If this sounds like you, you need to stop doing boring old cardio workouts…
…and start combining strength training workouts with high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.
In a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, researchers examined whether a combination of sprint interval workouts and strength training workouts would result in compromised strength development when compared to strength training alone.
During this study, they also monitored maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) and time to exhaustion (TTE) to determine if the HIIT workouts would improve aerobic performance.
After 12 weeks of 4x per week workouts, they researchers found that:
Upper & lower body strength improved in both groups with no difference between the strength training (ST) group and the combination HIIT-ST group.
VO2max improved in the HIIT-ST group but not in the ST group. Previous studies have shown that HIIT is equal or superior to traditional cardio in improving VO2max
Strength training without HIIT will make you stronger
Strength training + HIIT will make you equally as strong
HIIT improves VO2max as well or better than traditional cardio training
When you combine this new data with all of the previous studies + years of real-world experience that has shown that traditional cardio training reduces strength, power & muscle mass in favour of aerobic performance (VO2max et al), it all starts to become very clear.
It means that if…
You want to be healthy
You want to be fit
You want to be strong
You want to be fast
You want to be powerful
You want to look great naked
…you need to just say no to cardio and just start saying yes to HIIT + strength training.
Magnesium deficiency has been linked to a number of clinical conditions including hypertension, myocardial infarction, cardiac dysrhythmias, coronary spasm, premature artherosclerosis and diabetes.
It is also used as a treatment for angina, asthma, gall stones, menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, glucose intolerance, diabetes, hypoglycemia, fatigue, fibromyalgia, prevention of hearing loss, kidney stones, leg cramps, migraine, osteoporosis, PMS, prostate issues and INSOMNIA.
And according to government data, 68% of Americans do not consume the recommended intakes of magnesium and 19% of Americans do not consume even half of the recommended intakes.
Not good….and up until 5 years ago, that was me.
Until I was introduced to magnesium supplements during a health & fitness trade show.
A rep for Natural Calm gave me a bunch of samples and while I sleep pretty well, I did notice an immediate effect on my sleep. My mind stopped obsessing over what I did or didn’t do that day or what I had to do tomorrow. Just calm.
And it made me wonder…could something as simple as magnesium be a cure for insomnia?
Since then, I have had no qualms recommending this product to clients & friends who are having trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep or just getting their busy minds to quiet so they can relax.
A mug of their lemon flavor drink about an hour before bed does the trick for me every time.
And recently, while searching for a natural treatment for a friend with neuropathy in both legs, I found a bunch of research about magnesium oil helping to relieve muscle spasms, tension and various forms of neuropathy – pain, restless legs, itching, tingling, etc.
Google also told me that Natural Calm makes a magnesium oil.
So, I emailed the fine folks at Natural Calm and told them about my friend and they sent me a bunch of samples – Magnesium Oil & Gel. (being a blogger can have its perks)
And knock on wood, it’s been a great success. Applied on her legs after a hot bath and just before bed, my friend has seen a significant reduction in pain, tingling and restlessness.
I was a fan before trying the oil…and I am an even bigger fan now.
So, if you think that supplementing with magnesium may be helpful to you, I can honestly & wholeheartedly recommend both the Natural Calm drink and their Magnesium Oil.
Researchers from UMASS have found that 60 minutes of exercise on a cycle ergometer reduced the neuronal responses in the part of your brain consistent with:
Reduced pleasure of food,
Reduced incentive motivation to eat, and
Reduced anticipation and consumption of food.
In essence, exercise prevents your brain from telling you to eat.
So, how come I know a ton of people who exercise 5 days a week and still can’t manage to drop their extra body-fat?
Because scientific research ≠ real life.
Scientific research has to be precise.
Real life is anything but precise. It involves emotions and peer pressure and hormones and tv commercial for stuffed crust pizza and a whole bunch of other stuff designed to make you eat and eat and eat.
So, what can we take from this study?
If you’re feeling hungry and you want to squash that hunger, get up off your butt and go for a brisk 20 minute walk. Odds are, you’ll get those neurons working in your favor and your hunger will fade away.
And even if it doesn’t, the exercise will do your body good anyway.
Want to compete in a Tough Mudder-esque adventure race
Already have a strong cardio/running base
Need to get stronger if they’re going to dominate the obstacles.
The plan involves making you strong, powerful and agile without adding a lot of muscle mass. To do that, I am going to prescribe two resistance training workouts per week. Depending upon your current level of strength, these workout will be either:
Two strength workouts (if you need a lot of help)
One strength and one HIIT/HIRT workout (you have some strength, but need to get more explosive)
One HIIT/HIRT and one agility/obstacle workout (you’re strong enough and want to dominate)
These two workouts are to be performed in addition to your running workouts, so you will have to make adjustments to ensure adequate recovery time.
The last thing a Tough Mudder wants from their strength workouts is that they cause the growth of big, bodybuilder muscles. What you want is increased strength/power with minimal weight gain.
And that’s what you’ve got with this workout.
Note: a 20×0 tempo for bench press = lowering the bar to your chest for a count of two, no resting the bar on your chest, “xploding” the bar off your chest as fast as possible and no resting with arms extended
The Are You a Tough Mudder Strength Training Workout
Day 1 – Chest, Back & Abs/Core
Hanging Leg Raise
Day 2 – Arms, Shoulders & Core
PDF version – incl blank copy for exercise modification
If you already have a solid strength base, you can replace one of your strength workouts with a HIIT/HIRT workout.
These are designed to take your strength and combine it with speed and anaerobic endurance to make you a more powerful athlete that can sprint and climb and jump all day long.
Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I want you to choose from 3 of the HIIT/HIRT workouts I have posted as part of the Best Body workout series.
At this point, you’ve built up a solid strength base and are blasting through the HIIT/HIRT workouts like an enraged wildebeest. It’s time to prepare for the obstacles you’re going to face during your challenge. Unfortunately, seeing as how every race is a little different, I can’t give you specific exercises.
Here is a sampling of the challenges you will face:
Rope walking, rope climbing, cargo net climbing, electrical shocks, muddy hill climbs, tire carrys, running through fire, log carries, spear throwing, belly crawls, jumping over stuff, climbing under other stuff, crawling through tunnels, crawling through underwater tunnels, sloshing through ponds filled with freezing cold water, 10 ft wall climbs, 40 ft wall climbs, etc…
Not to mention running 10 miles while soaking wet and freezing cold.
In spite of two major knee reconstructions, I love running long distances.
Even though I am built like an hypermuscled Clydesdale, I still love throwing on a pair of shoes, hitting the trails and watching the world slow down as I ground out the miles. Aside from the numerous health & fitness benefits, I love how I “feel” when I run.
