Burn Fat While Watching TV, Sort Of...
Wouldn't it be great if you could step off your treadmill, drink a bit of water, take a shower, turn on American Idol...and know that your internal furnace is STILL burning up that bulging fat hanging over your belt? Well, as long as you're faithfully ticking off your miles at a cardio level of exertion, it'll remain a pipe dream.
But there's a way to exercise that'll keep your fire stoked for hours after the exercise equipment quits squeaking. It's called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and it's effectiveness in reducing body fat for each unit of effort can be up to nine times greater than with strict cardio exercise.
What's This HIIT Buzz All About?
If you aren't a gym rat, you may not be aware that the personal trainer world is now all atwitter about this form of exercise. It seems every fitness guru is trying to hang their hat on 'interval' training - trying to put a 'trademark' twist on a form of exercise that preceded my own track and field career way back in the 1970's.
That's right. While interval training is a uniquely effective way to optimize your fitness efforts, it isn't new. Ask any runner which workouts they remember most vividly, and most likely it'll be a form of interval training.
But make no mistake - HIIT is worthy of the buzz.
Let Me Get Personal Now...
My competitive running career ended rather abruptly after the 1984 Olympic Trials Marathon. I knew it was time to shift my focus from seeing how fast I could run (a grownup's version of 'I can run faster than you, na-de-na-de-naaa-na...') to seeing if I could forge out a career as a Chiropractor.
I didn't give up running entirely. It's just that I shifted to running for fitness, rather than running to beat other people in races.
But there was something that crept up on me gradually that was just not acceptable. I was gradually gaining weight in spite of regularly going for runs anywhere from five and ten miles in length.
It wasn't until I had my own kids and they began to train for races that I rediscovered the HIIT weight loss 'silver bullet'.
Reluctant to subject my kids to the pain of intervals without being willing to do them myself, I joined them for several sessions of butt-kicking hill repeats (ten repetitions of 'full bore' uphill sprints separated by downhill jogs).
That's when I noticed some changes.
- First, I saw that my heart-rate remained elevated for hours after the workout was finished.
- Also, throughout the evening I'd get episodes of 'spontaneous sweating'. This perspiration wasn't evidence of some kind of disease process...it was just that my metabolic furnace was still burning for hours after the workout. That's why a lively sprint to the bathroom during a TV commercial break might leave me glistening.
- Most important, I noticed that the stubborn weight around my middle started to melt away. And of course, that's the whole point of this article.
Here's How To Get On Board The HIIT Train
If you're looking for a short-but-sweet version of high intensity interval training, look no further than the protocol used in a study done in Tokyo by Dr. Izumi Tabata. He found that it took only four minutes of HIIT training per session to have a measurable effect in increasing the metabolic rate for hours after a workout.
Here's what a Tabata protocol HIIT workout would look like on a stationary bike:
- Ten minute warm-up.
- Twenty seconds very hard (maximum intensity) pedaling, followed by ten seconds of easy pedaling. Repeat the twenty seconds very hard / ten seconds easy for four minutes (a total of eight very hard efforts).
- Ten minute warm-down.
Of course there are a myriad of variations on the same HIIT theme. Variations involving a variety of exercise equipment, as well as different patterns of hard/easy.
But the fact remains...incorporating some high intensity efforts into your fitness plan will add a dimension to your weight loss plan that you won't get elsewhere.
Back To The Couch
Coming full circle to the idea of burning fat while sitting on your couch watching TV, you now have a more complete understanding of what that is all about.
You were right...there are no free lunches when it comes to weight loss.
I won't kid you. Really hard HIIT efforts for four minutes don't feel very good whatsoever. But then again, lugging around an extra twenty pounds of body fat doesn't feel good either.
This exchange of momentary HIIT pain for the lean body you've wanted for a very long time is well worth the effort.
Join the HIIT buzz.
About the author: In addition to his private Chiropractic practice, Dr. Ron Fritzke is on the Sports Medicine team at the College of the Siskiyous. A former 2:17 marathon runner, he now stays fit on his bike. On his website he writes stationary bike trainer reviews and when the weather turns foul he does some HIIT by attaching his bike to his CycleOps Fluid trainer.