Can someone please explain what is happening?
Every trending topic in our news feeds highlights calamity in the world. And I don't think we're exactly going crazy; when the new Kanye West video gets overlooked in light of presidential elections, international threats and economic struggles, we're falling on hard times.
It's enough to raise anyone's blood pressure by a few points.
So can I blame anyone for needing a break? Absolutely not.
We're managing enough things to make our heads spin and hearts race, the last thing anyone wants to do is spend an extra 30 to 60 minutes working out, tired from work, for more or less minimal benefit. At least any benefit that you can see and proudly show off. After all, if you have to put in this “work” you may as well be able to show it off, right?
I mean, how cruel does it get? You go to work, get paid, have money to show off your new watch, bag, whatever. You go to school for 20 years, and you get to hang a diploma in your living room. Raise your kids right and you can be a proud parent, gloating at Johnny's baseball game. But go to the gym three to four times per week and have anything to show for it other than a sweaty shirt? That's where we draw the line isn't it? Why on Earth would you be allowed to show off the extra time you put into being in shape?
Therein lie's the mystery and frustration of the fitness industry.
Only a select few people have seemingly cracked the code to be an everyday treat for the eyes, and celebrities can hire the best help in the business. The rest of us, we're just left oogling and googling these flawless physical masterpieces.
And, in a desperate search for help and time relief, we stumble upon several articles touting the benefits of 15-minute workouts, seven-minute workouts and even one-minute workouts.
Collectively, this style of brief workouts at the most challenging of difficulties is called, high-intensity interval training or HIIT for short. Our long prayers have been answered. You convince yourself the evidence cited must be irrefutable. I'm on my way to being well designed.
Well, I hate to break into your news feed like this, but that's sadly not the case. And you deserve to hear that truth, however disappointingly enraging this may be.
Why 15-minute workouts do not resolve what you think
In a perfect world, working all the major muscles of the body is only a quarter of an hour long, and makes you look as good on the outside as your organs and blood profiles are working inside.
The only problem is there's a limited return on investment. Here's what that means: Every time you perform a workout, your body incrementally adapts to the difficulty. Ever notice how a routine gets easier after the second, third, fourth time? That's what we're talking about.
To be able to show off your hard work, you need a continuation of programmed effort to guide you and make sense of what's going on in your body.
There's no lack of free exercise programs, but if the program is not appropriate for you and at your level of fitness, then it's just another 15 minutes wasted. Any monkey can make you sweat, just chase the banana peel around and you'll wick away your forehead.
Guidelines under the American College of Sports Medicine make a few things very clear that often get overlooked:
1. "Before beginning an HIIT, a person should establish a foundational level of fitness. A base level of fitness is consistent aerobic training (three to five times per week for 20 to 60 min per session at a somewhat hard intensity) for several weeks to produce adaptations." (I'll also add that someone should have a few weeks – months of weight and movement training to have a base level of strength and to prevent injuries during exercises.)
2. HIIT workouts are popular because of their brevity on time. However, they are only “modestly greater” due to a phenomenon known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. EPOC is the state in which your body uses more calories for up to two hours after an exercise routine to return to normal levels. And that modestly greater asterisk is a lowly 6 to 15 percent more. Regarding calories, that's probably not much more than passing on a glass of your favorite red wine.
How can you use HIIT to your benefit?
If you're a runner, use it to complement your weight training. If you're a weightlifter, use it to improve aerobic capacities. If you're working out to look fantastic, use it to improve the areas you don't like.
It's not that these brief workouts are bad, far from it. But I think the expectations need to be managed on what these things can do for you. Especially if you're new to exercise, you're not going to attain this dream body in 15 minutes three times per week.
Here are a few good ways to maximize the benefit HIIT can bring to your routines:
1) At the end of a workout, in the form of an exercise method called a complex. 2) On your, “off” days. 3) When you're pressed for time… like with a business meeting or taking care of three kids under the age of 5. 4) Break them up into two to 10-minute circuits (in one workout) with a five-minute break four to six times times per week. (This favors a style of exercise known as High-Frequency Training or HFT).
Now, before I show up in your news feed for shaming HIIT, I want to be clear there's nothing wrong with this style of working out and I favor this in my training. But before your gusto gets ravaged from not seeing results in just 45 minutes per week, manage your expectations on what these workouts can do for you.
Is it better to do something than nothing at all? Yes. But that kind of thought process doesn't give way to phenomenal results. If you're chasing extraordinary results, then you need to put in phenomenal effort. That's just what these kinds of workouts require.
And who knows, the next time you put your best effort forward, you might just find yourself in a video in bed with Kanye West.