So, I can understand why a LOT of runners:
Focus exclusively on running
Ignore the other components of physical fitness
Allow muscle mass to waste away
And end up with a Skinny-Fat body
But…it doesn’t have to be that way.
It is possible for long distance runners to hold onto a decent amount of muscle mass and avoid looking like a anorexic Hollywood actress
The Paleo Diet should form the base of your eating plan. The high nutritient : calorie ratio makes it the best choice for repairing muscular damage brought on by your workouts.
Fish oil and a quality green food are two base supplements that I recommend to all clients – runners or not.
While Paleo is your best choice throughout the day, when it comes to your pre & peri-workout nutrition, Paleo carbs (except for fruit juice) aren’t going to work. Too much fiber, slow digestion, full belly. Not good when you’re running for miles & miles.
What you need is Sugar and BCAAs before, during & after each work – cardio & resistance.
Buying tip – My favorite BCCA supplements are Scivation XTEND and Biotest Surge Workout Fuel.
Supplement daily with Creatine. Improved ATP storage. Improved muscle cell hydration. Better looking muscles. What else do you want?
Buying tip – Choose a micronized creatine powder from a reputable brand
Here’s where we stimulate muscle growth.
And we’re going to use either of these two programs to do that.
Not too surprisingly, the researchers found that the men diagnosed with metabolic syndrome had ,on average, higher levels of arterial stiffness.
However, when the men were separated according to their levels of cardiovascular fitness, they found that all of the men in the highest quartile of fitness had significantly lower levels of arterial stiffness than those men in the lowest quartile of fitness.
That included fit guys who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.
In fact, the fit and fat guys had the same levels of arterial stiffness as their skinny yet exercise-adverse brothers.
It is possible for fat guys to be fit guys.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that those fat & fit guys will ever be as fit as their lean & fit workout buddies.
Over the past couple of months, I have been beta-testing a pair of Reebok ZigTech running shoes.
And as much as I hate to admit it, I have become a big fan of my wild looking Zigs.
I hate to admit it because I am a big believer in minimalist style training shoes that force the muscles in your feet to do some actual work. I also can’t stand that high-end trunning shoes are sold mainly on hype. They promise a lot but usually deliver very little.
And that’s exactly what I assumed about the ZigTechs when I was contacted by a PR company who represents Reebok.
They wanted to know if I would be interested in reviewing some of their gear for Health Habits.
And while my official policy is to only review products that I like enough to purchase myself as well as recommend to my clients, I decided to give them a try because I was looking to get back into running some real distances and I needed to find a new pair of shoes that would allow my poor surgically reconstructed knees to survive a “run” without swelling up.
And boy am I glad I did.
ZigTech Shoes : The Good
Whether it was on an elliptical cardio trainer, a treadmill or outdoors on the frozen Canadian tundra, the Zigs allowed me to increase my mileage while making life much easier on my knees. Also, shin splints were reduced by 84.73%.
Comparing apples to apples, my performances on the elliptical & the treadmill improved by around 10% over the past 2 months.
Lateral mobility was good during cross-training workouts. I was concerned about this initially.
I thought my red & black versions looked pretty snazzy.
ZigTech Shoes : The Bad
There was some heel slippage during some of my resistance workouts. I fixed this problem by switching to a “Heel Lock” lacing pattern.
ZigTech Shoes : The Interesting
Unlike running shoes equipped with springs, air bags, gel paks etc, the idea behind ZigTech is that the sole absorbs the impact of heel strike and rebounds that energy horizontally along the length of the shoe propelling the athlete forward with each step. That’s the theory. And while I didn’t have some fancy-schmancy lab equipment to test that theory, it did feel like that…like I was being pushed forward. Kinda weird, but pretty cool.
While I am still a big believer in wearing barefoot/minimalist footwear, I like running better in my ZigTechs.
So, here’s my plan:
minimalist shoes during the day and during most workouts.
Let’s say you’ve got high blood pressure…and stiffness in your arteries.
Whatcha gonna do?
Well….if you’re like most people, you just found out about your problem from your doctor. And you’re about to get a prescription for a bunch of drugs and a recommendation to hop onto the nearest treadmill and do lots and lots of low intensity / long duration cardio-vascular exercise.
But, what if your doctor is wrong?
What if…instead of spending hours glued to the seat of an exercise bike, you could be doing 2 x 40 minute interval training sessions per week.
And what if…by doing those 2 x 40 minute interval training sessions per week, you were lowering your BP just as well as your cardio cousins.
And what if you were improving your arterial stiffness even better than those cardio junkies.
According to this study, that’s exactly what you would be doing.
Common Sense Conclusion(s)
If you have hypertension & arterial stiffness, talk to your doctor before you start any exercise program. It just makes sense.
Tell your doc about this research.
Find out how good/bad your heart really is.
And maybe consider doing both types of workouts.
And do some more reading – high blood pressure is no joke.
Being a big fitness geek, I spend an inordinate amount of time researching anything & everything fitness.
And over the years, I have come up with some fairly solid opinions on what I perceive are the best ways to get fit, strong, lean, etc.
I believe that the cardio junkies at your gym could really use a dose of HIIT / Tabata / HIRT training.
I believe that the Paleo Diet is fantastic for both your health & your love handles
I believe that mobility training is more important than flexibility training.
I believe that lifting heavy stuff is good for everyone.
I believe in challenging yourself
I believe in having fun while I exercise
I believe that most exercise machines suck
I believe that movements are more important than muscles
However, I also believe that results are more important than dogma.
If my super-amazing Paleo Diet isn’t giving you the body that you want, make some changes.
If months of nausea inducing Tabata workouts isn’t helping to lower your way-too-high blood pressure, then throw in some long, slow, boring cardio.
If your knees fill with fluid after each & every squat workout….stop doing squats.
In essence, if your goals & your actions don’t match up, you are left with two options.
Change your goals
Change your actions.
Recently, I have been entertaining the idea of competing in one of these Tough Guy races.
And after discussing the race with my two (2) surgically reconstructed knees, we concluded that I am going to need to shed a whole lot of muscle mass and improve my cross country running technique if I want my knees to survive this thing.
So, starting this week, I changed my workout to include more long distance cardio.
And because my knees aren’t up to an hour of running, I began by using this quasi elliptical/jogging machine we have at the gym. It’s easy on the knees & it comes pretty close to mimicking a true running motion.
New Goals : New Workout
Unfortunately, it also caused some of my workout buddies to freak out.
The sight of me grinding out the miles on my human-sized hamster wheel was enough to actually make some of them upset.
Seriously…it was weird.
It was like I had betrayed some sort of unspoken agreement to never do any form of endurance training.
