.
Anaerobic Zone – 80-90% of maximum
The process of burning fat cells produces a waste substance. Sometimes, fairly erroneously, known as “lactic acid”. The cell, of course, has systems for transporting these lactate molecules away from the cell. However, these processes can only work at a given maximum rate. At around 80% of the maximum hart rate, your body’s cells are beginning to produce this waste product more quickly than it can dispose of it. This is known as the Anaerobic Zone.
When working in the Anaerobic Zone, your muscles’s blood supply is being exercised about as much as it can usefully be. Blood flushing around the cells like a white river rapid, all the oxygen and fuels needed by the cells being delivered as fast at they can, all the waste products being removed as fast as they can.
Eventually, especially as lactates build up, the muscles start to metabolise their own cell structure to keep stretching and contracting and working hard. In order to build long-distance stamina, or to improve the range of the aerobic zone, you will need to excercise for some short bouts in the Anaerobic Zone. Staying in that zone as the Lactate damage begins to grow, however, may well begin to cause damage, and certainly reduce muscle growth rates, even as it may still be building and improving the bloody supply system which helps keep that damage under control.
Red Zone – 90%-100% of maximum
As lactate levels rise, and muscle damage builds, the muscles literally eating themselves to drive power, we reach a zone in which only the mega-fit are able to train. Almost anything you could want to do to your body will be better done after some rest at this point, at least after slowing down into the Aerobic Zone for a few minutes.
We will use some of the imagery from this rough sketch to have you dream of how your muscles are working while you dream about actually working them. This should allow you to ‘practice’ listening to your body while in the presence of an appropriate metaphor, and increase the probability that you will use this model to understand your body and so gain closer control over it as you excercise.