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One of the awesome things about exercise is that there are so many ways that it can be done. Love running outdoors? Fabulous. Want to complete a Zen inducing yoga workout? Done. Like to swim some laps before work? Make like Nemo and just keep swimming. No matter how you like to train, something that keeps drawing certain people back is really, really tough workouts. Not only do they make you work hard and challenge your mindset, they are almost guaranteed to make you fitter and stronger than you were before.

When you are being pushed to your limits, it’s easy to want to give up. Think about a marathon runner. You are running for hours and hours and you have to dig deep to bypass the mental challenge. Your body gets sore, tired and it really wants to quit but the mental barrier is where the magic happens. While it may be tough at the time and your mind is telling you that you’ve had enough, the adrenaline kick when you make it to the end is worth the pain. There is a shift where people are realising that workouts they thought may be too tough can actually be completed in a supportive environment. You only have to walk into a CrossFit affiliate where a hero workout like Murph may be programmed (1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, finished with another 1-mile run) to see how people are responding to these challenges. With your fellow gym goers cheering you on to finish, it’s comradery that helps you persevere.

Helping people to get out of their comfort zones is going to improve their physical game but also their mental ability. It’s going to prepare you for life. Ensuring your body is moving across various planes of movement and different training methods encourages your body to utilise more muscle groups and expend more energy. This means effective and efficient training sessions which results in a higher calorie burn. The EPOC effect or afterburn allows your body to keep burning calories after your workout. Your metabolism will be elevated for a longer period of time which leads to a leaner you.

This is not to say that every workout you do should be really high intensity – in fact, recovery and days off are really important if you are training at intense levels. And as to the point of being sick? You certainly don’t need to get to this point for your workout to be effective. Two to three intense sessions a week is generally enough to get the benefits without overdoing it.

Some benefits of those challenging workouts? Improved heart health is one. Some cardiovascular benefits of high intensity exercise include improved aerobic capacity and improved diastolic blood pressure which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. Another benefit is improved mood. A 2015 study that surveyed 12,000 people found that there was a significant link between strenuous exercise and fewer depressive symptoms. Even if you don’t feel like working out, how much better do you feel when it’s done?

It’s these challenging workouts that test our fitness capabilities, our mindset, resolve and tenacity but that leave us glowing and feeling like we have achieved our goal that really make that difference. As with all things, use a little caution but mixing some high intensity workouts into your routine is definitely beneficial.