HIIT: No Frills Cardio.

Some of us love cardio and some of us shudder at the very thought. However, most of us suffer through it in the pursuit of fat loss and newfound confidence, eventually even the post-run euphoria commonly known as the “runner’s high.” And let’s be honest, a good chunk of us on are on the cardio struggle train and would prefer to rip the bandaid off as quickly and as efficiently as possible. This is where HIIT comes in to save the day!

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training; in other words, short intense workouts consisting of quick bursts of energy followed by a recovery period.

Did you read that right? “Recovery Period?!” Yeah, a good ole recovery period that is crucial to the efficacy of the workout. Sounds like my kind of workout!

The Structure of a High Intensity Interval Workout

The basic structure of an HIIT session consists of four elements:

  1. Warm-Up Period. Each session should begin with a 2-5 minute medium intensity warm-up period, which can consist of brisk walking or light to medium jogging. If you would like, you can stretch for a minute or two after your warm up to prepare yourself for the real deal, but be mindful to not rest too long before you begin your intervals. You want to keep your body warm and ready for the training session.
  2. High Intensity Interval. Follow up the warm-up with a quick burst of energy; run or sprint with maximum intensity for 20 seconds to 1 minute. Do your best and push yourself in this stage, because the length of your high intensity bursts is subjective to your personal level of fitness and ability.
  3. Recovery Period. Take a rest in the form of a brisk walk or a light jog, you deserve it! Not too long though. The ideal structure of HIIT strives for a 2:1 ratio of high intensity bursts to recovery period, meaning that you should aim to sprint for twice as long as you rest. However, if you are just starting out with this method of cardio training, you can take it easy and rest for a little longer. As you become more conditioned, you will improve and get closer to achieving the ideal.  Depending on personal abilities and time constraints, repeat steps 2 and 3 for anywhere between 10-30 minutes. Some variations of HIIT, like Tabata, only last as long as 4 minutes, and are a great place to start if you want to sample.
  4. Cool-Down. Once you finish repeating your interval circuits, it is time to cool off with a low intensity walk, wipe the sweat off your face, and have a nice stretch while you marvel at what a cardio beast you are. You’re now basically a rockstar, or at least I think you are!

Remember that every body starts somewhere, so your sprint to rest ratio will vary based on your level of cardiovascular fitness.

In the middle of your sprint intervals, when you feel like dying or giving up, remember that this method of cardio does not come without some pretty awesome benefits.

The Maximum Benefits of HIIT

Although during your workout you may be cursing cardio advocates, the benefits of HIIT are second to none. Not only are you given a fair chance to catch your breath when you have exhausted your energy output, but studies show that by raising and lowering your heart rate in intervals with High Intensity Interval Training, the effects and benefits of aerobic exercise are amplified. These benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Decreased concentration of adipose tissue in the body; in other words, increased and maximized fat loss.
  • Improved cardiovascular fitness
  • Maximum results in minimal time
  • A healthier heart that works more efficiently. Love your heart, it loves you!
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Increased resting metabolic rate, meaning that you will begin to burn more calories at rest.

I guess it is safe to say that HIIT is the best bang for your buck. Why not give it a try?

HIIT the Ground Running

There are quite a few variations of High Intensity Interval Training to choose from. To get you started, here are a few basic and progressive beginner interval workouts that you can choose from based on your fitness level and what you feel is appropriate for you. They can be done on a treadmill or outside. The pace refers to the action that you should be executing, i.e. sprint or recover, and not a particular pace, because that is subjective and will vary for everyone. Refer to the intensity column to determine how much effort (again, subjective and relative to your abilities) that you should be exerting during each interval.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprint and recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 6 sprints, long recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

When you decide that you are ready to move up a level, try this intermediary beginner’s workout that increases the amount of sprints and shortens the recovery periods within the same 20 minute workout.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recoveries, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute intermediary beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 9 sprints, shorter recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

The following HIIT circuit reaches the ideal of a 2:1 ratio between sprint intervals and recovery periods. Progress onto this workout when you feel that you are ready for more intense sprints and minimal recovery periods.

