Update! Thanks to enthusiastic demand, I am now carrying these DVDs in my office. Pick one up at your next session, in my waiting room, or I can ship one to you. $16
Want to get in shape? Don’t exercise longer. Exercise smarter. Or as fitness expert Mindy Mylrea says, “More is not better. Better is better.”
3 times a week, 15 minutes including warm up and cool down – no kidding – no excuses!
I have been recommending High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for almost a decade now, and it is finally catching on in the mainstream health and fitness worlds, as research and mainstream attention accumulates. Just 15 minutes (including warm up and cool down) every other day gets you great results.
What is interval training?
It’s exercise of short duration and high intensity. Interval training fits the way we are designed. If you were running from a saber tooth tiger, you wouldn’t be jogging moderately for an hour, talking on your iPhone, reading a magazine or watching TV. To put it bluntly, after a few minutes, you’d be safe, or you’d be dinner. We’re designed to sprint away from that tiger, at high speed, for short duration.
When we do this, we get increases in human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. Don’t worry girlfriends: not enough testosterone to make us look beefy, just enough to get a little leaner and trimmer. Plus, testosterone boosts libido. As for HGH, it’s been called “the fountain of youth”. It decreases inflammation, helps build muscle, and supports your immune system. Companies have gotten rich packaging it as pills and tinctures, and marketing it to gullible customers, but that doesn’t work. HIIT does. HGH and testosterone are natural anabolic hormones that help build and protect lean muscle and slow down the aging process. Moreover, HIIT trains your body to recover better from stress.
Short duration, high intensity interval training creates excess post oxygen consumption (EPOC). This causes the body to take longer to return to its state of rest, and continue to burn calories at a higher rate long after you finish your HIIT workout. Your body keeps working, and burning fat, for hours after you stop. How long? As long as 24 hours! A short workout of greater intensity can reap more benefits than a longer steady-state workout, because the intensity creates a deficit that your body keeps trying to address. Longer, lower intensity workouts simply don’t do that.
Research also says that HIIT can help control and prevent hypertension, and improve glucose control and metabolic health for type 2 diabetics.
Now who doesn’t want all that?!
In contrast, long steady-state cardio floods the body with catabolic stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline) that break us down, damage metabolism, and can work against losing belly fat. You know about cortisol, right? Elevated cortisol levels lead to muscle breakdown and fat storage. This is particularly important for those of us over the age of 35, after the prime reproductive years, when the body begins to be less naturally programmed to repair and rebuild.
But it feels so good!
I know, I know! People love the feeling of long cardio. My clients tell me that all the time, and I remember it well myself. But here’s the not so good news about why it feels good. Your body is producing stress hormones that are meant to get you out of danger, not course through your system for an hour at a time. Those stress hormones break down your muscles for quick fuel, so you can survive whatever your primal brain thinks it’s running from. It may feel as good as that 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee (another way to get an artificial and catabolic energy boost) but it contributes to retaining fat, losing muscle, creating oxidative stress, and it can slow your metabolism. Now that’s not what you wanted when you signed up for spin class, is it?
Who Is It For?
I love that HIIT works for all fitness levels, which is part of the beauty of the approach. You pick the intensity level that is right for you. Of course, it won’t get you those amazing benefits unless you work really hard, but you determine what is hard for you. (And then push yourself just a little harder.) Whether you are a beginner or an accomplished athlete, HIIT will improve your fitness level and overall health.
HIIT: Here’s How
There are so many different ways to do HIIT, but here’s a very simple one. Pick an exercise. You can do jumping jacks, squat/jumps, push-ups, burpees, running in place, or use a machine such as a treadmill, bike or elliptical. First warm up with full body movement (not stretches) for about 3 minutes, then do your exercise for one minute full out, as hard as you can go. You want to get your heart rate way up, creating an oxygen deficit. You should be breathing very hard and unable to have a conversation. If you can’t do a full minute, do what you can. Push hard, and get your heart rate up.
Follow with 2 minutes of relaxed, active recovery: walking, stretching, or going more slowly if you are on a treadmill, bike, elliptical or other machine. That 3 minutes is one interval. Do 3 to 8 of these every other day. You can do the same exercise repeatedly, or you can vary it. That’s it. That is all the cardio you need.
If you include some intervals of pushups, mountain climbers, burpees, or other body weight exercises, you may not need anything else to get some muscle definition, as well.
HIIT is also an excellent way to recover after illness or debilitation. Just do as much as you can, every other day, and you will be amazed at how your endurance, strength, muscle tone and overall well-being quickly improve. And at the same time, you’ll be supporting your immune system.
If you are decide to do HIIT on your own, there are aps for your phone and computer that make it easy to set the timing.
But… Want lots more options and someone to talk you through it, including those moments when you want to give up, or swear you can’t possibly go another 10 seconds? There is no one better than Mindy Mylrea, and she has 2 new DVDs with so 6 fun and varied HIIT workouts to choose from. You can focus on core, legs, or overall full body! One DVD uses no equipment whatsoever; the other uses a BOSU and gliding discs. Neither requires much space. I LOVE them! And I love the way they kick my butt! Mindy was one of the first fitness professionals to recognize and promote the benefits of HIIT.
15 minutes including warm up and cool down – no kidding – no excuses!
I’m very grateful to Mindy not only for donating copies of her DVD for my Giveaway this past August, but for all her dedication, research, inspiration, sweat… and the thousands of times she has made me laugh while I worked out with her these past 20 years.
“I don’t have time” is usually the reason people don’t exercise, and HIIT trashes that one. I know you have LOTS of other things to do with your time than exercise, so why not get the results you want with less time spent? You do want the results, right?
It’s hard, but it’s fast. You can do anything for 10 minutes!