Is HIIT a component of Wellness?

There are many quotes we bounce around the interwebs these days but today I’m quoting Benjamin Franklin when he wrote in his letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

A commonly used quote that denotes life has two certainties but yet, many, many variables. Let’s call these variables ‘choices’ just for today in this short piece.

We all have choices to make in our lives and especially true of our health and fitness choices but it does seem like most exercisers are simply following the herd without really looking at what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Just because something feels good, that doesn’t make it good for you!

I was going to write up this blog post but instead decided to talk to you instead. If you can’t watch all 10 minutes, that’s okay but I get into discussing HIIT (high intensity interval training) and how it’s showing NOT to be the best, most sustainable choice of exercise to benefit our lives.

You could just leave it there. You’ve read that I’m about to discredit HIIT as a training method and that simpler, less painful training works better! To find out the details, how about just watching the video?

Next time I’ll chat about the alternative to HIIT training that’s both healthier long term and actually provides better results – go figure!

Maybe a shorter video for that one haha.

Until then, be good to yourself 🙂

Jamie

 

Thoracic Spine Mobility Tip

Moving better and getting stronger is rather contextual. For an average gym attendee it’s a clear message; “I want to lift heavier stuff” or “I want to carry out more complex movements”.

But, if you’re an individual with back pain (or any pain) at rest, whilst carrying out day-to-day activities or whilst trying to engage in exercise, the message is different. It becomes qualitative rather than quantitive. Working out hard or following the most advanced, cutting edge, progressive strength training plan is irrelevant at this stage.  Getting out of pain and discomfort is top priority.

Most of the general population will have some form of mobility issue. It could be as simple as a slightly stiff ankle or hip or shoulders none of which seriously affects the quality of life or it could be as impactful to cause pain and discomfort.

One area of mobility impairment I observe in the gym is thoracic spine mobility restrictions, or in simple terms, the limited range of movement of the upper body through rotation or side bending and also overhead reaching activities.

The thoracic spine (aka the T-spine) comprises the 12 vertebra that covers the shoulders to the waist, or the rib cage portion of the torso.

If the thoracic spine has restrictions, the lower backs lumbar spine will compensate and attempt to move more, not something it’s meant to do. This can often result in fatigue, pain and discomfort. Where I see the restrictions more often is at the top end, where the neck and shoulders take on more work and become stiff, tired and strained. Essentially when the upper torso doesn’t move well, the arms end up compensating and over-reach. There is indeed plenty of research that supports the theory that thoracic spine movement dysfunction is linked to pathologies and pain in the neck, shoulder, and elbow (Heneghan et al, 2017).

Thankfully there are systems in place to help rectify this the help of health practitioners and some trainers who may have qualifications in postural restoration – and positive outcomes can be quick. One study showed that after just three weeks of thoracic spine mobility and strength exercise practice, that participants improved movement competency, strength, posture and pain relief.

Today I’d like to share a couple of T-spine mobility drills we practice often but with a couple of tips added to help make the most of them. We are only human and oftentimes we’ll try to cheat, or get a bit complacent. My modified versions of two common drills have helped many clients actually get the benefit of the moves.

 

Have a go and see how you feel but naturally, of you’ve got pain, maybe go see your local physiotherapist for personalised guidance.

Jamie

How to Bulletproof Your Future

Part 1

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In the gym it’s pretty obvious how we spend our time. People turn up, we warm up, we do some strength work and movement skill work, have a chit-chat then say our ‘see you next times’.

The why and the what else is all-too-often not discussed in much detail apart from some passing suggestions about getting in some aerobic work and keeping up some stretching at home etc.

This year, my goal is to help people bulletproof their futures. 

I’d love to be offering a proverbial radioactive spider to help turn you into a superhero version of yourself, and actually, compared to to an alternative, I might be doing just that!

This year I will naturally be spending time espousing the benefits of strength and mobility training, because that what 90% of my gym time with people is spent doing. BUT, I am going to be spending more time promoting the other stuff, the things we probably do not spend enough time promoting.

