It happens to all of us once in a while. We fall into a workout rut (I think the word rut sounds like a small pothole, so I prefer the word “pit”). Gym time becomes complacent and limited to whatever cardio queen equipment or class instructor we feel most comfortable with.
The New Year is a perfect time to shake up the routine! So, we do this for a while, we OVERHAUL our routine, spurred on by the media to try the newest, coolest, latest. But usually we fall back into the same schedule, or worse… drop our calorie-burning sessions altogether due to being too gung-ho (why do you think there is such a drastic drop in gym memberships come March).
There is nothing wrong with routine, and I think that sometimes New Year’s workout resolutions fail because they’re too drastic and jarring from what we are used to.
So, instead of doing a complete Chapter 11 of your current, rote, sweat sessions, why not change a couple key elements of what you’re already doing to bust the plateau and up your burn?
Welcome to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). What is it? HIIT involves repeated bouts of high-intensity exercise alternated by periods of low-intensity and rest. HIIT training performed two to three times a week can cause dramatic changes in metabolic and cardiovascular capacity. In research, HIIT has been shown to burn fat more effectively than low-intensity exercise–up to 50% more efficiently! In other words, HIIT speeds up your metabolism and keeps it revved for some time after your workout. (Sportscience, 13: 32-53, 2009). Olympic athletes have been doing it for over 100 years, as well as some of today’s most well-known trainers.
So how do you incorporate HIIT into your personal, current workout that you enjoy, but you’re just bored with? There are very detailed instructions for some HIIT sessions, so I’m going to just give you some examples from my own training and you can easily modify.
A perfect example is jogging outdoors. This holiday I ran on the beach every morning. I brought my watch/pedometer. Instead of a 3.5 mile run at a semi-difficult, but consistent pace (which I’m bored with), I ran my hardest (a “difficult to catch my breath” sprint) followed by three minutes of fast walking.
When I run in my home gym I’ll all-out sprint for 3 minutes, followed by a leisurely, 12%-incline walk on the treadmill (feel those butt muscles burn). Or, I’ll sprint and use my two minute rest periods to do plies, band work, squats and pilates stretches.
I’ve found that HIIT training not only removes the workout plateau, it brings me out of my boredom funk. It’s hard to be bored when the pace is changing so rapidly. There is a heightened sense of awareness, because you have to pay attention to the intervals. I feel like I’ve accomplished more, hit more muscle groups when I’m through as well.
Don’t perform HIIT every workout. You need to repair your body. When my routine is really strong, I’ll toggle it with twice-a-week pilates lessons. Have you tried HIIT? Did you see a difference in your body or your mind-set toward training? Happy New Year and keep counting!