Have They Found the Perfect Interval Formula?

In the fitness world, buzzwords come and go almost monthly. One that seems to have some real staying power, though, is high intensity interval training, or HIIT. Although it’s not really a new idea, HIIT has really gained ground in the past few years with the rise of standardized forms like Crossfit, Tabata and the Little method. Even with these programs, though, a universal formula for an effective HIIT workout has been sorely lacking.

A group of Danish researchers set out in 2012 to define the perfect formula for HIIT and their work produced some intriguing results worth considering.

The 10-20-30 Study

At the beginning of their research, the team, led by Dr. Thomas Gunnarsson experimented with different ratios that are already at use in other HIIT methods.

Starting with 30-second sprinting bouts, which is a common approach, they found that, although this produced powerful results in their subjects, it’s also a very demanding. Eventually, through trial-and-error, the team fell on 10-second intervals.

It’s not really surprising that the 10-second sprints produced benefits but the exact depth of those improvements has caught many experts off-guard.

Over the course of the 7-week study, veteran 5K runners cut a full minute off their time and 1500-meter runners reduced their time by an average of 23-seconds. And these reductions all happened while slicing their weekly mileage by half. As an added selling-point, these highly effective workouts only took about 20 to 30 minutes.

Workout Details

At its core, the 10-20-30 program is modeled after the Fartlek approach by involving short bursts of running with the speed adjusted by how you’re feeling.

A typical workout following this new protocol would look like this:

  1. A 10-minute warmup. The runners in the original study ran just 3/4 of a mile for their warmup, with no regard to time.
  2. Jog for 30 seconds, run for 20 and then sprint for 10. Repeat this same pattern four more times, follow this routine for five straight minutes.
  3. Walk or jog for 2 minutes as an active rest.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Cycle through these intervals two or three times. Runners in the study eventually worked their way up to four of these sets.

The original study didn’t list any sort of cool-down but a 10-minute walk is generally recommended to wrap-up your workout.

Because this approach allows you to adjust the speed of each interval, whether it be jogging, running or sprinting, and the number of times you repeat the pattern, it’s easily adapted to your fitness level.

Expert Reception

In general, most experts who reviewed the research found no problems with the study methodology or the program that the study produced. A few authorities have questioned the effectiveness of this type of workout for elite-level athletes.

Others have expressed doubts regarding the trustworthiness of the touted benefits since the subjects used were all experienced runners. These detractors feel that those benefits are to be expected by runners who suddenly shift to an easier training method.

Overall, however, both anecdotal and expert reports have supported the use of 10-20-30 intervals.

Have you been able to incorporate 10-20-30 into your workouts? Please share your experience in the comments.




6 Holiday Stress-Busters

As much fun as the holiday season can be, it’s also notorious for stress. You have parties to plan, family politics to navigate, children to please and an increasingly challenging schedule to somehow work your way through. A fortunate few thrive in this environment, letting the extra pressure energize them. For the rest of us, that stress can mean consequences ranging from having less fun to getting ill.

To make the most of this holiday season, consider trying one of these proven stress-busters.

1. Breathing Vacation

Give yourself five minutes of alone time to simply sit and breathe. This can act as a “reset button” for your emotions and stress. Sit down and breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, thinking only of the rhythm and timing of your breaths, for 10 to 20 cycles.

2. 10-Minute Sweat

Mild to moderate exercise not only helps reduce stress, it also gives you energy for the rest of the day. Get up early if you have to and take just 10 minutes for running, cycling or calisthenics. You’ll get your best results from something you can do without gear in your home. If even this small break gets too time-consuming, find some “micro-workouts” by parking at the far end of the lot, or walking a few blocks to the neighborhood holiday party.

3. Practice Saying “No”

Saying “no” to something during the holiday season is really just saying “yes” to something more important. It’s easy to get overbooked, then double-booked, then triple-booked during the holidays. Do yourself a favor and say “no” to everything that’s not A-list important. If this means promising to visit with friends in January, that’s okay. It clears a piece of their holiday calendar, too.