My role is that of a health and fitness promoter, not just a personal trainer. Fitness is what most of trainers spend lots of time on but health… meh, we could be doing heaps better at that.

Our bodies maintain a healthy balanced system when it’s treated as intended. It’s a bit like a bike chain. Left unused it will rust, stiffen and eventually fail when used. Our bodies have a blueprint, a design and a purpose. There are a number of things we are meant to do daily and frequently to sustain the balance.

Let’s look at these briefly. I will be spending time over the coming weeks looking more deeply into these according to what research has found and I’ll cover to how to action improvements.

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

What happens when we drift away from our intend? We specialise. This is a subject that puts the cat right amongst the pigeons.

Whilst admiring a specialist and their very particular set of skills, they have most likely sacrificed many other essential elements of what makes up complete health. 

A few general examples:

  • The cyclist who does not work on their strength training
  • The powerlifter who neglects their body fat levels and aerobic health
  • The overly busy father who works 55 hours a week yet neglects his family
  • The very busy mum who focuses entirely on her children and family and neglects their own fitness and nutrition
  • The Gymnast who focuses wholeheartedly on their sport and sacrifices their joint health

While you can admire all these people for their dedication and successes, isn’t it a shame they sacrifice to do so. It’s not a moral shame either. It’s a shame that the essential physical components that make us fully operational humans are missing. Being mobile, strong, aerobically capable; being able to fully recover from each day with good nutrition and adequate sleep is what amounts to enable our bodies to thrive. Being good at one thing is fine, but the pay-off is a health trade-off. 

2019 is the year I’ll be wearing more of my health promotion hat and not just my PT hat. So much of my last 10 years have been spent on learning and developing better knowledge and application of training programs, exercises, progressions, regressions and systems but one thing has become quite apparent – it just doesn’t matter if we are not getting the basics of health in place.

If you’re following a training program, not getting stronger, not losing fat, not feeling fitter, most likely it’s not the training that’s to blame, it’s the poor attention given to these other components. 

Before contemplating becoming an expert or a specialist, weigh up being a really good generalist. Being able to undertake a wide array of components of being human is so much more wealthy than being awesome at one or a restricted number of things. 

Until next time, do weigh yourself up. What are you doing more of or what are you doing proportionately less? Consider that list above:

  • Sleep 7 to 9 hours a day.
  • Eat a balanced diet of plants, proteins, fats and water too.
  • Stay strong in all the movements our mechanics perform in.
  • Walk daily and get out of breath from time to time.
  • Move well and often without restriction, pain or discomfort.

 

Part 2 – Sleep 

 

Taking the Long Road

 

longevity

Most of us will be privileged to live on this earth for around 80 years or so, give or take a Zombie apocalypse or our politicians hitting the big red button in a temper-tantrum. The key word here is ‘live’. By live I mean to thrive, be strong, fit, healthy and absent of illness and disease. This is in contrast to just surviving which sadly we can observe in greater numbers in this, the 21st century.

While the great diseases of the 18th, 19th and early 20th century are all but non existent, we have growing number of people suffering heart conditions, diabetes, obesity and the cancers to name but a few.

This is not living – this is just surviving. 

We have a choice to lead a healthy life and these days we even have an abundance of resources and teachers who can guide us in the direction of a healthier life. It’s not actually that difficult once you decide to take ownership of your own existence; what you eat, what time you go to bed at and following a routine of exercise.

Living a monastic life void of all treats is not necessary but living a life of good, better and better(er) choices is achievable by everyone.

The simple choices can lead to many health benefits that in the long run, will add up to a better quality of life.

  1. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Eat mainly unprocessed foods comprising of proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrate foods that occur naturally.
  3. Walk every day for around 30 minutes. Not brisk. Just walk.
  4. Practice strength training 2 to 3 times a week.
  5. Daily, perform some form of stretching with a movement system you can enjoy. Just a few minutes a day can have wonderful affects.

