Thursday, January 5, 2012

Get movin'...

Alrighty, so it's that time of year again...the time where you try to get re-focused and aim to reach lofty goals and aspirations.  For many, they are reachable..."get organized" or "read more" or "travel internationally" or, probably most common, "take better care of myself."  And perhaps this is the year that you commit to exercise regularly, eat better, get more sleep...not just for the month of January, but year round!

As you might know by now, I am an avid reader of all the go-to health magazines - Health, Fitness, Self and more - and I want to share the #1 tip of what all the mags have been writing about over the last couple years - something that I've officially put to the test and have seen excellent results. 

Since running a marathon a few months ago, I have not even attempted doing cardio longer than 30 min.  And to be honest, my typical cardio workout is anywhere from 15-25 min, tops...and I think I might even be in better shape now than I was during training!  My big shift - rather than doing long-distance runs, I've switched over to interval training (in, both, cardio & weights). 

In recent years, study upon study has continued to show the incredible cardio and calorie-burning benefits of doing high-speed intervals during all cardio activities (hitting your max speed - you are unable to talk and can barely go over 1-2 min) mixed with slow-paced cool downs (very mellow walking pace for 30 sec-1 min).  Not only are you burning tons of calories during the workout, but you actually burn substantially more calories AFTER workout -what scientists & fitness experts call afterburn

Doing intervals rather than steady-paced, longer workouts can completely change your metabolism and kick-start your energy level in the New Year!  According to the latest Fitness magazine, "doing interval training is a quick way to ramp up your body's ability to use fat as fuel; burning 36% more fat during workout."  The same article also states, "Scientists have measured the afterburn for half-hour jog at 35 calories, as opposed to 75 calories for 20 one-minute running sprints (with two-min rests in between)." 

So, what this translates to - whether you're walking, jogging, spinning, on the elliptical - start with your typical warm up, and then do 30 seconds to 2 min (depending on fitness level) of an all-out sprint (or as fast as you can go), and then back to your warm up pace for 30 sec to 2 min (depending on fitness level - shorter rest periods are ideal).  Repeat this for anywhere from 15-30 minutes (if walking, this should always be at least 30 min).  Aim to do the intervals at least 8-12 times, per session.  Do this 3 times a week, and incorporate moderate resistance training 2 x's per week (30 min of weights, Pilates, boot camp, etc), and presto!  You will be on your way to great cardio health, high energy levels and almost-instant physical results. 

And there's no excuse not to do it!  If you only have 20 min to squeeze in and you do the intervals, you will be well on your way to your fitness goals.  I've detailed my personal workout below - I do this 3 x's week, and as mentioned above, I am in better shape now than when I was marathon training!

Treadmill (can be applied to any activity)
Incline of 2.0 (always use incline on treadmill)

2 min slow-paced warm up walk
1 min moderate sprint
30 sec recovery walk
1 min moderate sprint
30 sec recovery walk
1 min full sprint (have increased pace since last sprint)
30 sec recovery walk
1 min full sprint
(repeat recovery/full sprint sessions at least 4 more times, ideally 8-10 more).
Finish:  2-5 min cool down recovery walk

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!!