CONTENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Core Health & Fitness
Your clients often are in a time crunch, which means that they often may wonder if it’s even worth it to hit the gym when they only have 30 minutes to squeeze in a workout before they need to pick up the kids, make dinner or get to a meeting. Is it possible to benefit from such a short workout? As a fitness professional, you know the answer is yes, it is definitely worth it. A brief workout can still give your members long-term benefits, especially if they engage in high intensity interval training (HIIT).
As a fitness professional, you have known about HIIT for many years, and likely recommend HIIT to your members, but do they really understand HIIT? How do you explain to them not only what it is but also how it benefits them? Following is a primer that you can feel free to share with them.
The science behind caloric burn shows that even with brief exercise your body continues to burn calories long after the workout is done, prolonging the benefit of your efforts. This physiological phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). It’s the amount of oxygen required to return your body to its resting level of metabolic function. Metabolism is how the body converts nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel needed for muscular activity.
ATP is produced in two ways: with oxygen using aerobic pathways or without oxygen, relying on anaerobic pathways. During physical activity, once a steady state of oxygen consumption is achieved, aerobic energy pathways are able to provide enough ATP to sustain the workout, increasing the need for oxygen after the workout and enhancing your overall caloric burn. But when oxygen is required quicker than the body can produce it, as happens with bursts of energy, the body pulls from anaerobic pathways to get what it needs, requiring even more oxygen post-workout to recuperate and repair the muscles. The higher the EPOC effect, the more calories you will burn. But how do you enhance the EPOC effect? In short, the faster you burn through the aerobic ATP, the faster the body needs to pull from the anaerobic pathways, which requires more recovery time to reach that proper resting metabolic state and a great EPOC effect.
So how do your clients get their bodies to pull from the anaerobic pathways quicker? You likely know the answers, but here's a refresher:
- Have them start with a warm up. A proper dynamic warm up of five to eight minutes allows the body to efficiently use the aerobic metabolism to produce most of the ATP necessary to sustain physical activity. When you move from warm up into the higher energy part of the workout, the part that requires more oxygen quickly, your body starts to pull from the anaerobic pathway.
- Increase the intensity of the workout, not the duration. Higher intensity workouts pull ATP from the anaerobic pathways because the body needs access to oxygen quicker than the aerobic pathways can produce it. My favorite “go-tos” for this as a coach are boxing-style workouts, short hill sprints and basic plyometrics (if appropriate for the client’s ability).
- Increase the resistance instead of doing longer cardio sessions at a steady rate. Just like increased intensity, increased resistance for short time periods produces a greater EPOC effect because the body begins to pull from the anaerobic pathways quicker. Efficient and fun options include the updated aerodyne-style bikes, pushing or pulling a weighted sled, heavy battle ropes, full resistance on a rower, stair climbing machines and upperbody ergometers.
- Incorporate circuit training and high-resistance strength training into the workout with shorter rest intervals. Strength training and alternating between upper and lower body workouts, particularly with short rest intervals, keeps the body burning through ATP for an enhanced EPOC effect for greater caloric burn. Kettlebell movements are an excellent option for this. Of course, as with any exercise regimen, your clients need to be prepared for the challenge. HIIT is not for everyone. You also need to allow 48 hours of recovery time in between HIIT sessions and limit HIIT sessions to three per week.
Beyond those who need quick workout options because of a difficult schedule or time crunch, there has been a noticeable trend toward people selecting shorter, higher intensity workouts. Even if people have the time to do a full-length workout, when selecting fitness training courses they will often select programming that is shorter even if it is significantly harder. The logic for most people is, “Why should I do an hour-long workout if I can achieve the same results in half the time?” Beyond the health benefits of HIIT and as an effective form of training, it is important that fitness facilities and trainers recognize the growing demand for HIIT if they want to develop successful programming.
Sonja Friend-Uhl is lead master trainer for Core Health & Fitness. She is a world-class athlete who has been training individuals for nearly 20 years. She is a skilled fitness programmer with personal training certifications from ACSM, AFAA and AFAA specialty certifications in youth, senior, and pre-natal fitness. Friend-Uhl also is a successful club operator, having developed and coached fitness and personal training programs while serving as the athletic director for Wellbridge full-service health clubs in South Florida. She currently operates her own running coaching business (www.TheRunningWarrior.com) and fitness consulting group (www.FitwithSonja.com).