You can choose to to just hang around until our nations health system has to take care us until death, or you take care of all the little things that add up to health longevity, living and thriving until our final day.

As my good friend Coach Steve Furys tag line goes – ‘Die Mighty’.

Steve Maxwell is another longtime coach with some wise words to share about longevity.

 

Got any thoughts?

New Year Promise

I was talking to a client this morning who mentioned that her local park run event (5km recreational running events held weekly) broke its attendance record and we dully laughed knowing that attendance will most likely drop within the next few weeks.

This will be the same observation in gyms, other recreational sporting events, slimming groups and other dieting support groups.

Why?

Dreams built off of lofty goals. Goals that are unreasonable, unmeasured, unhealthy and based on poor knowledge of how to achieve the goals. If you’ve had the new year resolution conversation, I’m sure you’ve heard something along the lines of, “I want to lose 5kg”, or “I want to get fitter”, whatever that means. I bet you’ll rarely hear, “I am promising to myself to get healthier”.

And that, ultimately is why anyone should start to exercise – to improve ones health.

Health goals could include:

  1. Losing fat.
  2. Lowering stress.
  3. Sleeping better.
  4. Lowering blood pressure.
  5. Lower risk factors associated with heart disease and cancers.
  6. Rebalancing hormones.

Here’s one interesting fact. Aerobic exercise carried out daily has repetitively shown to help ease or remedy all of the above. Additionally, addressing any one of the above items has been shown to help with the others on the list.

Wanting to exercise to improve your 5km run time or increase your deadlift should be queued behind having great health first.

So let’s clear up what great health is and what does that mean in relation to the above list.

If you are overweight, your health is at risk. It doesn’t matter how happy you are if you are overweight, the facts of the matter are that carrying around excess weight be it from extra fat or muscle (now that’ll rattle a few people) is or will negatively affect your health.

A simple way to measure if you are overweight apart from the obvious, is this guide.

If your waist is more than twice you height or BMI is over 25 then you are overweight.

Stress is pretty much self determined and heavily influenced by the the things we do onto ourselves. Not always of course, but the way we react to day to day stresses varies from person to person.

Some signs of stress:

If you are getting angry at people around you or at yourself, you are stressed.

If your sleep is affected by not being able to let go of your day to day difficulties, you are stressed.

If you are experiencing negative feelings or emotions about yourself, you are stressed.

If you are getting frequent headaches, chances are you are unduly stressed.

If you are experiencing stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, then your body is under stress.

If your blood pressure is higher than healthy thresholds, then your body is under stress.

If you’ve just increased your weekly high intensity exercise by more than 20%, you are stressing your body unduly.

If you only perform high intensity exercise, you are putting your body under excess stress.

If you drink more than the recommended units of alcohol per day, you are stressing your body.

… The list could go on. For many of these, talking to your doctor is vital.

The presence of ill-health is a clear indicator too that hard exercise has no place in your routine.

The point is, if your body is not operating as it normally should, it is under stress. Taking on extra and ‘intensive activities’ has no place in your weekly routine until good health is restored. Hard exercise is a stressor on the body so adding more stress to an already stressed system should clearly be seen as unwise.

The picture being painted here so far is that hard exercise has no place in the life of an unhealthy person that includes one who is overweight, overstressed and under sleeping.

If you are a beginner and overweight and maybe exhibiting some other health issues and you want to improve your health and fitness, going out for a run, carrying out some random HIIT workout from Youtube is NOT what you should be prioritising.

Remember at the start I mentioned the health benefits of aerobic activities? That is where you should start. It might not be the most exciting or stimulating, but you know what, getting injured, having a heart attack or stressing your body to throw up after your run is not much fun either.

Every new endeavour must start with reasonable actions that are repeatable for the rest of your life. Yep, you’re in that body for a very long time and it is your choice whether you thrive or barely just survive.

How about starting with a 30 minute walk, every day. You don’t need a membership or even fancy workout clothing. Just stick on your shoes, open the door and go walk. Do close the door behind you of course 😉

Over a week of walking you’ll expose yourself to a bit of sun, increase your Vit D, breathe and stimulate your heart and lungs and start to switch on some muscles that have been inactive for a while all with a low intensity form of exercise that you were born to do.

