Monday, May 13, 2013

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Hey guys! Fit Girl here, back again with another post for you! The subject: High Intensity Interval Training, also known as - "HIIT". Ever heard of it? I'm sure all my hard-core fitness heads have, but if you're new to fitness or somehow missed memo, keep reading and let me fill you in! What if I told you that there was a way to burn more calories, lose more fat, and improve your cardiovascular fitness level while spending less time doing cardio? You’d probably think I was lying right? Well, believe it or not, it's actually a possibility! High Intensity Interval Training is one of the quickest ways to take your fitness and fat loss to a whole new level!

Now before getting into the details, notice that I didn’t say HIIT would be easier, just that it would take less of your time. In fact, the HIIT approach to cardio exercise is very physically demanding and isn’t for everyone. If you have any cardiovascular problems or other health concerns that limit your ability to exercise at very intense levels, or if you are relatively new to aerobic exercise or not already in good shape, HIIT is not for you—at least for now. If you have any doubts or concerns about whether it might be safe for you, check in with your medical professional before trying HIIT.

What It Is and How It Works

HIIT is a specialized form of interval training that involves short intervals of maximum intensity
exercise separated by longer intervals of low to moderate intensity exercise. Because it involves briefly pushing yourself beyond the upper end of your aerobic exercise zone, it offers you several advantages that traditional steady-state exercise (where you keep your heart rate within your aerobic zone) can’t provide:
  • HIIT trains and conditions both your anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. You train your anaerobic system with brief, all-out efforts, like when you have to push to make it up a hill or sprint the last few hundred yards of a distance race.
  • HIIT increases the amount of calories you burn during your exercise session and afterward because it increases the length of time it takes your body to recover from each exercise session.
  • HIIT causes metabolic adaptations that enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions. This will improve your athletic endurance as well as your fat-burning potential.
  • HIIT appears to limit muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, in comparison to traditional steady-state cardio exercise of longer duration.
  • To get the benefits HIIT, you need to push yourself past the upper end of your aerobic zone and allow your body to replenish your anaerobic energy system during the recovery intervals.

General HIIT Guidelines
  • HIIT is designed for people whose primary concerns are boosting overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss, without losing the muscle mass they already have.
  • Before starting any HIIT program, you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes at 70-85% of your estimated maximum heart rate, without exhausting yourself or having problems.
  • Because HIIT is physically demanding, it’s important to gradually build up your training program so that you don’t overdo it. (The sample training schedule below will safely introduce you to HIIT over a period of eight weeks.)
  • Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after each HIIT session.
  • Work as hard as you can during the high intensity intervals, until you feel the burning sensation in your muscles indicating that you have entered your anaerobic zone. Elite athletes can usually sustain maximum intensity exercise for three to five minutes before they have to slow down and recover, so don’t expect to work longer than that.
  • Full recovery takes about four minutes for everyone, but you can shorten the recovery intervals if your high intensity intervals are also shorter and don’t completely exhaust your anaerobic energy system.
  • If you experience any chest pain or breathing difficulties during your HIIT workout, cool down immediately. (Don't just stop or else blood can pool in your extremities and lightheadedness or faintness can occur.)
  • If your heart rate does not drop back down to about 70% of your max during recovery intervals, you may need to shorten your work intervals and/or lengthen your recovery intervals.
  • HIIT (including the sample program below) is not for beginner exercisers or people with cardiovascular problems or risk factors. If you have cardiovascular problems or risk factors should NOT attempt HIIT unless your doctor has specifically cleared you for this kind of exercise.

The key element of HIIT that makes it different from other forms of interval training is that the high intensity intervals involve maximum effort, not simply a higher heart rate. There are many different approaches to HIIT, each involving different numbers of high and low intensity intervals, different levels of intensity during the low intensity intervals, different lengths of time for each interval, and different numbers of training sessions per week. For example, a good starter workout is running as fast as you can for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. Repeat that 3-minute interval five times for a 15-minute, fat-blasting workout! It sounds too simple to be effective, but science doesn't stretch the truth.