According to the researchers, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is better than traditional endurance training for improving:
Molecular adaptation to exercise
According to researcher Martin Gibala…”doing as little as 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”
We have known for years that repeated moderate long-term exercise tunes up fuel and oxygen delivery to muscles and aids the removal of waste products. Exercise also improves the way muscles use the oxygen to burn the fuel in mitochondria, the microscopic power station of cells.
Running or cycling for hours a week widens the network of vessels supplying muscle cells and also boosts the numbers of mitochondria in them so that a person can carry out activities of daily living more effectively and without strain, and crucially with less risk of a heart attack, stroke or diabetes.
But the traditional approach to exercise is time consuming. Martin Gibala and his team have shown that the same results can be obtained in far less time with brief spurts of higher-intensity exercise.
One of the main complaints about High Intensity Interval Training is that it’s…well, too intense.
Sure, it gives you a great workout, but it will probably give you a heart attack.
Not according to Dr. Gibala.
The main purpose of his study was to prove the performance, metabolic and molecular advantages of a more practical model of low-volume HIIT.
The new study used a standard stationary bicycle and a workload which was still above most people’s comfort zone (about 95% of maximal heart rate) but only about half of what can be achieved when people sprint at an all-out pace.
Seven men performed 6 HIIT training sessions over 2 weeks.
Each session consisted of 8-12 x 60 s intervals (at ≈100% of peak power) separated by 75 s of rest.
That’s a total of between 17 and 26 minutes per workout or 2 ½ hours over 2 weeks
So, how does this workout compare to traditional cardio?
According to the doc, to achieve the same performance, metabolic and molecular benefits with traditional endurance (cardio) training, you’d need to complete over 10 hours of continuous moderate bicycling exercise over a two-week period.
2 ½ hours per week
10 hours per week
And I won’t even mention the fact that HIIT workouts make you look like this:
while cardio workouts make you look like this…
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These new pieces of technology (Pulse Oximeters, portable ECGs and Activity Monitors) are being used right now by elite level athletes and in research settings to determine how to make exercise more efficient.
And when you consider that every IPhone and Google Android phone comes equipped with a built-in accelerometer, a proximity sensor and is bluetooth ready, it is highly likely that in the very near future, you are going to be able to ramp up the efficiency of your workouts by at least 25%.
Without going into all of the highly technical details, researchers used some of the technology mentioned above to collect performance data while putting their test subjects through a modified Tabata workout.
Then they took that data, combined it with the data collected via a medical survey questionnaire and plugged it into a data mining decision tree.
I told you it was technical.
The upshot is that after all of this data was crunched, the researchers were able to design optimized interval training programs personalized for each and every test subject.
And, as a result of those optimized programs, the test subjects were able to improve their performance by 29.54%
What do you think of that!!!
I can’t wait to get my hands on some of this technology.
According to research out of the UK, the color of a person’s skin affects how healthy and therefore how attractive they appear.
And since the color of a person’s skin is directly influenced by the quality of their diet, the researchers concluded that your diet may be crucial to achieving the most desirable complexion and therefore maximizing your attractiveness.
So, it’s true…you are what you eat. Or, in this case, you’re as attractive as you eat.
Note – Researchers were looking exclusively at Caucasian test subjects. The research was not concerned with racially differentiated skin colors. Draw your own conclusions.
Using specialist computer software, a total of 54 Caucasian participants of both sexes were asked to manipulate the skin color of male and female Caucasian faces to make them look as healthy as possible. They chose to increase the rosiness, yellowness and brightness of the skin.
“Most previous work on faces has focused on the shape of the face or the texture of the skin, but one of the most variable characteristics of the face is skin color,” said Dr. Ian Stephen who is now at the University of Bristol.
“We knew from our previous work that people who have more blood and more oxygen color in their skins looked healthy, and so we decided to see what other colors affect health perceptions.
Skin that is slightly flushed with blood and full of oxygen suggests a strong heart and lungs, supporting the study’s findings that rosier skin appeared healthy. Smokers and people with diabetes or heart disease have fewer blood vessels in their skin, and so skin would appear less rosy.
The preference for more golden or ‘yellow-toned’ skin as healthier might be explained by the ‘carotenoid pigments’ that we get from the fruit and vegetables in our diet. These plant pigments are powerful antioxidants that soak up dangerous compounds produced when the body combats disease. They are also important for our immune and reproductive systems and may help prevent cancer.
They are the same dietary pigments that brightly colored birds and fish use to show off their healthiness and attract mates, and the researchers think that similar biological mechanisms may be at work in humans.
“In the West we often think that sun tanning is the best way to improve the color of your skin,” said Ian Stephen, “but our research suggests that living a healthy lifestyle with a good diet might actually be better.”
Melanin, the pigment that causes the tan color when skin is exposed to the sun makes the skin darker and more yellow, but participants in the study chose to make skin lighter and more yellow to make it look healthier.
Beauty = Health
And until all of us start carrying our health records around with us, we will have to rely on our ancient “lizard brains” to determine if another person looks healthy and therefore attractive.
Researchers have discovered a cutting edge technique to help senior citizens improve the elasticity of their arteries – thereby reducing their risk of heart disease and stroke.
Led by Dr. Kenneth Madden, the researchers were able to reduce arterial stiffness by 15 to 20% in only 3 months time.
But wait, it gets better.
Unlike most cardiovascular treatments, the cost of this new cure-all is…….nothing, zero, nada, rien…it’s free.
It’s free because the treatment is:
Exercise instead of drugs…who would have thought of that???
Dr. Madden divided his test subjects into two groups.
The first group performed one hour of vigorous physical activity for one hour, three times a week for three months.
The second group continued to live a sedentary lifestyle.
Subjects were classified as sedentary at the beginning of the study but gradually increased their fitness levels until they were working at 70 per cent of their maximum heart rate, using treadmills and cycling machines. They were supervised by a certified exercise trainer.
And after three months, the exercise group was healthier, while the sedentary group wasn’t.
So, as a public service to all of my 65+ readers (and those readers with friends & family who are 65+), I will be posting “no equipment necessary” workouts geared toward trainees who are boomer age and older.
BTW, this post is for my Dad…who should be outside right now getting some exercise
Before our hero goes to bed at night, he rips open the bag of greens and dumps it into the tupperware container. Same goes for the protein. In the morning he pours in the oil, lemon juice & salt and pepper. Come lunch time, he shakes the container and presto he has his Big Salad
Meal # 4 – Afternoon Snack
1 Coffee (with cream)
15 Almonds (brought to work in a little Ziploc baggie)
By this point, you should already know that you need more Omega 3 fatty acids into your diet.
The question is: how much?