Forget the high intensity stressors. Feed and love your body and promise to yourself to do so every day of your life.

 

HOW TO MAINTAIN GAINS OVER THE HOLIDAYS – PT.3

Welcome to part 3 of my short series about how to sustain a minimum affective dose of strength over the Christmas period. In part 1 and part 2 I covered variations of three staples of strength. Push, Hip Hinge and Squat have been chosen for simplicity and variety.

In this part I ramp up the effort a little. This is not obligatory of course, just an option if you wanted to increase the effort of part 2’s suggestion.

  1. Continue to practice the A-frame inverted press, maybe with a greater range of movement or try the option shown, the Bear Crawl. Aim for 5 presses or 5 paces of the bear crawl
  2. True Single Leg Deadlift. Stand tall, abdominal wall tense. Lift one leg, keep it limp. Inhale and drive hips back allowing knee to bend a little and grip floor with foot. Exhale and drive hips forward. Swap leg or stick with the same leg and repeat for 5 reps.
  3. Single Leg Box Squat. Stand in front of a knee height step or gym box or dining room chair. Stand on one leg and hip hinge first and lower to find the box. Rest back a little before tightening up the torso and driving back to standing. For a harder option, just touch and go with the step. If you have aspirations to accomplish a pistol squat, this is a great strengthener in preparation.

 

Got any thoughts or feedback? Get in touch below.

 

Do you like the idea of 10 minute plans to build your fitness and strength program? This is exactly how we plan most of our programs for clients. Our Online Membership is a fine example of 10 minute blocks where we assemble our daily routines with blocks of 10 minutes. Short on time – do 1 block of 10 mins. Got plenty of time – complete 3 to 4 blocks of 10 minutes.

Check out the online platform by clicking below.

click here

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

Have a Healthy and Stronger 2019

IMG_6958Christmas is getting so close and I plan to let my hair down, eat what I want and enjoy myself with family. I hope you will too.

I am also looking forward to January though, when it’ll be time to put focus back on health and fitness Fitstrong Brisbane.

On Monday 7th I’ll be kicking off our January Challenge with an emphasis on creating better nutritional habits and following a simple but effective training program.

Random workouts from Youtube or a magazine are fine if you just want to build up a sweat, but they rarely result in achieving goals. I can proudly say that we follow training plans all year round at FitStrong. These are laid out to address and prioritise specific goals and not just to get tired, sore and sweaty. I could poke you with a stick if that’s the goal!

Our systematic approach is applied to both in-person training at the gym and for online training members.

Okay, back to you now. Ask yourself.

  • Are you committed to improving your fitness and health in 2019?
  • Can you set aside 15, 30 to 45 minutes for yourself daily or 2 to 3 times a week?
  • Have you got a health or fitness goal?
  • Do you want the assistance of a very experienced coach?

If you can answer yes to these, please do consider joining us at FitStrong either as an online member or at our Albany Creek gym. Our training options can meet any budget from $1 a day to more higher ticket detailed packages.

Check out our Online Membership site below:

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If you are ready to take 2019 by the horns and get healthier and stronger, get in touch below and I’ll get back to you with start-up options that won’t break the bank!

Strong is ability

Strong isn’t a size, it’s ability. 

All too often you’ll hear rebuttals to strength training from prospective clients or other adult pops with quotes like, “I don’t want to get all muscly” or, “I’m not a strength athlete, I just want to be fitter”!

I love both of these reasonings for not making strength training part of ones life, not because I agree, quite the contrary; but because I love to explain the why. The ‘why’ we do need strength training in our lives.

Firstly, the whole growing big muscles by partaking in strength training twice or maybe three times a week  for the average adult just isn’t going to result in a Popeye type explosion of all over muscle growth.

