This week’s blog post is about a question I have been answering since 1992 when I become a certified fitness instructor. And, yes, I did actually own leg warmers and a leotard, but that’s another story…
The question is about exercise. What is the best type? That is a GREAT question. And my answer is that it depends. When most people ask that question, they have something in mind that they often have not included in the question. Like for example, what is the best exercise to help me lose weight, or get bigger muscles, run a marathon, etc. So, my follow up question is always, “What are you trying to accomplish?” Most often I hear weight loss, better health or more energy. Those are motivating factors for most people to either begin or re-establish a regular workout routine. If, however, I hear something like “Run my first 5k”, then I know I have to give a different answer. So, let’s talk a little bit about it.
If you have a specific goal in mind, you will want to train specifically for that goal. So, if you want to run either a 5k, a marathon or anything in between, you will need to create a running plan. So, that means that about 3 or more days per week you are going to run various types of runs to prepare you for your event. The same would be true if you are wishing to compete in a bike race, a triathlon or kayaking event. Your workouts need to prepare you for your event. The specifics on that are beyond the scope of this blog post, but I think you get the idea. You can’t swim and expect to be in great shape to run or vice-versa.
Now, let’s talk about exercise for weight loss, better health, and improved energy. There is actually an answer that addresses all of those. That would be High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short. This type of exercise incorporates short “bursts” of high intensity with periods of recovery so that your heart rate goes up and down throughout the workout. There are a number of benefits to exercising this way.
· It’s time effective – a 30 minute workout gives you great benefits and a significant calorie burn.
· It has a positive effect on your metabolism. If you are struggling with weight loss, this is a huge bonus. This type of exercise helps you continue to burn calories even when you are done with your workout.
· HIIT training can help improve blood pressure, blood sugar and reduce your resting heart rate. Those are all important markers of health.
· It’s fun and time will fly… The variety of hard/easy helps avoid the monotony of a steady state workout.
· You can adapt any exercise to a HIIT format. Like to walk? Run? Simply do it at a high Intensity and then recover. Repeat the process several times and you have your workout.
Here’s a great way to begin adding high intensity into your workouts. It’s called “Peak 8” and is a great way to turn any workout into a HIIT session.
Take 10 min and warm up. If you are walking, walk at a gradually increasing pace. If you are running or cycling, perform those activities at a moderate pace.
Next, perform 30 seconds at high intensity. This could be brisk walking, sprinting or hard cycling.
Now, recover for 90 seconds with easy walking or jogging
Repeat this pattern 8 times
Cool down for 4 minutes. You can walk, jog or some combination of the two
Voila! You have a 30 min. workout
If you like to lift weights, you can begin with a few minutes of dynamic flexibility or mobility work to get warmed up.
Next, you can take an exercise, perform it for 1 minute and then recover for one minute. During your minute of exercise, make sure you go hard. This means heavy weights, or fast reps if you are using light weights.
Repeat that process 10 times with either 10 different exercises or multiple sets of exercises. Some great exercises are things like squats, lunges, pushups, pull ups, power-lifting moves like snatches and cleans and kettlebell swings.
Cool down with some light stretches at the end and you have a great workout!
If you want to use just bodyweight exercises, simply alternate between high and low intensity exercises and incorporate some rest.
My husband, Dr. Tim and I created a video with a 30 min. bodyweight HIIT workout. You can find it here on my YouTube channel. Maybe it will give you some ideas!
How often do you need to do this type of workout? I recommend 5 workouts per week total. I think at least 3 should be the HIIT format. The other two could be steady state or mobility work like yoga, pilates, etc. However, research shows us that at least 3 of these workouts are needed to get results.
I hope this inspires you to get out there and get moving!