A teaspoon of fish oils?
or a great big slab of smoked salmon?
Well, according to this study, researchers believe that “a 200 mg dose of DHA per day is enough to affect biochemical markers that reliably predict cardiovascular problems, such as those related to aging, atherosclerosis, and diabetes”.
This study is the first to identify how much DHA is necessary to promote optimal heart health.
To determine the optimal dose of DHA, the researchers examined the effects of increasing doses of DHA on 12 healthy male volunteers between ages of 53 and 65. These men consumed doses of DHA at 200, 400, 800, and 1600 mg per day for two weeks for each dose amount, with DHA being the only omega-3 fatty acid in their diet. (No EPA)
Blood and urine samples were collected before and after each dose and at eight weeks after DHA supplementation stopped. The researchers then examined these samples for biochemical markers indicating the effects of each dose on the volunteers.
They found that supplementation with only 200 mg/d DHA for 2 wk induced an antioxidant effect.
They concluded that “low consumption of DHA could be an effective and nonpharmacological way to protect healthy men from platelet-related cardiovascular events”.
If this study is correct, you need only 200 mg of DHA per day to reap the cardiovascular benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA.
X-Weighted is such a perfect example of the difference between Canadian and American television programming.
Where The Biggest Loser is about quick results, X-Weighted is about long term success.
Where The Biggest Loser is about sound bites and perfect hair, X-Weighted is real.
And where The Biggest Loser is a worldwide ratings success, X-Weighted exists in relative obscurity.
Like most other weight loss reality shows, X-Weighted follows one or two people through their transformation from fat to slightly less fat.
The trainees receive help from personal trainers, nutritionists and various other medical personnel.
Unlike other shows, the stars of X-Weighted are followed for 6 whole months.
6 Months….enough time to make some real changes in your life.
Real people getting real results.
And if that isn’t enough for ya, you are going to love the host/celebrity trainer, Paul Plakas.
Personally, I don’t agree with all of his training/diet ideas. But, what I do like about Paul is that he is a real person. When I watch the show, it feels more like a documentary than a reality show, and Paul is a big part of that.
So, please…switch off The Biggest Loser and switch on X-Weighted
Good training & nutrition decisions produce good results.
Poor training & nutrition decisions produce poor results.
So, how come when I go to the gym this afternoon, I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to see a lot of intelligent, well-educated, gainfully employed people making some pretty stupid training decisions?
Maybe fitness training is rocket science?
Maybe I am some sort of fitness training genius.
So, as a public service to all of the non-fitness-training genii out there, here is a list of some of the training mistakes I will probably see at the gym today.
Try and avoid them.
Doing Cardio Training before Resistance Training
Doing Static Stretching before Resistance Training
Training Core before Legs
Chugging a Gatorade while reading a book on the Exercise Bike
Thinking that the Inner Thigh (Adductor) Machine is going to work some sort of magic.
Ignoring your Weaknesses and over-training your Strengths
And if you see yourself on the list and want to change your evil ways, feel free to comment.
I or one of your fellow readers would be glad to lend a hand.
I just received an email from a quasi-famous strength coach/trainer to the stars telling me that I was an idiot for believing that cardio prior to resistance training is a bad idea.
Personally, I can’t believe that he took the time out of his day to tell me off via email (wouldn’t a comment have been quicker?) but I would like to thank him because it helped me come up with another fitness training mistake:
The goal of the Measures Project was to identify and recommend a set of obesity prevention strategies and corresponding suggested measurements that local governments and communities can use to plan, implement, and monitor initiatives to prevent obesity.
The Measures Project process was guided by expert opinion and included a systematic review of the published scientific literature, resulting in the adoption of 24 recommended environmental and policy level strategies to prevent obesity.
This report presents the first set of comprehensive recommendations published by CDC to promote healthy eating and active living and reduce the prevalence of obesity in the United States. This report describes each of the recommended strategies, summarizes available evidence regarding their effectiveness, and presents a suggested measurement for each strategy that communities can use to assess implementation and track progress over time.
Translation: This is the first big gov’t approach to obesity prevention through lifestyle modification.
And here are the 24 strategies.
Strategies to Promote the Availability of Affordable Healthy Food and Beverages
Communities should increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.
A policy exists to apply nutrition standards that are consistent with the dietary guidelines for Americans to all food sold (e.g., meal menus and vending machines) within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.
Translation: Stop selling junk food in schools & public facilities
Health Habits Comment: What constitutes healthy food? Who determines what is healthy food? CDC? USDA?
Communities should improve availability of affordable healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues.
A policy exists to affect the cost of healthier foods and beverages (as defined by the Institute of Medicine [IOM]) relative to the cost of less healthy foods and beverages sold within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.
Translation: Healthy food subsidies
Health Habits Comment:What is healthy food?…again
Communities should improve geographic availability of supermarkets in underserved areas.
The number of full-service grocery stores and supermarkets per 10,000 residents located within the three largest underserved census tracts within a local jurisdiction.
Strategies to Support Healthy Food and Beverage Choices
Strategy 7 Communities should restrict availability of less healthy foods and beverages in public service venues.
A policy exists that prohibits the sale of less healthy foods and beverages (as defined by IOM [Institute of Medicine]) within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.
Translation: Junk food bans
Health Habits Comment:How do you stop kids from buying junk food off-campus?
Communities should institute smaller portion size options in public service venues.
Local government has a policy to limit the portion size of any entree (including sandwiches and entrée salads) by either reducing the standard portion size of entrees or offering smaller portion sizes in addition to standard portion sizes within local government facilities within a local jurisdiction.
Translation: The opposite of Super-Size Me.
Communities should limit advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages.
A policy exists that limits advertising and promotion of less healthy foods and beverages within local government facilities in a local jurisdiction or on public school campuses during the school day within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction.
Translation: Media bans on public property
Communities should discourage consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages.
Licensed child care facilities within the local jurisdiction are required to ban sugar-sweetened beverages, including flavored/sweetened milk and limit the portion size of 100% juice.
Translation: Replace fruit drinks with fruit juice and chocolate milk with plain milk or even…water
Strategy to Encourage Breastfeeding
Communities should increase support for breastfeeding.
Local government has a policy requiring local government facilities to provide breastfeeding accommodations for employees that include both time and private space for breastfeeding during working hours.
Strategies to Encourage Physical Activity or Limit Sedentary Activity Among Children and Youth
Communities should require physical education in schools.
The largest school district located within the local jurisdiction has a policy that requires a minimum of 150 minutes per week of PE in public elementary schools and a minimum of 225 minutes per week of PE in public middle schools and high schools throughout the school year (as recommended by the National Association of Sports and Physical Education).