Popeye1

Muscle growth occurs with repeated high stress training for multiple sets, repeating a strength exercise to the point of muscular fatigue or momentary failure.

Strength training practice requires the exposure of high tension to muscles with maximum control but not to momentary muscular failure. 

Apart from this important factor that differentiates muscle growth training to muscle strength training; youth, great nutrition, great sleep, minimum stress, natural hormones in abundance are all required to accompany the high stress training protocols. For most of us, we’re not going to train moderately and burst into a behemoth overnight, or even after a years solid training. In reality to boot, even if you were to gain 10kg of muscle, you wouldn’t really notice it in the mirror as huge growth. You’d see a bit of muscle shape and improved posture in most cases.

In any case, don’t worry about strength training adding vast lumps of meat to your frame, it just isn’t that easy. Even for the average dedicated gym bro, adding muscle following the precise muscle gain protocols is a very challenging job.

Now then, as for the other perception that strength is for athletes, well it just isn’t. I wish I could just leave this as it is but my point warrants further explanation.

Let’s start by looking at those who believe that practicing some form of strength training is not for them or wasn’t for them; let’s look at the elderly. Frail, weak, dependant on a stick, a frame, other people or aids to carry out the most basic of fundamental human tasks, it should be obvious that people in this boat could have benefitted greatly from even the simplest weekly strength training practice.

Many hospital ‘incarcerations’ for the elderly patient occur as an outcome of a fall, when weak and brittle bones succumbed to the impact or dislocations or muscle tears resulted. We all run the risk of tripping and falling in life but having the resilience to cope is part choice and part luck.

The choice component comes from choosing to be proactive throughout our lives in regards to staying active, mobile and strong. Isn’t this a definition of ‘fitness’, being fit for our lives and all that it throws our way?

Being stronger not only safe-guards us and makes us more resilient, it makes us more able and capable.

Ask yourself this question:

On your death bed in many, many years, would you regret being strong and able or would you regret being weak and prone to pain and injury? 

Heading into the new year soon, maybe you’re thinking of taking up ‘getting strong and more mobile’. To draw this post to an end, I’d like to offer you a FREE 5 day course for home use, which will take you through some key movements to start first off addressing moving better.

click here

Check it out and if you’ve any further questions or you’re ready to start getting stronger, get in touch.

Keen to learn more about training with me online?

Check out our Online Membership below.

fitstrong membership subscription#7

How to Incorporate High Intensity Training into Your Week

In part 1 last week [LINK] I talked about how research is finding the commonly used HIIT model of training is resulting in more negative results on our health. Burn out, injuries, overtraining and poor adherence make it unsustainable.

I introduced a new approach labelled High Intensity Repeat Training.

Let’s jump into Part 2.

Here’s a little fitness map I’ve made that illustrates all the ‘stuff’ we should include regularly.

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The main categories include:

  • strength training
  • movement practice
  • cardio.
  • nutrition
  • recovery

There is no one item more important than the other, although I am starting to believe that sleep quality and health overrides everything else.

Of this list, the vast bulk of training is the foundation, the aerobic, easy to moderate stuff. Walking, gentle cycling, housework and gardening. The aerobic cardiovascular development is based on having individuals work within their aerobic threshold as apposed to bouncing off their anaerobic zone during HIIT. Aerobic threshold is defined as the intensity just before the beginning of the accumulation of hydrogen in the body, at an intensity where our body can handle the stress put upon it and use oxygen to create more energy and clear away bi-products of the effort.

Can you recall working out so hard you got a ‘stitch’ pain in your side? That’s the build up hydrogen ions from such high effort that the body can’t clear it quick enough. It’s not sustainable.

An ideal aerobic zone is described by Dr Maffetone as 180 – your age. This is otherwise known as the maximum aerobic function heart rate (MAF HR).

Note: You can go to Maffetone’s website for a more detailed way to determine your MAF HR based on your age, health, and activity level.

Now, let’s get to weekly ideals

Health experts recommend 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily or 3 ½ accumulation per week. This is where you should spend the bulk of your exercise effort. This daily 30 minutes can be seen repeated by health bodies around the world. It’s not the maximum, it’s optimal.

