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.

Sources

http://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/2944/have-researchers-discovered-the-ideal-hiit-formula

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22556401

Postpartum Fitness: How to Get Back in Shape After Having a Baby

After giving birth last fall, one of the first questions I had for my midwife was, “When can I exercise again?” I ran until I was 7 months pregnant, when I had to hang up my running shoes due to health concerns. So I couldn’t wait to get moving again. (Information on keeping a safe running routine throughout pregnancy can be found here.)

But starting a fitness plan postpartum requires that you take special care. Whether you’re an athlete eager to get back into your favorite sport or you’re looking for a way to shed the pregnancy pounds, you can safely get in shape after having a baby.

Getting Started

Being active boasts a bunch of health benefits for new moms. Exercise can boost your energy, reduce postpartum fatigue, fight stress, improve your mood, strengthen your muscles and help you lose weight. Plus, you’ll be setting up lifelong healthy habits and be a good role model for your child.

Before you head to the gym, though, you’ll need to get the OK from your doctor or midwife. Delivering a baby takes a toll on your body, and it can take weeks to recover (or even months if you delivered by cesarean section or had a difficult childbirth). Rest is usually best in the first few weeks after having a baby.

Experts say that most postpartum women can do some light walking as soon as they feel up to it. In general, women who delivered vaginally can start more vigorous exercise at 6 weeks postpartum, and women who delivered by C-section can engage in more intense activity 6 to 8 weeks after childbirth. But know that every woman is different and recovery times vary. Always ask your doctor how long you should wait after the birth of your baby before resuming or starting an exercise program.

Sticking With It

Still, even if you have clearance from your doctor, wait until your body feels ready before you move from walking to more intense activities. Once you feel ready to exercise, follow these tips for success:

·         Ease into it. Doing too much before your body is healed can be a recipe for disaster. You risk injury if you jump into intense exercise too soon. Take it slow and, in time, you’ll be able to gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout sessions.

·         Have realistic expectations. You just had a baby! You are likely sleep deprived and stressed. If you don’t have the stamina for your planned workout one day, don’t sweat it. Just take a walk instead. Remember that even a little bit of exercise is better than none. Pop baby into a jogging stroller and get going! (with luck he’ll even finally fall asleep!)

·         Stay well hydrated. Be mindful to drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. This is especially crucial for breast-feeding women because you lose fluids during nursing sessions. Drinking enough water throughout the day can help you feel more energized and combat fatigue.

·         Plan ahead if you’re breast-feeding. In the first few months postpartum, you may feel more comfortable if you exercise immediately after nursing your baby. Note that working out will not negatively impact your milk supply.

·         Watch for warning signs. If you have bright red vaginal bleeding that’s heavier than a period, stop exercising at once and get medical help.

New moms: how do you make time for fitness? I like to multi-task; I used to lift weights and do jumping jacks while my son played on his activity mat.

Sources:

http://www.permanente.net/homepage/kaiser/pdf/116.pdf

http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq131.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121001T1136080662

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-after-pregnancy/MY00477/NSECTIONGROUP=2

Can Your Workout Be Destroying Your Muscles?

If you’ve ever used any piece of cardio training equipment you’ve seen it: the “heart rate zone chart.” This handy reference tool provides you with some research-based general guidelines for where to keep your heart rate to achieve specific fitness goals.

The target zone for most people, and the focus of most exercise programs, is the “weight loss zone.”

Although there is merit to the “weight loss zone” and related programs, people often take it a step further and claim that exercising above this zone will make your body burn muscle for fuel. However, this has also led to many bodybuilders choosing to avoid cardio altogether during their bulking cycles so that they don’t risk losing any muscle.

But what’s the science at work here? Is the fat loss zone real? Is it possible to work out so intensely that you actually burn muscle?

The Fat Loss Zone

It is true that the fat loss zone exists but it is often misrepresented. Your body will not burn a higher amount of fat in this zone but it will burn a higher percentage. It’s not a matter of whether your body is using carbs or fat for fuel, because you are always using both — in different proportions — depending on the needs at hand.

According to Active.com, exercising at lower intensities forces your body to use about 50 percent of both carbs and fat. At higher intensities this mixture switches to about 35 percent fat, 65 percent carbs, but your total caloric expenditure is much higher so it will likely balance out.