Communities should increase the amount of physical activity in PE programs in schools.
The largest school district located within the local jurisdiction has a policy that requires K–12 students to be physically active for at least 50% of time spent in PE classes in public schools.
Communities should increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity.
The percentage of public schools within the largest school district in a local jurisdiction that allow the use of their athletic facilities by the public during non-school hours on a regular basis.
Translation: Schools become free public health clubs
Health Habits Comment:Increased taxation required for the extra employees, utilities, insurance, etc?
Communities should reduce screen time in public service venues.
Licensed child care facilities within the local jurisdiction are required to limit screen viewing time to no more than 2 hours per day for children aged ≥2 years.
Health Habits Comment:How about 0 hours of tv? How about reading a book to the kids, or arts & crafts, or playing a game. Sheesh!
Strategies to Create Safe Communities That Support Physical Activity
Communities should improve access to outdoor recreational facilities.
The percentage of residential parcels within a local jurisdiction that are located within a half-mile network distance of at least one outdoor public recreational facility.
Communities should enhance infrastructure supporting bicycling.
Total miles of designated shared-use paths and bike lanes relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways) that are maintained by a local jurisdiction.
Communities should enhance infrastructure supporting walking.
Total miles of paved sidewalks relative to the total street miles (excluding limited access highways) that are maintained by a local jurisdiction.
Communities should support locating schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.
The largest school district in the local jurisdiction has a policy that supports locating new schools, and/or repairing or expanding existing schools, within easy walking or biking distance of residential areas.
Health Habits Comment:Does this mean the end of busing?
Communities should improve access to public transportation.
The percentage of residential and commercial parcels in a local jurisdiction that are located either within a quarter-mile network distance of at least one bus stop or within a half-mile network distance of at least one train stop (including commuter and passenger trains, light rail, subways, and street cars).
Health Habits Comment:How does public transit directly affect fitness/obesity?
Communities should zone for mixed use development.
Percentage of zoned land area (in acres) within a local jurisdiction that is zoned for mixed use that specifically combines residential land use with one or more commercial, institutional, or other public land uses.
Translation: Create self sufficient “villages” within a community. This way you can walk to the grocery store instead of driving to the mall. Livable city concept.
Communities should enhance personal safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.
The number of vacant or abandoned buildings (residential and commercial) relative to the total number of buildings located within a local jurisdiction.
Translation: In urban areas, walking at night can be a very real threat to your health.
Health Habits Comment: Violent crime is not a quick or simple fix. No idea how they plan to enhance personal safety in dangerous neighborhoods.
Communities should enhance traffic safety in areas where persons are or could be physically active.
Local government has a policy for designing and operating streets with safe access for all users which includes at least one element suggested by the national complete streets coalition
Translation: Automobiles give up some space to pedestrians, bikes & transit.
Strategy to Encourage Communities to Organize for Change
Communities should participate in community coalitions or partnerships to address obesity.
Local government is an active member of at least one coalition or partnership that aims to promote environmental and policy change to promote active living and/or healthy eating (excluding personal health programs such as health fairs).
Translation: Big federal programs won’t work. Grassroots is the way to go.
Well, there’s the plan.
Now all we need is some of those big federal health care dollars to come rolling in.
30 min of steady state cardio at 60-70% intensity (recumbant stationary bike)
20 min of HIIT sprints on the bike – 90-100% intensity (alternating 10 sec, 15 sec & 20 second sprints – recovery times were 50, 45 & 40 seconds respectively)
10 min of steady state cardio @ 50% intensity
15 min of stretching + foam roller work on my IT Bands
Read a little of Dr. Natasha Turner’s “The Hormone Diet” during the first 30 min on the bike. Pretty good so far. This book is selling well in Canada but barely making a dent in the States. Too bad. Good stuff. I will be reviewing this book along with the Jillian Michaels book.
Eating a diet high in sodium can lead to high blood pressure….we all know that
And because we know these things, a lot of people have been told by their doctors to stop eating this…
…and to start eating this…
And they aren’t happy about it……….but maybe there is another way.
Maybe, instead of labeling salt as a BAD FOOD, and banning it from our diets altogether, we can balance out the hypertensive effect of sodium with the hypotensive effect of potassium. If only we had some proof…
Earlier this year, researchers found that “the ratio of sodium-to-potassium was a much stronger predictor of hypertension and cardiovascular disease than sodium or potassium alone”.
“There isn’t as much focus on potassium, but potassium seems to be effective in lowering blood pressure and the combination of a higher intake of potassium and lower consumption of sodium seems to be more effective than either on its own in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Paul Whelton, senior author of the study in the January 2009 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In this study, researchers determined average sodium and potassium intake of their test subjects.
They collected 24-hour urine samples intermittently during an 18-month period in one trial and during a 36-month period in a second trial.
The 2,974 study participants initially aged 30-to-54 and with blood pressure readings just under levels considered high, were followed for 10-15 years to see if they would develop cardiovascular disease.
The highest salt consumers were 20% more likely to suffer strokes, heart attacks or other forms of cardiovascular disease when compared to the lowest of the low sodium eaters.
20% more likely to suffer a stroke. That sounds great…time to ditch that salt shaker…..right? Maybe not…
The participants with the highest sodium-to-potassium ratio in urine were 50 percent more likely to experience cardiovascular disease than those with the lowest sodium-to-potassium ratios.
According to this study, the ratio of potassium to sodium in your diet is more important to the health of your heart than the overall consumption of sodium.
According to Dr. Whelton, healthy 19-to-50 year-old adults should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day — equivalent to one teaspoon of table salt.
NOTE: More than 95 percent of American men and 75 percent of American women in this age range exceed this amount.
What does this mean to you?
Odds are that you are part of the majority whose sodium : potassium ratio is out of whack.
How much potassium do you need to help balance out the salt?
To lower blood pressure and blunt the effects of salt, adults should consume 4.7 grams of potassium per day unless they have a clinical condition or medication need that is a contraindication to increased potassium intake.
Most American adults aged 31-to-50 consume only about half this amount.
And how do we get more potassium?
Good potassium sources include fruits, vegetables, dairy foods and fish.
Foods that are especially rich in potassium include potatoes and sweet potatoes, fat-free milk and yogurt, tuna, lima beans, bananas, tomato sauce and orange juice.
Potassium also is available in supplements. However, most potassium supplements come in dosages of 50mg . To get your daily 5 grams, you would need to take 100 pills.
So, maybe we should listen to the good doctor and “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates
Click here for the USDA’s list of foods high in Potassium..
