Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Runner in Recovery: Part III

I don't know much about architecture.  I don't know the difference between Gothic and Revival (are those even real terms, I can't be sure). I don't know about columns and arches or even green spaces.  But I am familiar with one architectural concept: form follows function.  According to my limited knowledge, this principle basically means that a structure should be built according to its function or use.  Apparently there's a reason why homes look like houses and not office buildings.

The principle of form follows function also applies to human bodies.  If you want a hard body, you have to work hard.  There is an epic quote by strength and conditioning coach Mark Rippetoe that says (in part), "The two things that most influence our physical appearance, exercise and diet, have in common the fact that doing them correctly means choosing to do things that involve discomfort."  In summary: get comfortable with uncomfortable. 

I am not saying that everyone wants the physique of actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor) or trainer to the stars Jillian Michaels.  Wait, who am I kidding, yes we do.

As mentioned in my last post, HIIT can deliver results in the form of increased fat burning and improved endurance.  It can also build muscle when you incorporate strength training aspects (I'll get there in a minute).  Form follows function.  An important study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2005 was the first that found that high intensity interval training (in this case cycling sprints) could dramatically increase aerobic endurance.  In how long you might ask?  In bouts of exercise lasting 2-4 minutes over two weeks for a total of six sessions.  Let's do the math: that's 12-15 minutes.  Impressive, no?  Perhaps you don't care about endurance.  Perhaps you care about weight loss.  But who wants to just lose weight?  We want to lose fat.  A similar study also published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that subjects who underwent a HITT program (7 sessions, 2 weeks) increased their fat oxidation by 36% in their post-test.  I don't know about you, but I am in favor of burning fat.

So how should you incorporate HIIT into your current program?  Start small, this is tough stuff (or should be if you're doing it correctly).  Incorporate one day of HIIT training into your exercise routine.  Remember, it should be short duration (9-20 minutes) and be close to max effort.  As you progress, add 2-3 days per week.  You should see results fairly quickly -- remember the subjects in the aforementioned studies saw results in just a couple weeks.  Get comfortable with uncomfortable.

Once you are familiar with the HIIT concepts, incorporate other exercises that focus on strength rather than exclusively cardio.  The fundamental exercises:  squats, pushups, sit ups and pull-ups are an excellent place to start.  Apply HIIT principles to these exercises:  short bursts of max effort followed by recovery.  Add in more variety: jump rope, barbells, box jumps, lunges... the more variety of exercises you perform, the better your fitness will be.  Form follows function.

If you are someone who has grown bored and weary of the endless hours of cardio, I encourage you to step out of the box (or off the treadmill), challenge yourself physically and see the results you've been searching for.  What do you have to lose except wasted hours in the gym?

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


Unknown said...

Great info! Thanks for sharing!

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