For example, if you run at eight miles per hour for an hour, you burn about 860 calories and 300 of those are from fat. A lower-intensity exercise, like a jog at five miles per hour, will burn 600 total calories with 300 from fat.

Muscle For Fuel

Is there any point at which your body will start to use muscle for fuel? Yes, but you’re not likely to reach it during an average workout. Muscle is precious, used for literally everything you do on a daily basis and your body isn’t eager to destroy it. Using muscle for fuel is called a catabolic state and occurs only during periods of starvation. Interestingly, crash diets can create catabolisis by restricting the caloric intake so much that the body has no option but to turn on its own muscle for fuel.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no correlation between exercise intensity and whether your body burns muscle or fat for fuel. The researchers concluded that, when it comes to conserving muscle, exercise intensity can be left up to you.

Can You Work Out Too Hard?

Although it’s not likely that your workout will destroy your muscles, is it possible for you to work out too hard? Of course it is. Working out too intensely puts you at an increased risk for muscle overuse and other injuries, which can put you out of commission for a while and throw off your exercise routine.

Listen to your body when deciding on the appropriate exercise intensity for you and your fitness level.

Source

http://cbass.com/FATBURN.HTM

http://www.active.com/triathlon/Articles/The-Myth-of-the-Fat-burning-Zone.htm

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/51/2/142.abstract?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=lose+fat+not+muscle&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

Seven Fitness Myths Busted

If I had a dollar for each time someone told me “running is bad for your knees”, I’d have enough money for a pretty nice vacation.

Luckily for me and all of the other runners out there, this information is outdated and inaccurate. It turns out that running may actually protect your knees from health problems, such as degenerative knee issues. A runner’s risk of knee injuries is only increased if they had a previous knee trauma, or if they have a family history of knee problems.

That certainly isn’t the only fitness myth out there. Here are the real stories behind other common exercise misconceptions:

Myth 1: You can eat whatever you want as long as you exercise. This may hold true for professional triathletes, but not for the rest of us. If you weigh 150 lbs. and run 3 miles, for instance, you’ll burn about 300 calories. That’s approximately the number of calories in a cup of oatmeal and a banana. Unfortunately, exercising doesn’t give you a license to eat whatever you like. You need to burn as many calories as you take in if you want to maintain your weight.

Myth 2: Weight training will bulk you up. Not true. Lifting weights will actually help you tone up and slim down: the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Only people who do intense strength training workouts and have certain genetic factors are able to build large muscles.

Myth 3: You can “spot reduce” certain areas of your body. Nope! You can do all the crunches you want, but that won’t necessarily get you six-pack abs. You’ll also have to do cardio exercise and eat a healthy diet, losing fat all over your body, before those toned abs will show up.

Myth 4: Yoga is an easy workout. Some styles of yoga, and certain postures, are both mentally and physically challenging. Yoga is generally a safe workout, but injuries can occur, so if you’re new to yoga you should start slowly and respect your body’s limits. Also, if you have any health issues, check with your doctor before you hit the yoga mat. “Hot” or bikram yoga isn’t safe for pregnant women, for example.

Myth 5: You have to exercise intensely to get results. There is no truth behind the “no pain, no gain” mantra. In fact, working out too hard can lead to injuries and burnout. Never exercise through pain. You can gain plenty of benefits through moderate workouts.

Myth 6: It’s always best to stretch before you exercise. Experts have long studied and debated the potential benefits of stretching. One thing is for sure, though: it’s safest to stretch after your muscles are already warm. So take a warm-up lap and then stretch, or save it for after your workout.

Myth 7: Machines are safer than free weights. There is a small but real risk of injury regardless of what type of weights you lift. Machines may seem safer because they put you in the correct starting position, but they’re only effective if they’re adjusted for your weight and height. You can still use incorrect form on many machines. Ask a trainer to show you how to use equipment so you can make sure you have the right technique and settings.

What’s your favorite — or least favorite — fitness myth?

Sources

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/top-9-fitness-myths-busted

http://sportsdoc.runnersworld.com/2012/05/how-bad-is-running-for-your-knees.html

http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/workout-myths-debunked-i-can-eat-anything-if-i-exercise.html

http://ww2.wcmh.com/story/13957346/5-common-myths-about-exercise

http://www.everydayhealth.com/fitness-pictures/separating-fitness-fact-from-fiction.aspx#/slide-1