Physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle anscd the benefits of regular exercise have been well established. Adopting your fitness routine to include more interval training can bring great benefits to your energy levels, body composition, and overall fitness.
If you are exercising regularly, you're already doing a great job at trying to be healthier. Unfortunately, you might find yourself among the masses of people that routinely do low to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise for extended periods of time and therefore seeing very little results.
You may also be plagued with injury because you have a weak core muscle stature and poor posture. Lastly, you may see delayed results because you are not building muscle through agility and strength exercises. With that said, we recommend a combination of Mind Body, Agility and Strength and High Intensity Intervals (HIIT) for the perfect workout so you can see maximum results in less time.
Why You Need High Intensity Intervals, and What Chronic Cardio Does to Your Body
When you stay above 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for extended periods of time, you’re burning glycogen. Your body in turn craves more carbohydrates to replenish the lost stores, so you devour lots of sugar and starches. This describes your body’s urge to reach for a bagel after a long run or a session on the elliptical going at a steady pace.
When you continue this cycle, your body can release more cortisol (stress hormone that can cause weight gain), lose lean muscle mass, and gain more fat mass. Other signs of overtraining can include illness and fatigue. This is counterproductive to most individuals’ health and fitness goals. In an effort to improve health, any activity that makes you more fatigued and susceptible to illness should be avoided.
If you’re not doing some form of high intensity intervals in combination with strength and mind/body exercises a few times a week, then you are missing out on the most beneficial and time efficient form of exercise.
The bonus: Just 15 minutes of interval training is as effective as 60-90 minutes of steady state exercise. This typically includes whole body functional movements involving cardiovascular and muscular exercises engaging the core as the center of every movement. Intervals can be performed on any type of cardio equipment, doing drills in place, or old-fashioned sprints.
The latest research suggests that performing high intensity intervals can be 5-6 times as effective as regular steady state exercise. HIIT can be used to increase cardiovascular capacity, performance levels, and accelerate fat loss. Therefore, ditch the long cardio sessions and replace them with effective short bursts of cardio leading to breathlessness.
You know you are performing HIIT intervals correctly when it takes your body at least 30 seconds to gain your breath back. An easy way to know if you have hit your target heart rate is to perform a talk test (e.g. repeat your phone number immediately after an interval without stopping to catch your breath). You should not be able to say more than 3 words consecutively without stopping to catch a breath.
What Makes HIIT So Beneficial
Low-volume high-intensity workouts recruit fast twitch muscle fibers, increasing the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) naturally and normalizing insulin levels. Interval training produces healthy levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) which start to decline around the age of 30. One study from the Journal of Sport Sciences showed that HGH levels were up 450 percent by performing 30-second high intensity intervals. Benefits of healthy levels of HGH and regulated insulin levels include but are not limited to: decreasing body fat, improving muscle tone, slowing down the aging process, boosting energy, decreasing stress, preventing disease, improving athletic speed and performance and achieving fitness goals much faster.
How to Implement HIIT and Not Overstress Your Body
- Eat Well for Energy--While decreasing your carbohydrate consumption is often seen as the best way to decrease body fat, when performing High Intensity Intervals you need to ensure you are getting proper nutrition.
Always begin a meal or snack with healthy proteins (grass-fed or wild caught) or healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.) and then load up on lots of vegetables and some fruit for your carbohydrates to support your energy needs. Some good examples of pre and post workout snacks include but are not limited to organic, pastured eggs, avocados, and grass-fed beef.
- Get Enough Sleep--We all know that lack of sleep leaves us looking ragged the next morning. More and more research is showing that a good night’s sleep is essential for our health. In fact, getting adequate sleep to allow recovery from intense exercise is vital to maximizing the benefits from it while also preventing conditions such as high blood pressure, metabolic diseases, gastrointestinal disorders, etc.
If you are having trouble sleeping through the night, you may need to reconfigure your workout regimen. It is best to get into a routine where you consistently go to bed and wake up on a regular schedule, limit distractions before sleep such as television, and practice relaxation techniques. Studies show that those who do not sleep through the night are more at risk for numerous conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.
- Quality Is More Important Than Quantity--The key to maximum results is to workout smarter, not longer. High intensity interval workouts should be limited to several times a week to allow the body to recover properly and reap the benefits of it depending on what your goals are.
