One of the big buzzes in the fitness world today is HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. What this means is working at super-high intensities for a short period, then at a lower recovery intensity for a short period, over and over, again for about 20 minutes or so.
There are several advantages to this, but here are my three favorites:
1. It helps to develop your system to be able to do longer, steady-state cardio at a higher intensity, therefore increasing your heart strength. This has the domino effect of burning more of calories during ALL of your cardio sessions, even the longer, steady-state ones.
2. According to studies, it keeps you burning calories longer AFTER the workout than regular steady-state cardio does. (This "after burn", by the way, is referred to EPOC. For the life of me, I can never remember what that acronym stands for.)
3. It gets the misery over quicker.
A good way to get started with HIIT sessions is to do a 3 minute warm-up, then move on to 15 seconds of all-out effort, followed by 1 minute and 45 seconds of a recovery jog pace. Repeat this 2-minute cycle (15 seconds fast, 1:45 jog) until you get to the 20 minute mark, then do a 2-minute cool down.
Over time you can increase the work phase by 15 seconds and decrease the jog phase by 15 seconds, until you get to a minute of each. This is very effective. It also starts to get boring.
So here is a HIIT plan I adapted from something I read in one of my fitness publications. The beauty of it is that as your strength increases, your pace will, too. It grows with you. I'll post it like you are on a bike, but you can adapt this for any piece of cardio equipment:
- Start through 3:00- Warmup
- For each minute through 8:00, increase the intensity by 1-2 levels, keeping your RPM's between 60 and 70. By the time you get to minute 8:00, you should be struggling to keep your RPM's in the target range of 60-70.
- 8:00-10:00 Lower the resistance to your warm-up level and free wheel at a recovery jog pace.
- 10:00-11:00, move the level up to what your highest level was in the first round (minute 7:00-8:00) and pedal as fast as you can. (This should be REALLY hard by the end of the minute- Push through!)
- 11:00-12:00, back to recovery jog level/pace
- Repeat those two minutes (1 minute hard as possible at highest level with 1 minute recovery) four more times. This should bring you to 20:00 on your timer.
- 20:00-22:00 cool down.
At this point, you should be dripping in sweat and more than ready for the blessed cardio session to end already. If you aren't, you didn't work hard enough.
And if you were able to keep up with an episode of "I didn't know I was pregnant" while doing this routine, you weren't working hard enough, either. :-D
I'd recommend giving at least 48 hours between HIIT sessions. Especially to start. Or at least switch machines frequently. Just like any other exercise strategy, mixing it up is always the safest thing for the body. While it's a wonderful form of cardio, I've found HIIT can be pretty taxing on the system and injuries are more likely if there is not adequate rest between sessions.
Let me know what you think!