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Note: This section of the Atlas Fitness Center/Gino’s Gym web page will be devoted to providing sound information about Health, Fitness and Nutrition. A wide variety of topics (ranging from Benefits of Strength Training to What Causes Muscle Cramps to Nutritional Tips) will be posted on this page. Health and Nutrition articles and books will also be reviewed. (Sources will be listed.) Also included will be healthy recipes. Please submit your questions or comments pertaining to Health, Fitness and Nutrition to: ginosgym@yahoo.com.

Previous articles: (click on an article to read)
  •  #5 Weight Training, Protein Keys to Keeping Muscle As We Age
  •  #4 Investing in Exercise Worth Your Time and Energy
  •  #3 Find Balance in Efforts to Lose Weight
  •  #2 Think Before Starting Fitness Program
  •  #1 To Eat or Not to Eat?

Most Recent Article:

#6 Interval Training: A Look at Getting Fit While Condensing Your Workout Time

If you are a fitness enthusiast looking to spice up your workouts, improve endurance or incinerate some excess fat you may want to try High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). If grimacing at the word intensity, stay with me for a while.

In short, HIIT involves alternating high effort work periods with recovery or rest periods. While it is helpful to script the exercises and work-to-rest ratios prior to an HIIT workout, fun and flexibility should also be part of the regimen.

Plan to sweat though. During the work bout you should huff and puff some, even feel tongue wagging fatigued. The rest period will be cherished.

Due to its aggressive nature, HIIT workouts are short, typically running 20 to 30 minutes - including warm up and cool down periods. HIIT can be quickly performed at the gym, home or on a trail.

HIIT can be inserted into your cardio rotation, strength training routine or a hybrid of the two can be devised.

In this article, let’s concentrate on the HIIT aerobic component. Assuming you are sufficiently fit to exercise 20 to 30 minutes at moderate intensity, here is a good way to get a taste of HIIT.

For demonstration purposes, we will use the elliptical unit (you can choose any exercise mode you like - treadmill, bike, walk, jog, etc. - simply adapt the level and/or speed). After a five minute warm up at level 4-5 (levels vary with each machine), increase the workload level to 10-12 for 20 seconds. After the 20 second work bout drop the level back to 4-5 (rest period) for 20 seconds. If that first cycle was too easy increase the workload level slightly and ratchet up the workload (and rest time) to 30 seconds. If too hard, take it down.

Remember, you want to feel the burn during that 20 to 30 second work period! Repeat the work-to- rest cycle for 4 to 5 minutes then begin a 5 to 6 minute cool down. The just prescribed workout should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.

Another HIIT cardio option would be to select 6 exercises (jump jacks, burpees, jump ups, speed step, etc.) and, after a warm up, perform each movement for 20 to 30 seconds followed by a 20-30 second rest. Rest about 2 minutes between each cycle of the six exercises. If anything left in the tank, go for a third cycle.

New York Times fitness writer Gretchen Reynolds highlighted this variation of HIIT in one of her articles. The workout was called 10-20-30. After selecting an exercise, let’s say jogging, the exerciser would jog for 30 seconds, move to a faster pace for 20 seconds then finish with a hard 10 second run or sprint. A goal would be 8 to 10 cycles with a break of several minutes at the halfway point.

By now you should start to envision the countless ways to mix and match the variables (exercise, intensity, time, distance, etc.), potentially making each HIIT workout fresh and exciting.

Since HIIT demands more of the heart, mind and body - I would even add soul - exercisers should rest at least two days before attempting another session. In my opinion, adding even one day a week of HIIT to your fitness program is plenty.

HIIT, while not a Sunday walk in the park, can be a beneficial addition to your fitness repertoire. Studies show that HIIT may help the body become a more efficient fat burning machine - both during and post exercise. HIIT also improves the body’s ability to use and transport oxygen. And, it is a great time saver!

If solo workouts are not your cup of tea, you can always try group fitness classes and web programs that feature high intensity interval training.

Take precautions before attempting HIIT as increased exercise intensity can lead to injury or other health related issues. If you have been inactive, make sure to get the proper screening and assessment from your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

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