By Dr Murray McDonald
Do you want to maximise the results of your exercise but also minimise the time it takes? That’s a dumb question, right?
Enter: High Intensity Training! The not-new sensation that’s sweating the nation!
This old-school strategy has gotten a face-lift of late & it’s likely you’ve heard at least one person talk about it in the last year or two. But it’s just as likely that you don’t really know what that means, so let’s clear a few things up.
Tired of slogging on the elliptical? Then don’t.
The tried and tested 40 minute internment on a cardio machine has become cliché. Don’t get me wrong – it has shown benefits for health and fitness. But what if you could spend LESS time exercising AND get those same benefits if not BETTER? That’s where High Intensity Training comes in (also known as High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT). Essentially it involves short bursts of high intensity (10-60 seconds) alternating with relative rest (30s – 5min) for 5-10 “sets”. HIT can improve your metabolic profile, your athletic performance (even if already trained), and health markers in those with chronic diseases. It is also both easier to stick to and superior in results to regular cardio. What’s not to love?
This training can be tough. Physically, but also mentally. It requires bursts of hard effort that takes some getting used to – especially if you don’t have any exercise experience. You need to be focused enough to push even when you’d rather stop. This can be difficult to get your head around in the beginning: the idea of being uncomfortable. But unfortunately:
But if you are very unfit, untrained, or have an existing disease (e.g. heart, diabetes), I’d recommended chatting to your doctor or a qualified trainer first and taking it easy to start. Slow increases are always the best strategy – trying to go from zero to hero overnight will get you hurt.
Also realise that it will place more strain on your muscles & joints than regular cardio so if you’re already doing high-intensity resistance training (as you SHOULD be) then you’ll need to take that into account.
Enough preamble, Doc – how do I do this?
Pick your favourite cardio exercise/machine e.g. stationary bike.
Start with 5-10 minutes of warm-up on an easy to moderate setting/resistance.
Now crank it up to a harder setting for 30 seconds.
Then turn it down to an easy setting for 60 seconds (or stop if necessary).
Repeat for 5-10 rounds depending on fitness levels/intensity/time.
Cool down with a few minutes on an easy setting.
Lay on the floor for a few minutes if necessary.
Go home, rest a few days, then come back for more.
How do I step it up?
As you get fitter, you can progress &/or mix it up by changing the resistance, the number of sets, the length or resistance of the high intensity sets, or the length of the rest periods. Go nuts. But not completely nuts. Go almonds.
And that’s about it. If it seems too simple, just ponder the immortal words of Bruce Lee: “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”
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