A 20-minute advanced beginner 2:1 HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, and minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

A 20-minute advanced beginner HIIT workout complete with a warm-up, 10 long sprints, minimal recovery cycles, and a cool-down. This workout upholds the ideal of a 2:1 sprint to recovery time ratio. The intensity of each interval is relative to your personal fitness abilities.

Above all else, enjoy the process. High Intensity Interval Training is difficult and is meant to challenge you, so remember, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you!

 

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Bringing Pilates Back

As some of you may (or may not) know, I love Pilates. I practice regularly, and I am working toward the advancement of my certification as an instructor. Here is our love story.

Around the same time that I started my account on Instagram and overhauled my lifestyle, I began to look for new and exciting ways to exercise that did not involve an elliptical. 

I was bored with working out. I felt like I was drowning in a sea of yoga classes, and I needed something new and different.

After all, variety is the spice of life! I began looking into my options. Zumba…always embarrassing, I can’t even slow dance. Calorie Crusher…what am I, the hulk? Body Attack…sounds painful! Pilates…ahh yes. Even just the way it rolled off my tongue sounded soothing and sweet. So, I decided to give it a try.

Pilates and I first met in October of last year, and I was instantly hooked. I started going to class twice a week, and the rest is history. Literally, read on to learn tidbit of the history of Pilates (and more!).

Where it all Started

The son of a gymnast father and naturopath mother, Joseph Pilates spent the majority of his youth studying a variety of exercise techniques, ranging from yoga and martial arts to body building and recreational sports.  To alleviate some of his own inherent health issues, he developed the Pilates method while he was in imprisoned as an “enemy alien” for his Germain heritage in Britain during World War I.  He practiced his method on fellow compatriots using the tools that were available to him, such as the camp beds and springs. His technique focused on strengthening the body and mind simultaneously, as he firmly believed that they were interconnected. Due to it’s immense focus on precision, deep breathing, and flow, the Pilates method was originally dubbed as “Contrology.”

He once said, “A few well-designed movements, properly performed in a balanced sequence, are worth hours of doing sloppy calisthenics or forced contortion.”

He passed on the knowledge of Contrology to instructors referred to as “The Elders,” spreading the Pilates method internationally and paving the way to various styles that are popular today. (read more on Joseph Pilates)

On the right: Joseph Pilates at age 57. On the Left: at age 82. Hubba Hubba!

On the right: Joseph Pilates at age 57. On the Left: at age 82. Hubba Hubba!

Benefits of Pilates

The benefits of Pilates extend far beyond a sleeker physique. Practicing Pilates regularly with a properly versed and qualified instructor can improve many areas, including:

  • A stronger core. The method has an intense focus on what is referred to as the “power house,” which includes your abdominals, glutes, and inner thighs. This means that Pilates can provide the foundation for a strong core, as well as strengthen and improve common “problem areas.”
  • Improved flexibility. The Pilates method will enhance your flexibility while preventing injury.
  • Gentle conditioning. With a focus on long, lean muscle conditioning that works within the body’s frame, Pilates is gentle on your back and joints.
  • Improved posture. With increased core strength comes relief for your achy back! Pilates helps correct your posture by strengthening your muscles where you need it.
  • And many, many more that would shoot up my word count while dwindling your attention span.

Read more about the benefits of Pilates. Not satisfied? Find out even more here.

Join the Movement

Now that I have romanced you into giving Pilates a shot, here is what you need to do next:

Find a class! Give Pilates a try to see if it is a good fit for your goals. I recommend going to a class in your area taught by a certified and qualified professional. Online programs are great for catching a glimpse, but no one is there to coach you and make sure that you are performing the exercises correctly. Incorrect form in any mode of exercise can lead to some serious injuries, so it is best to seek a professional. Check your local phone books, ask at some local gyms, or utilize a search engine to see what you can come up with. Pilates can be a great supplement to any workout routine, but you will never reap the benefits yourself until you give it  try!