If an individual desires to get stronger, then HIIT should be performed only once per week. Whereas an individual wanting to achieve a leaner body mass could perform HIIT up to three times per week if they have the ability to recover well. Therefore, decide what your goals are and experiment with just doing one HIIT session per week or gradually add more workouts while monitoring your progress and results.
- Have Variety--While high intensity intervals seem perfect for losing body fat and improving lean muscle mass, we know that high levels of the hormone cortisol can cause the body to hold onto fat. That is why it is always beneficial to change up your routine where you are only performing HIIT several days per week, insert other types of physical activity in between or mix it all up on the same day and take days off in between.
Instead of doing additional days of interval training, try engaging in some type of active recovery such as walking or yoga. You may find that this stress-reducing exercise helps you recover more quickly from your more intense exercise schedule. In 1963, Tudor Bompa introduced this idea of periodization (AKA muscle confusion) that focuses on loading muscles in a variety of ways for optimal performance and results. By varying your workouts, the body is constantly adapting and improving upon its weaknesses, which leads to greater results.
What are the Added Benefits of Other Types of Exercises Combined With HIIT?
As previously mentioned, it is always best to combine interval training with core and strength exercises for maximum benefit and results. When done appropriately the benefits include but are not limited to: decrease body fat, slow the aging process, improve mental well being and provide stress relief, improve posture and balance, improve insulin sensitivity, control blood pressure, increase lean body mass and decreased illness.
- Mind/Body--These types of exercises have been described as full body movements associated with improved muscular strength, flexibility, balance and coordination, improved mental development and self-efficacy. This could include a fusion of core exercises and flexibility combining fundamentals from Yoga and Pilates to name a few.
A variety of these exercises have shown to help individuals decrease anxiety, decrease pain, enhance sleep, decrease the use of medication for post-surgical pain, decrease side effects of medical procedures, reduce recovery time and shorten hospital stays, strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal, increase sense of control and well-being.
One of the greatest benefits of mind/body exercise is preventing injury so that you can continue on your road to better health through high intensity intervals and agility and strength exercises. They strengthen your entire core as well as help promote good posture leading to proper form and technique during strength and interval training. A good rule of thumb is to regularly include mind/body exercises so that you can continue your long-term fitness routine while preventing injury and promoting flexibility.
- Agility and Strength--This includes muscular strength, flexibility and endurance. Muscular agility and strength exercises can be considered as anaerobic exercise as well where the workload of a participant is greater than 85 percent of their estimated maximum heart rate. These exercises usually can only be performed for a short period of time before the muscles begin to fatigue and lactic acid is released. These exercises help promote lean muscle mass enhancing the body’s natural production of hormones which contribute to a healthy immunity as well.
Basic elements of these movements require an individual to perform motor tasks ranging from dynamic gross activities to fine motor control tasks and include adaptive ability, balance, improved orientation, reactiveness, and rhythm. Benefits can include but are not limited to improved athleticism, injury prevention, neuromuscular adaptation, and decreased recovery time.
Heavy weights are not always necessary to maximize your strength and muscular endurance. Often repetitive functional movements using just bodyweight or added hand weights or kettle bells can have a much greater impact on your overall muscular endurance and muscle tone.
Some examples of agility and strength exercises include but are not limited to: plyometric lunges, plank deltoid fly raises, push up jacks, and squat thrust jumps. These exercises can be more beneficial and efficient than regular strength training exercises because they utilize multiple muscle groups while engaging core balance simultaneously. They are one of the most effective ways to develop and maintain lean muscle mass. Agility and strength focuses on using functional movements that will aid you in maintaining strength and balance as well as preventing injury in your everyday life routine.
About MASH Up Conditioning
MASH Up Conditioning, LLC was established in 2012 by Jamie Zacharias, CPT, RN, MSN, NP-C and Stacy Redwine, CPT, BS Exercise Physiology/Pre-Physical, MA Missiology. They are passionate about helping individuals obtain optimal wellness. They offer various avenues for individuals to achieve fitness and nutrition goals through their ACE (American Council on Exercise) approved group training format, cross training DVD systems, and group/corporate wellness programs. For more information please visit www.mashupconditioning.com.