Strength is an important function of being an able bodied human, autonomous throughout life to undertake physical tasks and challenges. Who wants to live frail and weak?

When we strength train, our bodies recover and adapt (keeping a long story short) but recover too long and we regress. We failed to adapt. With recovery rates and regressions in mind, an average adult should aim to strength train twice to three times over a week. Think Monday and Thursday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And yes, you can strength train and perform aerobic activities in one day. You’ll not day. You might get a little tired, but your body will thrive with recovery.

Mobility is the fountain of youth in terms of maintaining healthy movement (yup, even including healthy bowel movements too). We sit, we lie down and we naturally stiffen up a little. To stay on top of mobility, daily practice is prescribed by the worlds leading experts in movement skills. This might mean just 5 to 10 minutes daily of practicing some mobility moves or appropriate stretches.

Sleep. Despite the claims of some people, a body does need 7 to 8 hours sleep at night to promote hormone function for recovery, rejuvenation, organ and muscle recovery and function and brain health.

Nutrition is made out to be confusing. At its simplest, we as humans need daily protein, vegetables, natural sources of carbohydrate, natural fats and water. The exact amounts I’ll not get into here. Where it gets confusing is when people try to fast track their goals, seek out miracle drinks, potions or start to follow extreme guidelines including the removal of complete food groups. If we follow a mostly balanced diet of mostly the ‘stuff’ I mentioned above, most of the time; we’ll be okay.

HIIT. Ah finally. How much is needed if any? Some might not like the following guideline so if I hurt your feelings, suck it up, embrace a fresh outlook and try it to see what happens.

If, and only if, you are able to:

  1. accumulate 3 ½ hours of aerobic activity in the MAF HR (180-age)
  2. sleep every day for 7 to 8 hours
  3. eat a mostly balanced diet
  4. strength train twice a week
  5. practice daily mobility / flexibility …

… then and only then can your body be subjected to the stresses of HIIT training that should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes.

And here’s a serving suggestions for just that.

Option 1: 30 secs of high effort followed by 30 secs rest x 5

Option 2: 10 secs of high effort followed by 50 secs rest x 10

Option 3: 20 secs of high effort followed by 40 secs of rest x 5-10

You’ll notice option 2 has plenty of rest. This protocol is the hidden gem (well, not any more as i’ve just shared it… oops)

Performing at high effort, your goal is to sustain high quality efforts. Answer me this. If you are performing a high effort followed by short rest, how well will you perform the following high efforts? Will there be a drop in forms, in effort? Is that the goal? Is the goal to repeat high effort or just to repeat feeling terrible?

High Intensity REPEAT Training

Now it’s going to get juicy as I take you into the new world of HIRT.

The best athletes do not do HIIT as you see in gyms and bootcamps. Yes, they do perform high effort training, but if you observe their recovery, it is programmed to allow the athlete to perform repetitively, with the goal of finding the sweetest spot of high performance. Injury rate is reduced too with the sustainable high efforts paired with generous rests.

This is nothing new and was in fact around in the 90s but fell out of vogue due to the perceived sexiness of crushing oneself in front of others for the glory, pride and overcoming feeling terrible.

Look, I’ve been on both sides of this paradigm. The first time I certified with StrongFirst (RKC) I was killing myself with kettlebell swings in the older HIIT style. Yes I did get fitter but also tweaked muscles frequently. As I prepare once again for recertification I’ll be following the HIRT style of training that in fact clients followed last January (2018). It was common to see ladies improve their swing from 12 to 20kg to 24 to 32kg in just an 8 week program.

This too was following just 10 minutes a week.

As a guideline, what we followed was this:

  • 7 swings with a heavy weight followed by at least 50 secs recovery.
  • Pulse levels would increase to approx. 180 – age by the end of each swing set.
  • Recovery was based on allowing the pulse to return to 180 – age – 20
  • As pulse failed to hit 180 – age, if it wasn’t due to fatigue, the weight was increased.

