For a post-Christmas gorging de-tox I did a little interval sprinting on a treadmill today. I have been trying to become more of an aerobe for the past year. Having been a gymnast and a bodybuilder, I’ve been primarily an anaerobe most of my life. Granted, swing dancing and an occasional 5k have spotted the landscape here and there. I’ve just recently embraced a need to focus on my cardiovascular health considering my age. I’ve dropped my body weight to 165 from 185 (as a lean bodybuilder) and lowered my resting heart rate by 10bpm.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been quite a hot topic these days. It is a short burst of exercise touted for its ability to burn more calories in 10 minutes than jogging for 20. Its general popularity has even sparked quite a bit of scientific interest. The American College of Sports Medicine ran a survey that has ranked it as the biggest movement trend for 2014. Many studies are revealing health benefits.
If you don’t know what HIIT is, I’ll explain a little. Essentially it is a way to shock your body by alternating between a lower intensity training zone and a very high intensity training zone in one workout. When I do HIIT my goal is to get my heart-rate up to 90% of my heart rate maximum during the sprints (I often get to 175-178bpm and I’m 40!). The intervals can be done in so many different ways that it precludes me from writing about all of them here.
My favorite way is to run for 45-60 seconds at 12mph and walk at 4 mph for 60-90 seconds. Occasionally I’ll do this by rowing on a Concept 2 rower at full intensity for 250m and coast for 250m for about 5-6 intervals. However, it can also be done by changing your rest intervals and exercise intensity during a Century Club Challenge (see yourgainplan.com).
Here’s why HIIT fits in well with The G.A.I.N. Plan:
1)HIIT SHOCKS THE SYSTEM. G.A.I.N. emphasizes the need to disrupt homeostasis (balance in the system). To create change in your body you have to give a positive stimulus to force adaptation to your environment. It you sit on your butt, the negative stimulus of withdrawal of activity causes storage of fat. However, the positive stimulus of HIIT results in metabolic challenges that creates a more efficient system; a system that burns fat better and improves muscle function.
2) HIIT is ANABOLIC. The G.A.I.N. Plan is all about maintaining an anabolic environment over a catabolic environment. Anabolic means building tissues like muscle. It is the opposite of catabolic (breaking tissue down). Look at the muscle of a sprinter vs. that of a marathon runner. Marathoning is a completely different challenge in itself but it does tend to break down muscle. The short and sweet HIIT sessions boost anabolic hormones and don’t create chronic elevations in catabolic hormones like cortisol that occur in long distance endurance training.
3) HIIT Improves HEALTH. More and more studies are demonstrating the health benefits of HIIT. G.A.I.N. integrates medical principles and evidence based medicine throughout. G.A.I.N. embraces any activity that improves health and longevity with injury prevention. HIIT improves insulin sensitivity (preventing diabetes), prevents obesity, and lowers the risk of heart disease.
4) HIIT is EFFICIENT. It can be done in a shorter time and thus more people can fit it into their schedules. It also results in metabolic adaptations that make your body more efficient at burning fat. Also, it stimulates fat burning that lasts well beyond the exercise session in itself.
5) HIIT helps you focus on BIOMETRICS. HIIT is perfect for helping you get in tune with biometrics. Particularly is helps you to connect your lungs, heart, and brain. Through controlling your breathing, monitoring your heart rate, and measuring your perceived exertion you put your brain in tune with your physiology. Measuring your heart rate recovery and resting heart rate can help you to monitor for overtraining syndrome and improvements in your cardiovascular health.
6) HIIT fits in well with the CCC. The Century Club Challenge is all about high intensity training. Training to finish the CCC in under 1 hour requires high intensity intervals done near the lactate threshold. Do too much too soon or too often lead to failure.
7) HIIT teaches ACTIVE RECOVERY. HIIT is not meant to be done every day. You need to recover from this form of exercise just as if you trained legs or chest really hard. I don’t do HIIT more than 2-3x per week, just as I rarely train a body part more than 2-3x/week. Getting your protein and sleep are keys to staying anabolic.
I have a feeling of great accomplishment after a HIIT session. It gives me a high. I feel like I am on the verge of death sometimes, so it makes me feel like I’m living on the edge. I don’t recommend that everyone trains that way. I do like to push my personal limits in all that I do.
What is your favorite way to train HIIT? Please share your favorite workouts. I’ll try them and comment on them here!