Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HIIT Training? Is That What Hit-Girl Does?

So for those of you who have been following along with my blog entries, you'll know that there is this trainer named Heather at my gym who drives me crazy because she keeps coming up to me and trying to get me to do a free personal training session with her (presumably because she wants to interest me in buying a series of sessions with her that I cannot afford).

AS ANNOYING as her constant hounding is when I'm in the middle of my workouts, the other day she asked me if I had a few minutes and she took me through a short HIIT workout on the stationary bicycle. I had no idea what "interval training" was at the time, but now I'm fascinated by it. SO I wanted to share this with all of you and maybe you can try it out yourselves.

What is HIIT?
It's an enhanced form of interval training where you alternate between short intense exhausting periods of anaerobic exercise and less intense recovery periods. These cardio/conditioning workouts should last between 20-30 minutes and have a LOT of benefits including increased fat burning capacity, improved athletic capacity, and improved glucose metabolism.

Why should I try it?
HIIT is a perfect way to maximize the effectiveness of a short workout. In most workouts, fat burning happens after a period of about 30 minutes, but HIIT is different in that respect. This workout increases the amount of calories you burn DURING the session and AFTER because it increases the length of time it takes your body to recover. In layman's terms, it forces your metabolism to ramp up during the next 24 hours and you burn fat and calories more efficiently during that time. It's a workout that keeps working after you've completed it. LIKE MAGIC. :) The other benefit is that it mimics the kinds of things that happen in real life, i.e. there aren't many situations where you have to run 5 miles, but there are times when you have to sprint to catch your train or climb a flight of stairs to make it to an appointment on time. This sort of training should make that sort of thing easier.

What's the catch?
It might be a shorter workout, but you HAVE to push yourself way past your comfort zone. You have to go as fast and hard as you possibly can during the High Intensity periods. You can't be lazy about it or it won't work. You'll know you're doing it right if you're really feeling the burn in your muscles as they are deprived from oxygen and the sweat is pouring off of you.

How do I do it?
You can do this exercise on a stationary bike, an elliptical (my personal favorite), or on the treadmill or just running outside. You'll need to be able to read your heart-rate to make make you're doing it correctly and you'll also need a timer or the clock on the machine to help you transition between the phases. Check out this chart to see where your heart rate should fall in both the anaerobic and low intensity phases of the workout.

  • Start with five minutes of warm-up.
  • Phase 1. 30secs-1min of high intensity. On the elliptical I push the resistance up to 20 and do what feels like trudging through drying cement as fast as I can.
  • Phase 2. 2-3 minutes of low intensity recovery. Don't stop, though. Keep moving.
  • Phase 1. 30secs-1min of high intensity.
  • Phase 2. 2-3 minutes of low intensity recovery. Don't stop!
  • Keep alternating for 20-30 minutes.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

DISCLAIMER: I'm NOT an expert but I really think more people who are interested in weight-loss need to learn about HIIT. This gives you a general idea of what to do, but make sure you do your own research online or ask a trainer at your gym to explain it to you. The benefits just seem too amazing to ignore. HIIT may not be for everyone and you should know what you're getting into before you start it. It is a very grueling workout, but it's a nice way to mix things up if things are getting stale and I burn way more calories doing this for 30 minutes than I do in 45 minutes of endurance cardio on the elliptical. I've started to alternate HIIT with endurance training to allow my body time to recover between sessions and it definitely keeps things interesting.

I haven't weighed myself since adding HIIT in my own workout routines over the last week, but I'm looking forward to my weigh in on Saturday to see if it's had a good affect.

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