You don’t need to swap all of your aerobic exercise for HIIT to gain the benefits. A good balance, for example, might be two sessions of HIIT per week, along with 1-2 sessions of steady-state aerobic exercise. As usual, moderation is the key to long-term success, so challenge yourself—but don’t drive yourself into the ground. And most importantly, get ready to see major changes in your body and your fitness level!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Numbers On The Scale...

Okay, so I know some of you must be going, "What is up with this girl?!? It's been over a month!" I know, I know, it's been awhile... but I'M BACK! :) April was kinda' hectic for me, with work, appointments, meetings, not to mention multiple birthdays (including my own - I turned 31 this year, whoo-hoo!)... it's been kinda' crazy, but I'm still here. I post more often on the Succeed At Fitness Facebook page - I'm on there everyday, so if you're on Facebook and haven't liked the page yet, you should check it out!

But anyway, let's get to the subject of this post, which is about an old frenemy of mine and I'm sure yours, too (not sure what frenemy I'm talking about or even what a "frenemy" is, check out an old post I did a couple of years ago titled "My Frenemy"). The big S.C.A.L.E, that's right, the scale. I've tried to like her, I really have. She'll get me all hyped up and ready to be on her team and then she'll disappoint me all over again. But I've finally come to the conclusion that the problem really isn't the scale, it's ME! Or maybe I should say my old mindset about the scale? Let me explain...

Heavy But Fit
That's right I said it. Contrary to popular belief, the scale isn't the problem. But maybe "problem" is actually the wrong word and that's the problem. You see, we tend to let that number on the scale define us. We have in our head a certain number that we want to see, and after eating healthy (and/or "dieting"), working out, and still not seeing the number we want - in fact the numbers may have even went UP rather than down - we get frustrated, sad, depressed and ready to throw our old frenemy out the window. But hold on! It's actually not the her fault! All the scale does is weigh us on how HEAVY we are - that number tells us nothing about how much of that weight is muscle, bone, fat, water... etc. I'll take myself as an example. To this day, my smallest weight ever has been 124lbs. Sounds great, right? Right. However, I now weigh 134 but am smaller, toner and more fit than I ever was at 124. I've gained muscle but have lost inches, and now, at 134, I can slide out of my size 4 jeans without unbuttoning my pants! I'm heavier but more fit. I've gained MUSCLE - NOT FAT. So who cares what the scale says?

All of these women weigh 150lbs - different heights and different sizes but the weight is
the same. Check out the last pic! 5FT.5, A SIZE 2 and 150LBS! If that doesn't prove that
the scale isn't the best determinant of fitness I don't know what does!

Question: Is The Scale Even Necessary?
Good question! And a tricky one, too! My answer would be yes and no. Let me explain. If you are obese or overweight, yes, I do think you need to pay some attention to the scale. Now do I think you should try and fit into a certain BMI range? No. Most people know by now that the whole BMI concept is bogus for exactly some of the reasons I mentioned above. But I do think that if you're 5ft.3 and weigh 229 lbs that that weight is way too much for your size and you do need to lose weight! And that's using my own height and old weight as an example. At that height and weight, I had way too much fat around my heart and other internal organs, making that weight very unhealthy for me. So yes, in the beginning of your journey, the scale should, in my opinion, be used.

But once you get to level where you are fit - meaning not overweight, lower percentage of body fat (i.e - more muscle than fat on your body)... etc., the scale ceases to be of any importance in my opinion. If you are going to continue down the this road of eating healthy and exercising regularly, as long as all of your clothes continue to fit, you're good! I know that sounds incredibly simple but it really is that simple and it took me a long time to get that through my thick head! If you can continue to wear the same size clothes with no bulges or lumps, and you're going shopping and can still easily buy the same size, you're still on the right track and there's no need to worry or pull out the scale. I know from personal experience getting on the scale can just be a frustrating annoyance with daily weight fluctuations, water weight, added weight from muscle soreness... etc. And if you're like me, and you have gotten to the point where you WANT to build muscle, getting on the scale is totally pointless, especially if you're getting on it with the expectations of losing weight because if you're gaining muscle, the scale is going to go UP - NOT DOWN.

So, in conclusion, my opinion is, take those numbers on the scale with a grain of salt. Do I feel like the scale is your enemy? No. But I do think her truth is a little warped. Eat healthy, exercise, make good choices and you WILL see results  - no matter what that scale says.