HIIT should be a required treatment for all Metabolic Syndrome patients. 16 weeks of HIIT training significantly reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease, in terms of improved VO2max, endothelial function, blood pressure, insulin signaling, and plasma lipid composition. Here’s the study
HIIT substantially improves insulin action. Say bye-bye to type 2 diabetes & metabolic syndrome. Here’s the study
HIIT increases levels of HDL cholesterol – that’s the good cholesterol. Here’s the study
HIIT improves the HRR (Heart Rate Recovery – a measure of how quickly your heart returns to normal post-exercise)) in already well-trained cyclists. Here’s the study
HIIT drastically improves cardiovascular function (V02max) in patients with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Here’s the study
Interval training produced a 302% greater increase inV02max when compared to a long, slow distance training protocol. Here’s the study
HIIT significantly improved the aerobic fitness of a group of prepubescent children (aerobic fitness measured by peak oxygen consumption and maximal aerobic velocity) Here’s the study
According to a study published in the Journal of Physiology, it is possible to reap some of the athletic performance rewards of a carbo-load without actually eating any carbs.
Previous studies have shown that the presence of carbs in your mouth activates regions of the brain that can improve athletic performance.
The primary aim of this study was to see how “rinsing the mouth with solutions containing glucose andmaltodextrin, disguised with artificial sweetener, would affectexercise performance”.
The secondary aim was to identify those regions of the brain activated by the sugars and artificial sweetener. A functional MRI (fMRI) machine was used to map the brain.
Prior to completing a cycling time trial, the eight volunteers rinsed their mouth out with a solution of glucose or maltodextrin or a placebo solution containing the artificial sweetener saccharin.
After the rinse, they hopped on their bikes and pedaled as hard and as fast as their legs could go.
In study 1A, test subjects “completed a cycle time trial significantly faster when rinsingtheir mouths with a 6.4% glucose solution compared with a placebocontaining saccharin.”
The corresponding fMRI study (1B) revealed that oral exposure to glucose activatedreward-related brain regions, including the anterior cingulatecortex and striatum, which were unresponsive to saccharin.
In study 2A, cyclists who rinsed with the maltodextrin solution once again outperformed their saccharin-swilling brethren.
The second neuroimaging study (2B) “comparedthe cortical response to oral maltodextrin and glucose, revealinga similar pattern of brain activation in response to the twocarbohydrate solutions, including areas of the insula/frontaloperculum, orbitofrontal cortex and striatum”.
The results suggestthat the improvement in exercise performance caused by the carbo-rinse may be due to theactivation of brain regions believed to be involved in rewardand motor control.
The findings also suggest that there maybe a class of so far unidentified oral receptors that respondto carbohydrate independently of those for sweetness.
What does this mean to you?
One of the primary benefits of cardio-vascular training is that fat is the primary choice of fuel.
This is why cardio training is one of the most popular weight loss tools.
However, a lot of trainees hurt their own cause by carbing up prior to a cardio session.
Carbo-loading before a cardio session impairs the use of body-fat as fuel.
It shifts you from being a fat-burner to a carb-burner
However, because of this study, you can have the best of both worlds. The performance boosting effect of carbs combined with optimum fat burning.
For decades, endurance athletes have relied on caffeine as a performance aid. They claimed that a pre-workout cup of coffee helped them to push themselves harder and for longer periods of time.
And along the way, science has backed up that belief:
In 1979, scientists found that caffeine helped cyclists improve their performance by 7% during a 2 hour workout.
In 1991, cyclists dosed with 9mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight were able to increase their endurance by 51%
In 1995, cyclists performing high intensity circuits were able to improve their endurance by 29% with a dose of 5.5mg of caffeine per kg of body mass.
Pretty good, right? The only problem is that no one really knew why caffeine improved athletic performance…until now.
Researcher (and cycling geek) Dr. Robert Motl has spent the last 7 years considering the relationship between physical activity and caffeine. Today, he has a much better understanding of why that cuppa Joe he used to consume before distance training and competing enhanced his cycling ability.
Early in his research, he became aware that “caffeine works on the adenosine neuromodulatory system in the brain and spinal cord, and this system is heavily involved in nociception and pain processing.”
Since Motl knew caffeine blocks adenosine from working, he speculated that it could reduce pain.
A number of studies by Dr. Motl support that conclusion, including investigations considering such variables as exercise intensity, dose of caffeine, anxiety sensitivity and gender.
The good doctors latest study “looks at the effects of caffeine on muscle pain during high-intensity exercise as a function of habitual caffeine use,” he said. “No one has examined that before”.
And what did they find?
Caffeine reduces pain during exercise.
Less pain means you can work harder.
Less pain means you can work longer.
The study’s 25 participants were fit, college-aged males divided into two distinct groups:
Subjects whose everyday caffeine consumption was extremely low to non-existent,
And those with an average caffeine intake of about 400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee.
After testing their baseline aerobic fitness, Dr. Motl tortured his subjects with two monitored high-intensity, 30-minute exercise sessions.
An hour prior to each session, cyclists – who had been instructed not to consume caffeine during the prior 24-hour period – were given a pill.
On one occasion, it contained a dose of caffeine measuring 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (equivalent to two to three cups of coffee); the other time, they received a placebo.
During both exercise periods, subjects’ perceptions of quadriceps muscle pain was recorded at regular intervals, along with data on oxygen consumption, heart rate and work rate.
Obviously the most important result was that caffeine reduced the pain of intense physical activity. But Dr. Motl also found that when it came to the reduction of pain, “caffeine tolerance doesn’t matter”. Caffeine-junkies and the herbal tea drinkers received the same pain reducing benefit from their little caffeine pill.
So, what now?
Dr. Motl wants to see what effect caffeine’s pain-reducing abilities has on sport performance.
“We’ve shown that caffeine reduces pain reliably, consistently during cycling, across different intensities, across different people, different characteristics. But does that reduction in pain translate into an improvement in sport performance?”
Interesting question for sure, but I am way to impatient to wait for science to catch up to real life. If you’re like me, check out this list of caffeine based beverages and let’s get physical.
For many of us, senior moments are a normal part of aging. Such lapses in memory, according to this new research, can be blamed, on rising blood glucose levels as we age.
Whether through physical exercise, diet or drugs, our research suggests that improving glucose metabolism could help some of us avert the cognitive slide that occurs in many of us as we age,” reported lead investigator Scott A. Small, M.D.
Although it is widely known that the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease cause damage to the hippocampus, the area of the brain essential for memory and learning, studies have suggested that it is also vulnerable to normal aging.
Until now, the underlying causes of age-related hippocampal dysfunction have remained largely unknown.
In previous studies, Dr. Small et al had discovered that decreasing brain function in the dentate gyrus region of the hippocampus is the main contributor of normal age related cognitive decline.