You could try this with any exercise you are competent in. You must not fear the weight or the tool. Just commit, rest, repeat for 5 to 10 minutes and leave it for another 5 to 7 days.

The conclusion

I don’t know truely know when and where the idea started that we must suffer to develop healthy fitness. Science tells us it’s not a valid method to improve healthy fitness. The media sensationalise high effort and reward.

I personally embrace new findings and new or improved ways to optimise my fitness and strength performance and I’ll gladly say goodbye to crushing myself and risking injury if I really don’t need to.

What do you think?

What’s your action point now?

Jamie

Are You HIITing
Yourself too much?

High Intensity Interval Training

Doing you more harm than good?

 

Part 1

Studies show hard training sessions quickly improve athletic performance, but if they come with an injury rate of 50 percent would you still do them?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT for short) has been a mainstay of training programs and systems for only a short period of time. 30 years might sound like a long time, but in an industry, it’s just a snapshot of time.

Studies time and time again show that HIIT protocols do indeed improve athletic performance. HIIT can be described as performing short 10-30 seconds high efforts followed by a short recovery (10-60 seconds) before repeating for up to 8 to 10 total efforts. The high effort would be in the range of 90% of your VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximum effort you can sustain before going red line and you stop using oxygen to create fuel. You instead go into a zone of using other short lived fuels like creatine and lactate.

However, what most studies do not report is that the period we can sustain such training sessions is short, like 4 to 6 weeks. Continue to flog yourself much further and injury rates escalate as do over training risks.

For athletes following a professionally designed program, a period of time would include HIIT training but only during a peaking phase of 4 to 6 weeks of a training program leading up to competition. They do not follow HIIT all year round.

As Doctor Phil Maffetone wrote:
“Anaerobic function creates higher levels of physical and biochemical stress, decreases immune function and muscle repair, increases inflammation, increases the risk of muscle injury and impairs fat-burning. These conditions are also associated with poor (or a lack of) recovery, and are common components of and contributors to the overtraining syndrome.”

So why does the fitness industry keep banging away at the idea that you gotta keep banging away at yourself??

Because HIIT is sexy?
Because high effort is equated to suffering and deserved favourable outcomes??
Because our parents and grandparents suffered to provide for us???

Who knows where the western notion of high effort, suffered and reward stems from, but it is very much a western attraction to fitness. Yes, other cultures follow rights of passage, coming of age rituals, but it’s not an every-day thing!

As I continue, I want to throw out these reality checks for you to ponder:

  1. Every day exercise is a driver to good, better and optimal health.
  2. Athletic Sport performance is NOT about health. It’s about doing everything that must be done to out perform the competition.

When I raced my bike in the 90s, I didn’t race and nor did my colleagues or competition race to improve our health. We trained to race, to do better than every else. The same can be said for most other sports too.

High intensity interval training used too much is not about health, it’s about taking physical performance to its highest potential, regardless of impact on health.

Here’s a glimpse of a couple of studies:
The British Journal of Sports Medicine published the results of a short-term training program, designed by health professionals to reduce running injuries that still resulted in a 30 percent injury rate (Taunton et al., 2013).
The Journal of Strength and Conditioning published a study that showed the popular and notoriously high-intensity sport of CrossFit has an estimated injury rate of 73.5 percent with 7 percent of these injuries requiring surgery (Hak et al., 2013).

One thing researchers may agree on is that they don’t really know what particular exercise effort is best for a given athlete. While the concept of individuality is an accepted approach to programming, it’s not used to a valuable capacity.
The media will continue to present snippets of research, telling us the new solution is here, and people will jump on board the coolaid train, only to risk increased injury and ill health.
Where does higher effort fit into the fitness equation?

Next week I’ll share how a week should look, driven by non-agenda health leaders, recovery and regression from effort rates.

Until then, what do you think? Do you look first at when you’ll do your HIIT or is it something you’ll add once all other areas have been covered?

Let me know.

Jamie