What I’m writing about today I’m hoping you will take on board and change the way you exercise forever.
If I was tell you with only 8 minutes of exercise every 3 days, you can help turn your body into a fat-burning super engine, would you be interested? If so, read on.
I worked out very early in life I was blessed with some speed in my legs. With older brothers this ability to run fast came in very handy, and I’ve used it to enjoy a fun athletics career. However it’s the type of training I did and its effect on my body shape, which I want to pay closer attention to.
Fortunately I am and have always been fairly lean, but have definitely not always eaten the right foods. With 3 kids, a wife, a business, I am no stranger to stress either, and come from a family who are all shapes and sizes. So what is it I’m doing which helps to keep my body fat levels down?
The answer is HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT), and you can do it too!
What is HIIT?
A typical HIIT session consists of a warm up period of exercise, followed by 6 to 10 repetitions of high intensity exercise [EFFORT], separated by low to medium intensity exercise [REST], and ending with a period of cool down exercise.
The EFFORT should be done at close to your maximum intensity, with the REST being no more than 50% intensity. One proven protocol for HIIT sets a 2:1 ratio of EFFORT to REST periods.
For example, 30 seconds of hard sprinting or your fastest walking, alternated with 15 seconds of jogging or slower walking. You perform this cycle 6 to 10 times. This protocol can be used effectively for swimming, skipping, cycling or any other form of aerobic type exercise you enjoy.
My own training experience, and that of the body shape displayed by sprint athletes, suggests this short, intense training is effective in encouraging your brain to reduce body fat and lay down muscle tissue.
But why? The key is HIIT tricks your brain into initiating your Fight/Flight stress response and as a result a cascade of hormones are released. These hormones cause a liberation of fat, an increase in muscle tissue and an improvement in aerobic capacity, even while you’re resting. Let me explain this in more detail.
FACT: Exercise is stress on your body. Your brain must always interpret any stress, respond to this stress and subsequently adapt to it. Regardless of the origin of the stress, your brain interprets ALL as a physical threat and responds. For example when nervous I have the sensation of ‘butterflies in my stomach’, now I’m pretty sure there aren’t any in there but it sure feels like it! This is just one example of the direct correlation between a mental stress and a physical response, and it happens all the time.
HIIT is a stress on your body, it’s high intensity, short and powerful and very similar to the stress say, if you were getting chased by a predator or fighting for your life. Your brain adapts to this stress, that is, it prepares your body to reduce the risk of this type of threat ending your life. Your brain wants to keep you alive, that’s its job. So it’s appropriate then for you to be faster, stronger, leaner so you don’t get caught by the predator or you can fight off the predator, otherwise you’re dead. Your brain is in control, it controls what hormones are released, and it responds to HIIT by releasing the hormones which make you slimmer, faster and stronger.
A word of warning though, HIIT may result in injury. The protocol I suggested isn’t set in stone, if you need more REST have it. The key is in the EFFORT and doing it once, twice or eight times doesn’t really matter, do what you can at your present level of fitness and health. Always warm-up appropriately and check you’re performing the exercises correctly and safely.