4. Carry Healthy Snacks

People stress-eat. So do you. If you rely on what’s in the environment around you, you’ll be noshing on cookies, candies and mall court fast food. That means gaining weight, losing energy and even compromising your immune system. Instead, go forth into the world armed with a zipper bag of veggie sticks, a piece of fruit and a low-sugar protein bar.

5. Learn to Delegate

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Say it with me now: “I don’t have to do it all myself.” Although most people understand this concept in theory, it’s surprising how few apply it during the holiday madness. Remember — half the stress you’ll be experiencing will come from the number of people you’ll be around all season. Use some of them. They’ll be happy to help.

6. Smile

Here’s the thing about smiling. When you’re happy and relaxed, you smile, but the opposite is also true. When you smile, that physical motion triggers hormone release in your brain that helps you become happy and relaxed. We’re not talking about the “plastic happy face” smile, here, but a genuine toothy grin. If you’re worried or stressed out, think of something that brings a smile to your face.

Any other holiday stress help you’ve heard of or used? Tell us about it — or just vent over last night’s party — in the comments below. 


“Getting Things Done,” David Allen



Turn Over a New Leaf with Fall Resolutions

AutumnFall has always symbolized a new start for me and many parents sending kids back to school. It’s been the time of year to shop for new clothes and school supplies; to start going to bed a little earlier as the sun sets sooner, and to plan for the months ahead.

The crispness in the air invigorates and inspires me. It’s a perfect time to make changes as we hit the ground running after a lazy summer. And it seems like a better time to tackle the world — or at least our own imperfections — than waiting till January 1 and the dead of winter when all you feel like doing is hibernating and drinking hot tea!

But I’m not talking about making resolutions that you can’t keep — lose 10 pounds, organize the house, etc. When goals are too big, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

Fall resolutions, on the other hand, can be realistic goals you hope and plan to accomplish, even if it’s just one modest step at a time. And if you haven’t reached any by New Year’s Day, there’s a second chance to make that list!

So here are some of my resolutions/goals for the rest of the year to keep me happy, healthy and sane. Will you join me?

1. Help the environment more by reducing, reusing, recycling. I’m already pretty good at this, but I think it’s a great idea to try to discard as little as possible. I bring my used batteries and ink cartridges to Staples for recycling. I drop off my husband’s old socks and t-shirts at the church around the corner for the homeless. I bring books to the library for their book sales.

2. Try something new. I often walk around a farmer’s market eyeing the vegetables I don’t know, but somehow I still seem to head for the tried and true. For my fall resolution, I vow to try a strange new vegetable. Who knows? I may have a new fave to add to my repertoire and liven up my cooking and my health.

3.  Start meditating a little each day. I’ve heard it does wonders to step off the merry-go-round of life for just 10 minutes when you are at your wits’ end…or even better, before you get there. According to Stephan Bodian, a licensed psychotherapist and author of Meditation For Dummies, meditation lowers stress, increases energy and creativity, reduces pain and helps create more loving relationships. Sounds good to me!

4. Move more. I try to exercise frequently, but I still wait for the elevator. No more. Unless I’m carrying heavy items, I’m taking the stairs. Did you know how much electricity you can save this way, never mind the calories you burn?

5. Take smaller bites. And I don’t mean of food. We all get overwhelmed by too big a plan, so I’m going to start small. I’m going to clear out one drawer at a time, not tackle a whole room. It’s all part of having a well organized life; take it one step at a time and it will add up.

6. Do something for myself every day.  After 23 years of parenting, both of my kids are on their own. Now that my daily duties are cut drastically, I should have more time for myself. So this fall I will allow myself the time to play Words With Friends without feeling guilty; to watch a reality TV show or to window shop. I deserve it. We all deserve it.

7. Do it now!  And I mean everything. Don’t put off anything from a doctor’s appointment to calling an old friend. Waiting can never help, but it can hurt you with missed opportunities or worse. I’ve learned this the hard way, yet I am still putting things off. I’m going to try to be better….I promise.

What goals have you set for yourself for the rest of the year? Let us know if you are able to keep them.