I LOVE interval training. I can’t believe I’m actually saying that. I don’t really like to work very hard. I hate Pilates. Not because Pilates isn’t great, I hate it because it’s hard. I also avoid spinning classes for the same reason. Too much work. Interval training can also be hard work. Actually, the type of interval training that I LOVE is hard work. I LOVE HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training.
I read something yesterday about HIIT. HIIT is a form of Interval Training but not all Interval Training is HIIT. The article went on to say that a lot of people are doing Interval Training and think they are doing HIIT but they aren’t. This made me wonder if the interval training that I do would be considered HIIT.
Interval training is when you vary your intensity. You alternate between a fast pace and a slow pace during your work out. You do the same with HIIT except you alternate between low intensity and MAXIMUM intensity. All out effort, 100%. You should only be able to sustain your all out effort for 20 to 30 seconds. A heart rate monitor is a great tool for HIIT. If you have a heart rate monitor you want to try and get as close to your (theoretical) “maximum” heart rate during your 30 second sprint as you can and then you want to wait for your heart rate to recover to approximately 60% of your (theoretical) maximum heart rate before you start your next sprint interval. Doesn’t that sound HARD!? It is but the good news is you’re done pretty quickly. Mark Sisson recommends only doing 6 repetitions when doing 30 second sprints or 8-10 reps if you do 15 second sprints.
By this definition, the Interval training that I do is HIIT. I have calculated my maximum heart rate. I have set up my heart rate monitor with my personal information including my calculated maximum heart rate. When I was running my sprints outside my heart rate generally got to 94% of max. In case you are wondering, YES my heart did feel like it was going to explode. My recovery time, getting back to 60% of max heart rate usually doesn’t take too long. The first couple of sprints I’m ready to go after about 30 seconds. As I progress through my routine my recovery time gets a bit longer but I’m usually ready somewhere between 60 – 120 seconds. I do think it’s important to recover before you start again. The better your recovery the more you can push it during the sprint.
You can figure out your Estimated Maximum Heart Rate here. This link will also show you your heart rate target zones and your heart rate at different percentages of max, including 60%. Very cool. This is just an estimate. If you are in amazing shape you may find that you can blow through your estimated maximum heart rate number (without dying). For most of us this equation will work just fine.
The weather has changed and it’s now cold outside. I don’t run outside any more. I’m kind of a weather wimp. I’m now doing my sprints on a spin bike at my gym. I haven’t worn my heart rate monitor while using the spin bike. I need to do that. I think I might be getting closer to 100% effort on the spin bike. No fear of falling down on the spin bike so I’m not holding back at all. It’s great. No impact. I do make sure to turn up the resistance when I’m in my sprint. It has to be high enough so there is no bouncing or jiggling on the bike seat. The other day I added in one standing “hill” sprint. I almost died.
HIIT is NOT something you can do everyday. If you are doing it right you should be pretty worn out after 20 minutes. You actually shouldn’t be able to do more than 20 minutes. You have to give your body/muscles time to recover before you do it again. Mark Sisson of the Primal BluePrint recommends only doing sprints once every 7-10 days. While you are recovering and waiting to get back to your sprints you can stay busy with a couple of days “lifting heavy things”.
So, why do intervals instead of steady pace cardio? Here are some reasons:
- More gain in a short time – That’s right, more bang for your buck. Always love that!
- Your body burns more fat during a HIIT session than it does doing steady paced cardio. HIIT has been shown to increase metabolism (burn extra calories) for up to 24 hours after the work out. Yup, you are still burning fat while watching your favorite TV show. Nice.
- Serious fat burn without stripping muscle – steady state cardio strips muscle, think marathoner
- builds up endurance and speed – study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that after just two weeks of HIIT participants doubled their endurance.
- builds greater lung capacity
- increases engery levels
- It’s not boring!
I don’t know about you but I’d sure rather look like the girl pretty, smiling girl on the right. Probably not a fair comparison shot but whatever.
High Intensity Interval Training isn’t for everyone. You have to be in pretty good shape to jump into it. The good news is you can do LIIT, Low Intensity Interval Training – also excellent and not vomit inducing. Start with LIIT and work up to HIIT. Give it a try. See if you notice a difference.
Here are some sprint work outs from MarksDailyApple.com
I was over at the Ancestralize Me! blog and saw a review of this cool interval timer called the GYMBOSS. I have a bunch of interval music. I would point you to where I bought it but I can’t find it on the internet anymore. It’s great. It tells me how much time before I start my next interval as well as when I’m half way through my sprint. Good stuff but it would be nice to listen to my favorite music when I work out. Hello GYMBOSS! This looks great. I just bought two for holiday gifts. It will allow you to listen to your own music and still not have to look at the clock to watch your interval time. Very nice. It also makes it easy to do intervals outside or while using weights. Here is a link to GYMBOSS. Oh, by the way it’s only $19.95.
Here is a link to a bunch of studies done by the Journal of Applied Physiology about High Intensity Interval Training. Lots of great info.
Go start burning fat! Have fun & feel good.
Amy White MS HNC
I am a holistic nutrition counselor and believe real food is the true path to wellness. If you are interested in learning more about me and how I can help you, please see my story.
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