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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Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

I used to hate bananas. The texture, the taste, the way “banana” rolled off my tongue. “Ba-na-na.” Hmph. I just simply pretended bananas didn’t exist. I left them alone, they left me alone, and all was well in the world. There was only one problem with this relationship between bananas and I: bananas are incredibly good for you and so versatile in the kitchen. Well, I have been cramping a bit during my workouts lately, and I could use a little extra energy pre-workout anyway…UGH, fine. I’ll learn to like them. But how?

Well, I love chocolate. MMM…chocolate. Yes, chocolate is nice, especially with peanut butter. Especially with anything, really. But how does this relate to learning to love bananas? WELL, let me explain it to you by using this simple equation: Chocolate+nut butter+banana=NOM. It’s simple really. Eventually you may even be able to subtract the chocolate, divide by the nut butter, and…just get a banana. It’s a novel idea.

That is how I did it. I utilized this cutting-edge, break-through approach of just eating a lot of bananas until I liked them. And it worked. Bananas and I are now close friends, and I suggest you include more of them into your diet. Except I will never recommend eating a banana whilst taking a hot bath. I tested that one out for you all, and trust me, it just isn’t a good idea.

Chocolate, nut butter, and banana all together in delicious harmony, however, is always a good idea. And with that, I present to you: Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites.

image-1

Yeah, that just happened. And they were every bit as good as they sound. Did I mention that they are totally healthy? Yes, they are also that. So, what aren’t these little guys? Existent, because I ate them ALL.

Chocolate Almond Butter Banana Bites

Serving Size: 1 Banana Bite

Serves: as many people as you are willing (or not willing) to share with.

Calories per Serving: 105

Macros: Carbs: 4g

Fat: 10g

Protein: 2g

**Serving size, calories, and macros are approximate, not exact!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Banana
  • All Natural Nut Butter (I used homemade roasted almond butter)
  • ¼ cup Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Cacao Powder
  • Stevia, to taste.* (see note under “My Tips.”)
  • 1.5 Tbsp Unsweetened Coconut Shavings

Directions:

Peel the banana and slice it into ½ inch thick segments. Top each segment with approximately 1 tsp nut butter. Place banana pieces on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the chocolate coating. In a bowl, combine the coconut oil, cacao powder, and stevia (to taste). Mix thoroughly, making sure to break up any chunks of cacao powder. Set aside.

Remove banana slices from the freezer and carefully coat each one in the chocolate mixture. Place banana bite back on the cookie sheet to allow it to harden while you coat the others. Repeat this step, coating each banana bite twice. After the second coating, dip the top in unsweetened coconut shavings. Place cookie sheet with chocolate covered banana bites back into the freezer and freeze for another 30 minutes.

Enjoy these delectable little bites frozen, or let them thaw out in the fridge for a few minutes! The banana gets nice and oozy-gooey, and it is just too good to pass up.

BananaBites2

My Tips:

  • *There are many different kinds of stevia products out there on the market like liquid extract, powdered extracts, and stevia in the raw. Each varies in strength. Because of this, there is no exact measurement for the amount of stevia that you should use. Just sweeten the chocolate to your preferred level of sweetness using whichever product you have!
  • If you do not like stevia, or you do not have any, use a natural sweetener like honey or 100% pure maple syrup.
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Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup

In the heat of a hot summer day, I think we can all agree that we would give just about anything for a chilled refreshment. Ice water, iced tea, lemonade, you name it. All these things can be considered summer essentials. I like to try new things, so this summer I finally tried something new that used to throw me for a loop: chilled soup. Every hip and trendy restaurant in town was serving it, and I thought, “Hey, I’m cool too!.” So, in an effort to prove how hip and trendy I was, I gave it a little taste. Just a small bite at first to see what I was getting myself into. Then I face planted into my bowl.

It was so refreshing and crisp, simple and satisfying. Now I can’t imagine summertime without it. A summer without chilled soup is no summer at all!

