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Spring Training—
High Intensity Interval Cardio Work


Still thinking about getting into shape for the summer, are we? Some of us think about it until mid-September and finally say, "Why bother? The summer is already over." Personally, I have a problem with the getting-in-shape approach to fitness, health and well-being. It carries with it a temporary connotation, as if getting in shape is something we casually gain and lose on a regular basis. Here today, gone tomorrow and here today again... more like here today and gone for good, if we don't watch out. Make health and fitness a lifestyle and you'll shine like the summer's sun every day.

You know the drill. Eat right and exercise regularly, smaller meals more often, more protein and fresh vegetables and fruit. Yeah, yeah. Aerobics (ugh) till I drop... Uh, oh. Wrong. Big wrong. Boy, have I fought this concept of physical fitness with a sword and a shield. Run, jump, dance, step, spin, jog... more, more... you're going to evaporate. Stop all that cardio nonsense — unless you just love it like chocolate and can't stop — and apply it with logic and intelligence. Let me explain something briefly. In the mid-70s when mainstream America was first turning on to fitness, somebody came up with the running craze; lotsa carbohydrates to fuel the running machine, lean bodies, marathons, 10-Ks, 5-Ks, cardiovascular rules, run, run, run, burn fat, kill calories. The books and the doctors said so. Fit or fat, aerobic enzymes, classes on the hour, run, Jane, run. We became fully indoctrinated.

The world of industry and commerce and big bucks took the cue and built the machines to keep us hopping. They invent new ones each year and streamline the old ones like Ford and BMW. Aerobics is big business. Aerobics is over-rated. Aerobic work needs to be sent to the back of the room and behave according to our needs. Bridle the frantic creature and make it work for you.

Seems as if the whole world forgot about muscles, protein and lifting weights for a quarter of a century. Twenty-five years of frustration has led us, thank goodness, to some very sound thinking and dandy cardio procedures. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a salvation for those determined to improve cardiovascular health, burn fat and spare muscle, sanity and time.

Let me explain some basics.

Conventional cardio performed on equipment (bike, stepper, rower etc) consists of thirty to forty-five minutes of even-paced activity. The participant seeks out by calculation or a heart monitor his or her preferred heart rate and goes for the duration. The goal is to burn calories (and, hopefully, fat) as well as develop the efficiency of the heart and lungs. The activity raises the metabolism and calorie burning continues for an extended period of time throughout the day. It works to a degree. Beats the couch, TV and a bag of chips by a miracle mile. However, the monotony, non-creativity, invested time and scramble for equipment takes its toll on most everyone I know. I shudder, mop the gym floor and polish the mirrors furiously, instead. Very practical and also works.

Most recently, though convention is like glue, experience and experiment and research are introducing smarter aerobic procedures. As soon as the training population gets unstuck they might very wisely be installing HIIT into their cardio fat-burning regimen. Forty-five minute low-intensity, long duration sessions can be replaced more effectively with high intensity interval training for an exciting twelve minutes. Yes, pooped friend, there's life beyond the treadmill and Stairmaster.

Here's a simple HIIT sample for the free-spirited aerobic bum; choose your weapon (spinner, treadmill, climber, outdoor jog and run) and plan on twelve minutes of output. Start an easy warm up for four minutes, stepping it up comfortably as the minutes progress. Body in motion and number one endorphins engaged, you now blast it (according to your dynamite stores and desired explosion) for thirty seconds and back off for thirty seconds, blast it for thirty and back off for thirty. Repeat this thirty-thirty interval for a total of six sets, that is, six minutes. The final two minutes are committed to a gradual decrease in intensity and cooling off. You have completed your cardio effort for the day.

You expressed and challenged yourself, startled the dozing muscles and welcomed the sweet pain of gain. Boredom begets mediocrity. Enemies both, they deserve swift eradication. Let's hit the weights and build some muscle. Race ya to the bench press.

You think I'm loony or joking or conspiring, don't you? Me not speak with forked tongue. I'll save you the dreary proof and challenge you to try the basic outline above and observe your activity response. You'll react hotly to the short term extreme demand and logic will convince you intensity is setting new systems in motion. I suggest you be in fair cardio condition before knocking off the twelve-minute program. It can sting. Creativity is welcome as you feel your way around the intervals. Vary the load intensity and rest intervals according to your moods and needs. Not enough of us give ourselves permission to be creative. Cut loose.

Short blasts of high intensity cardio snap the trainee out of the adaptive "steady state" the body wisely seeks to conserve energy (calories) when practicing the same pace, low intensity, long duration protocol of ordinary aerobics. Tricks are in order. The metabolism reaches a more heightened state for a longer period of time after high intensity intervals, assuring the performer of continued fat burning effects. Cardiovascular conditioning is achieved much sooner according to studying physicians.

Take the high road, feel the action, see the sights and get where you're going while you're at it.

Here's more information on high intensity cardio.

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