I recently starting running again after having a kid. And it is the worst thing ever.
Trying to build up endurance after well over a year off is a huge pain. So far, I'm nowhere near that runner's high that makes it all worthwhile. And the weight isn't exactly melting off either.
Not that I'm supposed to care about that, people keep insisting. "You should just bask in the glory of your post-baby body...." Oh, shut up.
I'm informed that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can really help ramp up my fitness. But what exactly is it, and will it really make me lithe again?
What the experts say
"HIIT training can be executed in many ways. The goal is to raise the heart rate for a predetermined time, then allow it to lower again for a set amount of time. The classic example of Tabata [the method she uses] is to get on a stationary bike, increase the tension so you're at your max output for 20 seconds, then decrease it and pedal for 10 seconds at no tension. Then increase again for 20 seconds at full throttle, and rest again - and so on for 8 sets. This should be gruelling! Your legs will be depleted. Great results will be achieved when it's paired with weight training and an eating plan. Start at 20:20 and then reduce the amount of rest time as capacity increases. The [program] is great for those who don't have 45 minutes to spend on a treadmill and for building more lean muscle."
fitness and nutrition expert, Toronto
"People have to be realistic. The way to control fat and weight is through what you put in your mouth, not exercising. Changes from exercise are relatively small compared to those from nutrition. To burn even 300 calories takes a high pace. And 300 calories is just a little more than a doughnut. That said, interval training can be effective. Take an individual who puts on 20 pounds from age 20 to 40 - that's about a teaspoon of sugar a day. It adds up over time. If you can enhance energy expenditure by a small amount daily or a few times a week, it's significant. For the individual who only has 20 minutes three times a week, interval training is valuable, though it can be uncomfortable or unsafe for a lot of people. When small amounts of interval training are compared to large amounts of traditional cardio, improvements are similar."
chair, department of kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton
"We did studies where we incorporated the use of HIIT within a balanced exercise program, and we saw some fantastic differences - better decreases in body weight and body fat. We were surprised that it worked so well on abdominal fat. If you work out at a slower pace, you do burn a higher percentage of fat than carbohydrates. The problem is, you burn far fewer calories than if you go hard. I would include HIIT with other exercises. To do it right, you have to go pretty darn hard. Most people have trouble pushing themselves that way, and it's disruptive to the muscle tissue. People shouldn't be doing this every single day. Good nutrition trumps exercise every time."
professor, department of nutrition, food and exercise sciences,
Florida State University, Tallahassee
"We had a group of college-age females train every other day for seven sessions. They completed a four-minute interval on a bike, then took a two-minute break, for a total of 10 intervals. After two weeks, we saw a significant improvement in their aerobic capacity. Before and after the training, we had them cycle at a moderate intensity for about an hour. After two weeks, we saw that they were burning about 36 per cent more fat during that moderate-intensity ride. HIIT does not burn more fat. When we work at a higher intensity, our muscles rely mainly on burning carbohydrates. But interval training burns a lot of calories in a short time. We found that metabolism is up for a few hours after doing HIIT. We did muscle biopsies and saw a significant improvement in the level of fitness in the muscle. It's also a good idea to mix up your workouts."
JASON TALANIAN, exercise and sports science department, Fitchburg State University, Fitchburg, Massachusetts
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