Next thing I knew, I was dreaming up ideas and combining flavors in my head that made my mouth water with anticipation.

lemonmint

First up in the batting order we have a simple Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup, a sweet combination of cucumber, watermelon, and tangy lemon that is crisp and delightful during the afternoon heat! This one quickly found itself a permanent home on my summer essentials list.

Chilled Cucumber Melon Summer Soup

Serving Size: 1 ½ Cups

Serves: 4

Calories per Serving: 35

Macros: 2g Carbs

0g Fat

2g Protein

**Serving sizes, calories, and macros are approximate!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and sliced.
  • ½ a small Watermelon, cubed.
  • Juice of half of a Lemon
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt

Garnishes:

  • Greek Yogurt
  • Fresh Mint
  • Fresh Cilantro

Directions:

Combine the cucumber slices, watermelon cubes, lemon juice, and salt in your food processor and blend until smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving. Garnish with a tablespoon of greek yogurt and chopped mint and cilantro.

Enjoy!

gazpacho

 

 

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“Diet” is a Dirty Word

With just a click of your trusty mouse, you can read weight-loss column after diet column, but leave yourself feeling confused, frustrated, and unmotivated. Are they telling you the truth, or is this just a plug for the “next-best” gimmicky product? There are so many conflicting ideas out there, and it can be difficult to navigate the waterways to find an approach that is suitable for you and your weight loss goals.

The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one person may not be the most effective and enjoyable for you. We are not clones, and we sure as heck are not birds and therefore do not need to eat like one.

Most of these columns fail to mention that it is not just the foods that we are consuming, but more importantly our lifestyle. Simply put, if it doesn’t stick, it doesn’t last. Nobody tells you that once you finish the “miracle diet,” the chances of you gaining the weight back are incredibly high. The cause of this is really quite simple. Crash diets help you lose weight quickly in the short term, but it takes a change in lifestyle for permanent, long term results.

Whenever I hear the word “diet,” I cringe. It evokes feelings of restriction, starvation, and dissatisfaction. You “can’t” have this, you “can’t” have that. The women in commercials that are selling these “diet” products with a huge smile on their faces as they jump into crystal clear water in their itty-bitty bikinis forget to mention that they are also starving and nutrient depleted. They twirl around in their bright-colored sundresses, hair down with not a care in the world, selling the idea that “eating less is a beautiful thing.” There is something wrong with this picture.

The best bit of advice that I can throw into the mix is to throw the word “diet” out the door! Forget the word ever existed. It brings nothing but heartache. “Diet” is a dirty, dirty word ranked right on up there with the b-word and f-word. It should never cross your mind, let alone your lips. It should be replaced with a much more pleasant, holistic word: nutrition.

There is no magic pill, no revolutionary diet bar, and no gimmick that can do for you what proper nutrition and regular exercise can.

This means that reaching your weight loss goals is easier than you think. It isn’t as complicated as these companies want you to believe. It is as simple as finding fresh, whole foods that you enjoy, and consuming them regularly to your heart’s content. Dive into the realm of natural food with the knowledge that your body is benefitting from each bite. Shift from the concept of “restriction” to the idea of “exploration” of fresh cuisine. Treat yourself every once and awhile, because restriction never boasted long term fulfillment. Find that balance between fresh food and indulgence that works best for you and keeps you feeling satisfied. Be happy. In the end, it is the development and establishment of healthy habits that determines the longterm results.

As much as exercise can appear to be monotonous and boring to the untrained eye, it can be quite the opposite. Try something new and switch up your exercise routine to keep yourself interested and your body guessing. Maybe you train for a half marathon or take a Zumba class one week and Pilates the next. Get involved in activities that build your confidence. Focus on improvement, not perfection. Everyone starts somewhere, so just know that with each attempt and every drop of sweat, you are changing your life, and therefore your body, for the better.

Above all, do what makes you happy. A healthy mind is a healthy body.

 

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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!