In this episode of the Live Fit Podcast I discuss how you can burn more fat and get more fit with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Better fitness can be yours in less time with high intensity interval training. Find out why it is appropriate for EVERYBODY – yes, even YOU.
Interval training is beneficial because it increases:
- Fat Loss,
- Strength & endurance of the working muscles
- Strength and endurance of the cardiorespiratory system
- Energy and confidence.
Show Notes and Transcript
The phrase “high intensity interval training” is pretty intimidating to most people who do not fancy themselves an athlete. But, I’d like to show you how and why ANYBODY can use interval training, or high intensity sections of their workouts.
Is interval training for you?
It all depends on if you want to get:
- Faster, or
- Lose body fat.
If you answered YES to any of these, then my answer to you, YES.
The Outdated, Time Consuming Method
“Cardio” or “endurance” activities have long been thought to be the best way to lose “weight”. And in fact, running for hours will cause the body to lose weight – but not very much of the fat they they are hoping to lose. The problem is, long endurance sessions (more than about 40 minutes) will cause the body to begin shedding any weight that it does not immediately need – such as muscle (those not being used), bone minerals, some fat, stored carbs and water.
However, as I mentioned, most people are actually interested in losing body fat not muscle or bone mass. So, if running, or using a stationary devices like an elliptical or stair climber is not the best approach for fat loss, than what is?
High Intensity Intervals
Interval training has been growing in popularity over the last few years due to the results of several research studies. These studies, when compared to steady rate activities, such as jogging at a consistent pace, has several beneficial factors for the improvement of health and fitness.
These factors are:
- Increased use of stored body fat,
- Increased use of all forms of energy (Calorie burn),
- Improvement of speed, both sprint pace and steady rate,
- Improved aerobic capacity,
- Improved anaerobic capacity, and
- Fights boredom.
Why Are Intervals So Great?
These adaptations are greatly the result of the mitochondria increasing in size to meet the demands made on it by the high intensity phases. As the mitochondria grows, its ability to use oxygen and energy increases as well. This energy will come from glucose and fat. Due to the high demand for energy fat will be broken down (into glucose) rapidly to meet the demand for fuel. As the demand grows, so does the energy system that supplies it.
The demand for energy does not end when the workout does. It is easy to understand that the body uses a high amount of energy during the high intensity phase, and immediately after, while you catch your breath, but what you may not realize is that this recovery creates a high Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) or After Burn. This elevated need for oxygen shows that the body is still working hard, the metabolism is elevated, to normalize the system and prepare the body for the next session.
The human body wants to be prepared for what it may need to do. When you show it that it needs to work hard or run fast, it does what it can to prepare for this type of activity over time. Meaning, the mitochondria will enlarge to handle more oxygen, the energy systems will become more efficient at turning fat into usable fuel, and the muscles will become stronger.
Challenging and Simple
Intervals are one of the easiest and most challenging workouts you can do. It is easy because anybody can do it. It’s challenging, because when done correctly you will feel like you’re turning yourself inside out.
It is important to push yourself harder than you are used to – you certainly need to go beyond your comfort zone. If you do not, you are not going to benefit from this effective workout.
Now, the easy part about this is anybody can do it because the intensity is relative – you push yourself beyond YOUR comfort zone. You push yourself harder than YOU are used to working.
Once again, the intensity at which you work is relative to YOU. You get out of it what you put into it. “If you kind of do it, it kind of works.”
How to do HIIT
The rules are easy.
- Mode: Intervals can be performed on anything you could do “cardio” exercise on/with: biking, running, swimming, rowing, or a combination of any of these.
- Definition: There are 2 phases – high and low, or sprint and recovery.
- The high (sprint) phase should be 95% to 100% effort.
- The low (recovery) phase should be about 70% effort.
- High – as long as you can. This will end up being between 8 and 20 seconds. There are VERY few people who can maintain a true sprint for more than 30 seconds. Though you could continue to give it 100%, your energy will decrease exponentially and your perceived effort will increase exponentially.
- Low – as long as you need to, to recover enough for the next sprint. This is usually between 1 and 3 minutes.
- Quantity: Perform 2 to 8 of these high intensity sprint phases. A beginner will start at one or two and as your fitness improves, you can increase that number.
- Frequency: Do HIIT 1 to 3 times per week (but not on consecutive days). A beginner will begin with less and increase as they become more able to handle the effort.
Get Your FREE Quick HIIT Guide
Quality or Quantity
It is important to note that quality is better than quantity. Give your sprint phases 100% and you will benefit maximally. As you grow stronger, increase the duration of each sprint phase and the number of phases rather than the frequency per week.
Another way to challenge yourself is to shorten the recovery phase. Also note that the recovery phase is intended to be active recovery. This means the body is better able to recovery the working muscles if those muscles are still working. When you stop, your system slows down and recovery is diminished. Maintaining an intensity of about 70% forces the body to recovery while it is still working. This will be difficult at first, but once your body becomes used to this activity, it will be easier and you will burn much more energy – including fat.
Both of these phases put stress on the body and the body will make physiological changes to adapt to these demands.
Fartlek or Structured?
Intervals can be free form or structured. Fartlek training is simply doing intervals in a free form or subjective manner. Sprint for as long as you can, then recover for as long as you need to. This will vary with fatigue and terrain.
A strict structured plan is best for some people who might not push themselves as hard when they get tired. Having a plan also eliminates the need for thinking and evaluating. Following the plan can allow you to put all of your energy into the workout itself.
Here are some examples of typical intervals I like to do.
- Stair running. Find the longest stair climb you can and run to the top, then walk to the bottom. When you get to the bottom, run back up again. Time yourself to see if you can maintain your speed. I often am fastest on my third set. Do as many as you can while being able to maintain a fast pace up.
- Pyramid. This can most easily be done on a bike (stationary) or running (track). Use a minute as your guide. The pyramid starts with a high phase of 5 seconds and a low of 55 seconds. The second cycle lasts 10 and 50. The third 15 and 45, the fourth 20 and 40, etc. up to 30 seconds. Then work your way back down again. It is not necessary to sprint for 30 seconds if that is beyond your fitness level. Play it by ear and see how far you can go, then go down the slope. If you need to take extra time during one of the recovery phases, that is ok too. Now repeat.
- Flip flop. This one is similar to the pyramid, except you alternate between two sprint times instead of working up in time and back down. An example of this would be 10 seconds on, 50 seconds off. Then 15 seconds on and 45 seconds off followed by 10/50 and 15/45, etc. until you can’t do it anymore.
- Make your own.
Always give your body a thorough warm up before an interval workout. I can’t stress this enough. I will usually walk, then through in some brief jogs at a 75% pace, then walk and jog again. I recommend a warm up of 10 to 20 minutes.
On that note, a cool down is also important. After you complete your interval cycles be sure to keep your legs moving slowly for at least five minutes.
How to HIIT It – A FREE Guide
How to HIIT - Quick GuideQuick Guide How to do High Intensity Interval Training
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