Friday, September 9, 2011

A Runner in Recovery: Part II

Every day I meet people who are at wits' end with their exercise program.  Many of these people complain that they carve out 90 minutes - 2 hours per day for exercise, perhaps exercising two or more times per day just to fit it all in.  These frustrated individuals come to me and say, "Why aren't I losing weight/getting fitter/seeing results?  I simply don't have any more time to dedicate to exercise!"  And who can blame them?  Not many of us have the time (nor inclination) to spend 60+ minutes every day working out. 

Somehow the majority of exercising Americans have come to believe that in order to get more results, you have to do more exercise.  Now if you're someone who is sedentary or exercises very little, this is true.  But if you are someone who exceeds the ACSM Guidelines for physical activity (30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity most days of the week) you may be stuck on what I like to call "the cardio hamster wheel."

As mentioned in my previous post, I was someone who was once stuck on that wheel.  I thought that if I wanted to be in better shape I just needed to run more.  But no matter how much I ran, I never saw the results I wanted.  Even though I was at my lowest weight (113 lb at 5'7"), I still had a fluffy midsection (ahhh the dreaded "skinny fat").  And even though I exercised for 2 hours per day, I couldn't even move a couch without some assistance, let alone do pushups. 

Frustrated, I went (skeptically) looking for something else, something to do in conjunction with my running, not in place of running because again, I knew that fitness = running. 

And I found myself at a local Crossfit affiliate.  Perhaps you've heard of Crossfit.  It is beginning to come out of garages and small gyms and into the national spotlight (ESPN2 is now covering the National Games).  The fundamentals of Crossfit are its high intensity, highly varied workouts that combine aspects of many sports (power and Olympic lifting, gymnastics, and sprinting) to create workouts that are designed to keep your body guessing.  As I tell people, I thought I was in shape until I went to Crossfit.

But this isn't a post about Crossfit, it's a blog about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and how you should be incorporating these principles into your workouts.

Elite athletes have been using interval training for more than 70 years to improve performance.  Yet the general public has largely been left-out.  HIIT is defined as cardiovascular training designed to improve fitness and reduce fat while increasing muscle in short (9-20 min) and intense workouts.  Raise your virtual hand if you'd like to improve fitness, reduce fat and best of all, do it in less than 20 minutes.

Below is an example of what a simple HIIT workout might look like: 

Warm-Up: ~ 5 minutes (Ex: Walk/jog)
Intervals: Near maximal effort of short duration (Ex: Sprinting)
Recovery: About 50% of max effort (Ex: Walk/jog)
Ratio: 2:1, Recovery: Interval
Cool-Down: ~5 minutes (Ex: Walk)
The example provided above is based on running, but you can do HIIT with any mode of exercise: walking, swimming, biking... the key is that your intervals have to be hard.  Like really hard.  Maximum effort kind of hard.  Most of us are not familiar with this type of intensity, most of us like to keep it moderate.  But the athletes who are familiar with that intensity -- the 100 meter sprinters, the Olympic weight lifters, the gentlemen who play in the NLF -- they look like they work intensely.  And personally, I want to look like them.  Moderate intensity = moderate results.
In the next blog installment I'll tell you why HIIT works, and give you some more ideas about creating your own HIIT programming.  And to catch your attention, here’s a photo of my good friend and training partner, Katy.  Mother of three, mid-30s, and someone who trains less than 20 minutes per day. 

Posted by Rachel L. May, M.S.
Adjunct Faculty, School of Health Sciences



Anonymous said...

Thanks Rachel, this is so interesting and so helpful. I tried it yesterday :) and can't wait for your 3rd installment.

Betty Harrison, MA
Chair, BS in Health and Wellness/Nutrition
School of Health Sciences
Kaplan University

Post a Comment

About Me

Kaplan Center for Health and Wellness
View my complete profile