In this new study, researchers used medical imaging devices to “help us better understand the basic mechanisms behind hippocampal dysfunction in the aged.”
Their research looked at measures that typically change during aging, like:
rising blood sugar,
body mass index,
The research found that decreasing activity in the dentate gyrus only correlated with levels of blood glucose.
“Showing for the first time that blood glucose selectively targets the dentate gyrus is not only our most conclusive finding, but it is the most important for ‘normal’ aging- that is hippocampal dysfunction that occurs in the absence of any disease states. There have been many proposed reasons for age-related hippocampal decline; this new study suggests that we may now know one of them,” said Dr. Small.
In this study, researchers found that as we age, a slow, chronic starvation of the brain appears to be one of the major triggers of Alzheimer’s disease.
When the brain doesn’t get enough glucose, “a process is launched that ultimately produces the sticky clumps of protein that appear to be a cause of Alzheimer’s”. During this process, a key brain protein (eIF2alpha) increases the production of an enzyme which, in turn, flips a switch that produces the sticky clumps of protein.
And what causes this reduction in blood glucose to the brain?
“This finding is significant because it suggests that improving blood flow to the brain might be an effective therapeutic approach to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s,” said Vassar, a professor of cell and molecular biology at the Feinberg School.
A simple preventive strategy people can follow to improve blood flow to the brain is getting exercise, reducing cholesterol and managing hypertension.
“If people start early enough, maybe they can dodge the bullet,” Vassar said.
For people who already have symptoms, vasodilators, which increase blood flow, may help the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain. It also is possible that drugs could be designed to block the eIF2alpha protein that begins the formation of the protein clumps, known as amyloid plaques.
One of my clients was at the doctor last week for a check-up.
He has been stressed out a lot lately and experiencing some headaches.
The doctor checked him out and found that his blood pressure was running higher than normal.
As a result, she sent him on his way with a requisition for a bunch of blood tests.
Pretty standard stuff:
etc, etc, etc…
At this point, the doctor thinks that the blood pressure is caused by his stress levels, but she just wants to keep on top of things.
But what if things aren’t okay?
Will these tests alert the doctor in time?
Maybe they should be checking his levels of Resistin.
Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have found that blood levels of resistin, a hormone produced by fat cells, can independently predict an individual’s risk of heart failure.
“This is one of the strongest predictors of new-onset heart failure we’ve been able to find, and it holds up even when you control for other biomarkers and risk factors including high blood pressure and diabetes,” says Javed Butler, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of heart failure research at Emory University School of Medicine.
Well, to be honest, if you perform it correctly, there is very little aerobic about this type of training. Like Part 5, these HIIT workouts are anaerobic in nature. They will be as intense as the workouts in Part 5, but unlike Part 5, I will be using traditional aerobic exercises and pieces of traditional aerobic exercise equipment instead of the dumbbells and rubber bands.
And like Part 5, this HIIT workout will provide the same benefits:
Increase your metabolism for up to 36 hours
Burn maximum fat in minimum time
Increase muscular endurance
Give you lean, firm muscles
Improve your anaerobic endurance
Shorten your workout times, and
Increase your free time
Like I said in Part 5, if you want a thorough explanation of the theory behind HIIT training, check out this earlier post.
Here are the basics of this HIIT – Aerobic Training Program
With HIIT, you try to work as hard as possible for the assigned time period.
Each HIIT- Aerobic workout is made up of an equal number of short duration sprints and longer duration recovery periods.
During each sprint, you try to pedal / run / climb as fast as you can.
I usually start beginners with a 10 minute workout. That 10 minute workout is usually made up of 10 – 10 second sprints and 10 – 50 second recovery periods.
The program can be modified by:
Lengthening or shortening the duration of the sprint portion.
Lengthening or shortening the duration of the recovery period.
Lengthening or shortening the duration of the entire HIIT workout.
Increasing or decreasing the intensity of the exercise
Increasing or decreasing the number of workouts per week
Here is a chart I designed to help my clients create their own HIIT – Aerobic workouts.
And here is a workout designed for a HIIT beginner.
Week 1: (1) 10 minute HIIT workout
Week 2: (1) 12 minute HIIT workout
Week 3: (1) 14 minute HIIT workout
Week 4: (1) 16 minute HIIT workout
Week 5: (1) 18 minute HIIT workout
Week 6: (1) 20 minute HIIT workout
Just about any “aerobic” exercise can be modified to perform a HIIT workout.
Due to safety concerns however, some exercises are a little less desirable than others. For example, HIIT training on a treadmill does have the potential for a very embarrassing and potentially painful accident.
And now a proper HIIT treadmill workout:
HIIT on an Exercise Bike:
HIIT on an Elliptical Machine:
HIIT Hill Sprints – Sprint Up and Walk Down
or HIIT Hill Bounding for those with too much time and energy
In addition to these exercises, you can also:
Perform your sprints running or swimming in a swimming pool
A new study, published in the ACSM’s journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, shows that coronary artery disease patients should replace their existing aerobic exercise programs with a combined resistance / aerobic training program.
The study looked at various markers of health important to individuals suffering from coronary artery disease.
These markers were:
The cross training (combined Resistance and Aerobic training) group demonstrated greater improvements than the aerobic group in every single marker of health.
After 29 weeks:
Vo2 peak – Improved 18% in the Cross-Training (CT) group and 11% in the Aerobic (AT) group (data)
Lean Body Mass – The CT group gained close to 4x more muscle mass than the AT group (1.5 kg v.s 0.4 kg) (data)
Body Fat – The CT group lost 2% body-fat while the AT group lost 0.1% (data)
Anaerobic Endurance – Insignificant changes in both the AT and CT groups (data)
Muscular Strength – The CT group increased their leg strength by 18%, while the AT group increased leg strength by only 6% (data)
Muscular Endurance – Muscular Endurance (tested by Leg Press) improved 100% in the CT group and only 15% in the AT group (data)
The major findings of this study are that replacing two aerobic training (AT) sessions with two Resistance Training (RT) sessions (creating a Cross Training (CT) workout) each week elicited similar or higher changes in cardiovascular fitness (V⋅O2peak) than AT alone (5 sessions per week) with the added benefits of significant gains in muscle strength, local muscle endurance, lean mass accretion and reduction in percent body fat in CAD patients.
These data support the hypothesis that combined RT/AT training (or CT) was superior in eliciting physiological adaptations, with more substantial gains seen with increased volume of RT for lean muscle mass, lower body muscular endurance, VAT, and V⋅O2peak.
AICAR increased the mice’s endurance on a treadmill by 44 percent after just four weeks of treatment.
GW1516 produced a 77% increase in endurance, but sadly, had to be combined with exercise to have any effect.
