Or, as Sean Bartram, HIIT author, puts it: the appropriate level of intensity would be just below the energy exerted while “…being chased by a rabid dog.”
For the befuddled laze-about layman, please don’t get confused and confuse high intensity interval training with boot camps or circuit training because they are different. Vastly different. They are marketed differently. Their names are different.
But each, funnily enough, works the body in essentially the same way.
Each does lots of cardio, strength, and motion stuff - with a few seconds to either catch your breath or pass out.
Just kidding about the catching of one’s breath. That never, from what a colleague - who subjects herself to these ordeals regularly - told me - happens. But neither does passing out - and that doesn't happen because individuals in group classes are too self-conscious to go unconscious. Boot camps, the colleague adds, are basically unmitigated hell. She dreads going every time. But she goes anyway.
Because she dropped 75 pounds in 10 months – probably losing some of that from tossing and turning in bed at night, fearing (and psyching up for) the next class, and the rest from the actual exertions in class that next day.
Her mood has improved greatly too. Before HIIT, her five-year-old niece told her: “You’re fat!” Our HIIT heroine was sorely tempted to come back with: “Oh yeah, well, there is no Santa Claus!”
Got a bit off track…
Back on the beam. The whole idea behind high intensity interval training is that as you move and sweat, with little rest, you suffer a deficiency of oxygen. Assuming you survive – and you go about your normal business afterwards, your metabolism is functioning at a much higher rate as your body undergoes the old EPOC.
What is EPOC? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Your body is adding back oxygen to pay back the debt/deficiency courtesy of that HIIT workout.
Let’s dig deeper into this. Have you heard of the “Tabata Protocol”? No, it’s not a best-selling spy thriller international domination book, it is a 20 second, 10 second thing. You go like crazy for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, for 8 interval exercises. Pick your poison for the 8. But, seriously, don’t do this tabata routine until you’ve worked up to it. Gradually. At your pace of measured improvement. No need to blow a gasket and have a heart attack is there? All of this stuff is to get you healthy, not leave you looking fine and healthy in an open casket.
During that 20 seconds you may do kettlebell exercises, toss a 12 lb medicine ball, take a sledgehammer to a tire (not someone’s “spare tire”) but to a real tire – fourth tire - from a now three-tired truck. You may do pushups. Or wind sprints. You get the idea – activities incorporating lots of muscles in many movements.
For me, my favorite high intensity bit is to use the Jacobs Ladder. It’s a low-impact treadmill climber that won’t jar your joints. It’s self paced. The faster you step, the faster the non-motorized contraption goes. (I can’t do all that stepping and jumping stuff because my ankles and lower back are like fine china, ready to break and destruct in seconds.) Nevertheless, the Jacobs Ladder has a high-impact effect. It can have you gasping for air in as little as 30 seconds. I am too much of a wimp to go the gasping route – I’ll go as far as heavy-petting panting. You must find your own level of oxygen depletion acceptance. If you are on the safe side of 50, perhaps gasping is good. If you are on the sad side of 50 – the safe side of 100 (like me) – perhaps it is not.
The results of such exertions: you’ll add lean muscle mass. You’ll strengthen the heart. Your recovery periods will shorten. And you’ll notice the difference when you hit the dance floor at that next bash/party/fest. You’ll be able to cut a rug – doing the twist, pirouette, and do other stuff you haven’t tried since your teenage days, or since you were last pie-eyed and blotto.
With HIIT under your belt, it will make it less likely that a few belts of booze – which always induces whirlwind dervish dancing – will lead to injury. HIIT will lessen harm and hurt because you’ll have stamina and strength – and probably some new stretching capacity. With the confidence from HIIT you’ll be a dynamo either dancing sober, or a wee bit sloshed. You’ll have more fun dancing - and that’s an extra workout you’ve just tallied.
HIIT will lead you to do other fun things safely and surely. Like horseback riding, floor hockey, cycling, golfing – you name it
So this hard-core conditioning, whether through high intensity interval training, circuit training, or boot camp training, will boost alertness, bring back happiness and fire up our aforementioned confidence. Not a misplaced - full of BS - confidence but a learned, earned, and deserved confidence.
That’s healthy in and of itself. HIITS all ‘round.