Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A burst of activity

Are you doing endless hours of steady-paced cardio day in, day out and not seeing results? Here’s a valuable piece of advice: longer workouts are not the answer. Apart from the boredom factor, your body adapts to this style of training, so your results plateau, which in turn means you have to do an even longer cardio workout.

If you want to supercharge your fat loss and increase your fitness and performance in a shorter workout time, you need to increase your intensity.


High intensity

Simply put, high intensity interval training (HIIT) involves intense bursts of exercise followed by less intense ‘recovery’ periods of exercise that are continually repeated in the same training session.

For example, you might jog on a treadmill for two minutes, then sprint for one minute at high intensity, and repeat this pattern for a set amount of time, depending on your fitness level. The ‘rest’ or less intense phase allows you to recover from more intense exercise while still moving.

The great news is that you don’t need long bouts of HIIT to get results – 20 minutes will have you feeling ‘worked out’. In fact, if you are doing HIIT for much longer than this, you aren’t working intensely enough in the second phase.

If you belong to a gym it is fairly easy to incorporate HIIT into your cardio training using the different pieces of equipment – for example, treadmill or bike – and they will often feature an interval training setting.

However, the great thing about HIIT is that it doesn’t require you to be at the gym at all. HIIT can be used as a method of fat loss and will improve fitness via any form of cardiovascular exercise; for example, walking, sprinting, cycling or swimming.

Instead of just walking the same route at the same pace each day, try HIIT. Time yourself to powerwalk for two minutes, then rest with a slower walk for one minute and repeat.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to time yourself, use lampposts, trees or driveways as a guide. For example, powerwalk or jog to the fourth power pole, then walk at medium pace for two power poles and repeat.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly the time will fly because you are focused on your next marker and not dwelling on how far you’ve got to go as a whole. It can be great fun if you have a training partner (even if it’s the family dog), because you can try to beat each other to the next tree – and we know how much the family pooch loves trees.

Don’t get bogged down by correct timing or distances because mixing it up is a great way to prevent your body adapting to the exercise, which means you are challenging it each time.

The next level

As everybody’s intensity level is different, depending on experience and fitness level. As a guide, on a scale of 1-10 intensity, level 1 is more or less standing still, level 5 is jogging and level 10 is your fastest sprint. When you are completing a high intensity phase you should aim for level 9; however, if you’re a beginner, aim for level 7 and build it up gradually.

If you’re just starting out you may only be able to complete 10 minutes of HITT. As you get fitter, increase your intensity intervals to one minute and shorten your rest intervals to 20 seconds. Avoid the temptation to overdo the intensity level at the beginning as you simply won’t be able to do more than a couple of sequences.

Lean muscle is important for fat loss because it boosts your metabolism, causing your body to burn more fat. So it is important not to lose muscle when you exercise, which is exactly what happens if you do endless hours of cardio.

So instead of completing long training sessions, cut your training time down by incorporating HIIT and reap the rewards of burning more body fat.

Spring into action

If you’re used to long hours on the treadmill you will be surprised to learn you only need to do about 20 minutes of HIIT for great results. If you are just starting your fitness journey or coming back after a long break, make sure you ease your body into exercise by starting out with short walks or jogs before gently introducing HIIT.

Try to have a rest day in between each HIIT session to allow your body adequate recovery time. Combine HIIT with weight training and good, clean eating and you’ll soon start to see results.

HIIT for beginners

Try these DIY ideas for a little inspiration:
  • In the neighbourhood: Powerwalk to a tree in the distance, then walk to the next tree and repeat.
  • At the oval: Practise ‘walk-back’ sprinting – sprint to one side of the oval, walk back to the start point and repeat.
  • At the pool: Sprint freestyle for one lap, then slow breaststroke back to the starter’s block and repeat.
  • On the footpath: Sprint for three power poles, then walk for two power poles and repeat.
  • On your bike: Sprint for a set distance, then slow the pace for a set distance using road markers as your guide and repeat.
  • Kayaking and paddling: Perform 20 strokes at high intensity, then lower your intensity for 20 strokes and repeat.
  • At the beach: Run into the water, swim to the break, body surf back to the shore, walk to the start point and repeat.

Jill Edmonds is a certified Master PT and author of the successful e-book Unleashing Your Inner 30 Year Old – A rescue package for women. For more information visit www.jetpt.com and www.myonlinefitnessguru.com

From Women's Health & Fitness Magazine

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