Lead researcher, Ronald M. Evans, Ph.D, had previously discovered that by permanently activating a genetic switch known as PPAR delta, he could turn lab mice into miniature Olympic marathon champs.
In addition to their improvements in aerobic endurance, these super mice didn’t gain weight while being fed a diet high in pizza and beer. In addition to their ripped physiques, they experienced improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of blood sugar.
This led Dr. Evans to hypothesize whether a drug specific for PPAR delta would have the same beneficial effects.
So, they doped the mice with GW1516.
After four weeks, the researchers were in for a bit of a disappointment.
The mice were leaner, had an improved fatty acid profile, improved insulin sensitivity and lowered levels of blood sugar, but there was no effect on their exercise performance.
So, like a personal trainer, they upped the mice’s cardio and had them run up to 50 minutes on a treadmill.
And after a few more weeks, the GW1516 mice were lapping the non-doped mice.
In fact, the GW1516 mice improved their exercise endurance 77% higher than the control mice. They also saw a 38% increase in slow twitch muscle fibers.
But wait, the researchers weren’t finished yet. GW1516 looks pretty great, but they were looking for a drug that would provide the benefits of exercise without actually having to do the exercise.
The researchers fed untrained mice AICAR, (a synthetic AMP analog that directly activates AMPK).
After four weeks, the AICAR mice were pushed onto the treadmill and boy did they perform. On average, they ran 44% longer than the control mice. According to the researchers, “That’s as much improvement as we get with regular exercise.”
So there we go, exercise in a pill.
So, How Does it Work?
Well, according to Dr. Evans, “GW1516 activates the PPAR-delta protein, but the mice must also exercise to show increased endurance. It seems that PPAR-delta switches on one set of genes, and exercise another, and both are needed for endurance”.
AICAR however, “activates the PPAR-delta protein and mimics the effects of exercise, thus switching on both sets of genes needed for the endurance signal”. It “signals the cell that it has burned off energy and needs to generate more. It is pretty much pharmacological exercise”.
Theirs: “This is not just a free lunch,” Dr. Evans said. “It’s pushing your genome toward a more enhanced genetic tone that impacts metabolism and muscle function. So instead of inheriting a great set-point you are using a drug to move your own genetics to a more activated metabolic state.”
“The drugs’ effect on muscle opens a window to a world of medical problems,” he said. “This paper will alert the medical community that muscle can be a therapeutic target.”
Mine: I wonder if we are not straying a leeetle bit too far down the Eugenics path with this research.
Forgetting the potential moral argument of switching our genes on and off, my concern is purely medical. While it will take years and years of animal and human testing before a commercially viable GW1516 or AICAR is available on the market, I still think that I would prefer to improve my body the old fashioned way.
Thanks to EurekAlert! for the original source material.
In a couple of recent posts, (here and here) I discussed the science behind High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT Training. In those posts, I discussed why HIIT is an essential tool in developing complete physical fitness as well as being a VERY effective fat burning tool.
I have also designed a custom HIIT workout geared to improve your vertical jump, click here.
Today’s post will give you the tools to develop your own HIIT or Sprint Training program.
The 4 Steps to a Great HIITWorkout
1. Exercise Selection
Most of the research studies into HIIT have relied on stationary bicycles or ergo-meters to test the effectiveness of this training protocol. Mainly this is due to the need for these studies to control all of the variables in a closed laboratory setting. Kinesiology lab = Stationary bike.
You, however, are not limited to an exercise bike, treadmill or ergo-meter (stationary rowing machine). HIIT or Sprint Training requires an all-out effort followed by an ‘active’ rest period. As long as you choose exercises that are fully challenging your body for the entire sprint portion, you are limited only by your imagination.
My two caveats are that
You should choose big compound exercises that use as many muscles as possible.
You should choose exercises that involve continuous movement. There should be little to no resting during the exercise – i.e. no bench press, power cleans where you drop the bar to the floor.
Here are some suggestions:
Treadmill – be careful transitioning from sprint to recovery – some treadmills are more suited to this type of exercise than others – Back in the day, I used to keep the treadmill at a fast clip and increase the incline for my sprint and then (as quickly as I could hit the ‘decline elevation’ key, bring the treadmill level for the active rest portion.
Think gym class calisthenics or take a look at some of the crossfit videos on you tube.
External Resistance Exercises
This is where you are really limited only by your imagination and your common sense. Remember, you should be going full out. Moves that are too complex won’t work when you hit that great big wall of pain.
Simply put, as you increase the volume of your HIIT work, your anaerobic endurance improves and the amount of caloric burn increases.
I have included a linear Volume Progression chart for you to follow. Beginners should start with 1 x 20 minute workout per week. Trainees with a good aerobic / anaerobic base can start with 2 x 20 minute workouts per week.
Don’t underestimate HIIT. It’s not like aerobic or standard resistance training. There is a strong neuro-muscular component to this training. You will over train if you are not careful.
Work to increase your volume to the maximum recommended 3 x 30 minute workouts per week before increasing the intensity or eternal load.
I am defining intensity in reference to the ratio of sprint time to active rest time. In the McMaster University study, the participants struggled with a 1:9 – Sprint:Active Rest Ratio.
My Intensity Progression Chart takes you from a 1:9 ratio all the way to a 1:3 ratio.
In each Sprint:Recovery Ratio Category, I have provided guidelines based on 4 different sprint durations. Feel free to jump back and forth between sprint durations in between workouts. A 10 second sprint is not necessarily any harder than a 30 second sprint. Depending upon your individual fitness, you may find the 30 second sprint harder than the 10 second, while your training partner may be the complete opposite.
My advice; do whichever length is the hardest for you.
Beginners will start out with the 1:9 Ratio and progress through to the 1:3 Ratio.
The range of Sprints per Workout is to accommodate your improvements in HIIT Volume Progression. In the 1:3 Ratio workout, 30 second sprints performed for 20 minutes will result in a total of 10 sprints. As you progress to a 30 minute workout, you will be doing 15 sprints.
4. External Load
The final step to a great HIIT workout is external load.
Increase the resistance on your cardio machine. Increase the weight of the dumbbell. Or use one of my favorite tools, the X Vest. A less expensive brand of weighted vest is available here.
This is the final step on your path to a great HIIT / Sprint Training Workout.
Choose your HIIT exercise carefully. Big muscle groups, constant motion, not too complex to perform when you are tired, availability in the gym and hopefully something you enjoy performing.
Increase your HIIT Volume
Increase your HIIT Intensity
Increase your external load
With just these 4 steps, you have an endless number of HIIT workout options.
For a custom HIIT geared to improve your vertical jump, click here.